I wrote Things Frequent Fliers Fear Most for Conde Nast Traveler (April 16, 2014)
It’s not hard to spot a fearful flier when they’re making the sign of the cross right before takeoff. That or they’ll ask about turbulence instead of what’s for breakfast as soon as they step on board and I greet them in front of the cockpit door. Others will cling to the armrest for dear life and request a couple of vodkas to wash down the valium. Fearful fliers aren’t the only ones freaking out—frequent fliers can be ten times worse. So what do frequent fliers fear most?
1. COACH. Nothing stresses out a frequent flier more than the possibility of sitting in coach. I’ve seen grown men stomp their feet like children when their upgrades didn’t go through. Next time you fly check out all the sullen faces in the first few rows of coach. That’s where they’re sitting. Their names are next on the list. They’ve got their eye on the prize and nobody is cutting in front of them. My husband has actually flown a few hours out of his way to connect to another city just to ensure an upgrade on an international flight.
2. MIDDLE SEATS. By far the biggest fear for any flier, not just frequent fliers, is the dreaded middle seat. “Hey somebody has to sit there,” I told one passenger. “Not a frequent flier,” he replied. He had a point. Business travelers are the bread and butter for airlines. The problem is that there are so many frequent fliers, the airlines had to create another top-tier VIP level to separate the million-milers from the three-million milers. Might explain why one passenger brought along a few X-rays of his knee to prove why he could only sit in an aisle seat. Another passenger offered $100 to anyone in an aisle seat in front of him willing to switch.
3. RUNNING OUT OF OVERHEAD BIN SPACE. Boarding, for a frequent flier, is like a military operation. It’s all about preplanning and execution. In other words, getting the bag in a bin. They’re already in position to board before the agent even picks up the phone to make the announcement. They know where their seat is. They know their bag will fit. They walk onboard, make that sharp right down the aisle, and zero in an an empty space like a…..? Very rarely are they talking or holding a Starbucks cup. They’re on a mission. Nothing will come between a frequent flier and his bag space. Ask a frequent flier to check a bag and they might lose it in front of everyone. Time is money. A road warrior doesn’t do baggage claim.