Actually, this is a story about the goofiness that is an airport checkin (or is it “check-in?”) these days.
So, as I write this, I’m at O’Hare Airport, waiting to board a United flight. (I won’t tell you where I’m going.)
You can imagine all of the permutations – use my BlackBerry to wire a boarding pass, or triangulate my location with IP address and stuff. (Saying “and stuff” makes it sound like I really know what I’m talking about.)
However…I can’t check in online.
Despite the fact that I have had a frequent flier number with United for what seems like forever, and despite the fact that my Orbitz account probably goes back to 2000, I’m not allowed. My account information has been locked.
Okay, then, I’ll check in at the airport.
Here’s where it’s gonna be better. I’m in a great mood, as I travel light and don’t have any bags to check. I’m early, so it’s not that big a deal if I have to hit this little kiosk thing.
First up, I choose to find my reservation by locator number. That’s actually flawless – and, since I haven’t been on a plane in two years (!) I only have to enter a few additional details to confirm that I am indeed me. (I am me, so I’m pleased that the airline agrees.)
But hold the phone (or kiosk) as there’s now the possibility to select a different seat. Good call – I’m in seat 2-million-B, so I’ll be in the middle above the engine and am no doubt going to be between a family of wailers.
I’m given the option to “upgrade” to Economy Plus. More legroom! Another good call. $39 sounds like an okay deal, actually, as it’s about a 20% premium on what I paid for this leg of the flight.
I am violating a Cardinal rule – don’t tell anyone what you paid for your flight. I’m not sure I agree with that rule. I know I paid more, as I bought by ticket two days before departure. Big whoop.
However, I’m torn: the only open seats in Economy Plus are middle seats. Now it’s not looking like the best idea. I’ll pass.
After clicking “decline option,” I’m off to the next leg of my checkin journey – the chance to pick a better seat, for no additional charge. Done: I’ll take a window in the 30th row.
But after picking my seat, I’m given something murky: the chance to purchase a Mileage Accelerator.
For the low, low price of $27, I am told I can get this package. I’m also told something about 888 miles. Am I buying 888 miles – which is the length of this particular flight – for $27? What does this accelerator do?
I even do the quick math in my head: if a mile is worth, in theory, 3 cents, 888 of them would be worth…$26.64. So I’m accelerating somewhat. I’m buying these miles for what I would be able to cash them in for.
But I don’t know if this is a good deal – really, will I be able to trade these miles? Are they going to be worth 3 cents a mile when I finally do, or 30 cents? Or .003 cents?
NEXT, THERE’S MORE: PRIORITY PRIVILEGE
I would happily pay for this – if I knew what it was.
Seriously, I think I was asked to pay another $20 to allow me something that, again, had all the clarity of mud. Does it let me board earlier? Do I get a free ride to my gate on one of those golf carts? Can I get a little toy plane to take home?
Actually, right now, even though I said no, I’m wondering if I made a mistake. Will it restore my ability to check in at home, get me in Economy Plus, add to my mileage account AND give me Priority Privilege?
That, and maybe a great credit card offer, and you got me.