After a year of steady business travel in economy class and logging tens of thousands of miles, I did it! I am flying to Tokyo in business class an occurrence so rare that it ranks right up there with a World Series win by the Cleveland Indians or the appearance of Haley’s Comet.
Upgrade certificates along with the cheery self-congratulatory notes that always accompany them spill out of a file folder on my desk. “Dear Valued Frequent Flyer” the letter always reads. The Vice-President of customer loyalty is pleased to provide you with two (worthless) upgrade certificates to be used on your next flight. Ha!
They’re worthless because any affordable airline ticket that I reserve also falls within a “class of fare” that falls outside of the usual upgrade certificate classification. In other words, if I can only afford to fly class X, Y or Z, you can bet that all of the upgrades are only good for A, B, or C class — a much more expensive fare. So I usually find myself in the class called S.O.L. What’s the point I wonder? Instead of feeling valued I feel insulted.
When I booked the trip to Tokyo I was astounded to learn that the fare was actually eligible for an upgrade. And not just any upgrade, but one of those super duper, intergalactic, cosmically star-dusted upgrades of which the airline had parsimoniously given me two. I had been saving them up in the hope I wouldn’t have to use them on a short haul flight to somewhere close like London. But Tokyo, a13 1/3 hours flight was just the ticket!
And so I am writing this post from a pod, which will shortly convert into a bed, in the business class section of a new 777 jet. The pod’s futuristic design, in a shape that defies description, is lit by ghostly blue running lights and a pictogram LCD panel. It’s my own personal command and control center.
Pink (yes pink) overhead lighting gives the cabin a surreal atmosphere – a sort of cosmic café, if you will. I feel like I’m hitchhiking across the Galaxy instead of crossing the Pacific. A male voice comes across the intercom with an announcement. I half expect the pilot to announce that we are now shifting into hyperspace. Instead, it’s just the purser announcing lunch. Hyperspace, I muse – now that would be an upgrade!
Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Oktay Ortakcioglu