As I was checking in for my flight to Tulsa this morning, the computerized terminal spat out an extra slip of paper. There were the customary two boarding passes (one to Dallas, one to Tulsa), but where normally I would expect a receipt for checking my guns and gear (except there wasn’t one, because I was traveling sans firearms for once), there was a voucher for a “premium beverage” on my flight today — and expiring as soon as I stepped off my flight in Tulsa. There’s just one slight problem: neither of my flights today serve “premium beverages.”
I’ve been racking up the frequent flier miles over the last couple months faster than I can find ways to spend them. And for the first time, I’m flying often enough to start moving up in their rewards program hierarchy. People keep telling me about the perks of “status” in a frequent flier program, but I’ve never felt the love before. So when that voucher spat out of the machine, I was excited to finally be seeing some perks from all the time I’ve spent sealed in aluminum tubes recently. But as I was walking to the security line, I realized that neither of my flights today were long enough to stock booze for those of us in cattle class.
These days, everything is controlled by computers — and that includes the random upgrades and gifts for frequent fliers. There was a time when you could suck up to the gate agent for an upgrade, but those days are looooong gone. These days we are at the mercy of a cold, calculating computer who would rather let a first class seat fly empty than hand out an upgrade that wasn’t earned or paid for.
So the computer determined that today was my day. And that has me slightly suspicious.
Sure, it is entirely possible that the day on which I was randomly given a free drink was the day when it would be impossible to cash it in. Or could it be that American Airline’s computers looked into my itinerary for the day, determined that there’s no way I could possibly use it, and printed the thing out knowing that getting something free would make me happy and not having to actually provide the free beverage would make the airline’s beancounters happy?
It’s probably just random luck. But there’s always that chance. . .