I have no idea if he’s right about Silvercar. But as someone who used to have all kinds of élite status with all kinds of travel companies, I can testify to the bigger truths he’s getting at.
When Silvercar sells you car rental that “doesn’t suck,” they’re really selling you car rental that doesn’t involve ordinary people, that end arounds the inefficiencies of large-scale practice by buying out of it. The truth is, Hertz doesn’t suck. Avis doesn’t suck. Sure, things about them suck, like the usurious fuel charges they impose if you return a car without refilling its tank… It’s not car rental that sucks, but dealing with the everyman, being in his presence, even knowing he exists…
This isn’t a business meant for the public anyway. It’s a tech startup ultimately destined to service the beau monde élite produced by entertainment, by energy, by finance, by other tech startups. A luxury car only gets to be a luxury if not everybody gets one…
My driver pulls up to the Delta terminal, curbside, directly in front of the Medallion priority check-in (I nod as he asks, “You have priority with Delta, right?”). I check in for my flight—my upgrade had cleared—and head to the Delta SkyClub to cash in on unearned elitism. As I sit in the quiet of the lounge sipping my complimentary latte, I try to remind myself how good I have it. How can I even tell this story, full of privilege and fortune? Few will empathize with me and my privileged upper middle-class lifestyle perks, nor should they.
For the past several days, there’s been a lot of chatter on the interwebs about a suggestion (which seems to have really taken off with this HuffPost article by Rabbi Jason Miller) that people
boycott put pressure on Delta because “Delta will add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam Alliance of partnering companies and would require Delta to ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights to Saudi Arabia.” My colleagues on UPGRD.com, Matthew and Hunter, have offered thoughtful and thorough responses, as have podcast contributors Ben and Gary. Normally, I’d stay out of this to avoid the redundancy. But since I’m in the unique position of being an occasional UPGRD contributor and also someone who works professionally in the Jewish community, I felt like I should jump in. Below is the second of two posts on the topic, both of which are cross-posted on my UPGRD.com blog and on my personal blog.
(cross posted to my upgrd.com blog)
A part of me wants to write a long post analyzing the problems with CNNMoney's "Best Frequent Flyer Programs." I'm really tempted to go point-by-point in order to illustrate just how stupid their rankings are. Their criteria are inconsistent, their explanations for why certain programs are best ignore the fact that other airlines offer similar (or even better) perks, and they totally ignore the fact that the programs available from domestic-only* discount carriers don't allow for international and premium-class redemption.
But truth be told, I'm actually thankful for articles like CNNMoney's. For those of us who actually want to get the most out of our miles -- namely international premium-class awards -- it's probably better if people blow their miles on crappy domestic coach tickets. Sure... it breaks my heart that poor saps who don't know better are blowing valuable miles on tickets they probably could buy out-of-pocket when they could be using the same amount (or just a bit more) to fly in luxury to exotic locales. But with a limited quantity of high-value redemption opportunities, I'm just as happy to have less competition for the seats. Every business traveler who insists on flying Southwest (even though he could get better elite benefits and could use the miles to take better vacations if he flew United or American or whatever) is one less person I have to compete with for an upgrade, one less person to snap up that first class seat to Europe before me, one less person in the elite line at the airport.
(And I'll venture a guess that if everyone used frequent flyer programs to their full potential, those programs would stop being so lucrative for the airlines and great redemption opportunities would get rarer.)
So sure... Southwest, Virgin America, and Jetblue have excellent FF programs. Sign up now. Fly those airlines exclusively. Enjoy your "A-list" status and your free coach flights from Oakland to Boise.
* Yes, I know that some of the "domestic-only" discount carriers fly to a handful of locations in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean. Whatever.
1. I’ve flown over 200,000 miles (domestic) on airplanes in the last two years. Not once have I been scared because of “people who are in Muslim garb” or people who “are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims.” The only people who scare me on airplanes are the ones who are overly nervous, overtly anxious, or rude and obnoxious. It seems to me, based on my experience, that none of these behaviors are exclusive to a particular religion, ethnicity, race, or creed.
2. It’s clear that the most of the people who loudly bashed NPR in the wake of Williams’ firing weren’t particularly fond of public radio (that bastion of the elitist liberal media) to begin with. What’s ironic is that NPR (and the rest of public radio) is actually the only mainstream media outlet that seems to have refused to be overtaken by blow-hard punditry, sensationalism, or both.
3. NPR was right to fire Williams, and they shouldn’t hesitate to tell it like it is: He wasn’t fired because the rules of “political correctness” deemed his comments on O’Reilly’s show to be offensive. He got fired because real journalists (and “news-analysts”) have to be fair and unbiased. That means they can’t behave like loudmouth pundits. End of story. Williams can spout off saying that he got fired for “telling the truth” or “speaking his mind.” But that’s only half the story. He got fired because he wanted to get paid for being a journalist, but then he also wanted to go on O’Reilly and spew whatever “truth” he wanted. You can’t have both, buddy.
4. This week, I made a donation to my local public radio station. You should too.
For the past three years, a big part of my job has involved flying around the country to work with synagogue school educators and teachers. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time on planes. And since my natural predilection is to be geeky about these sorts of things, I’ve become something of an airplane nerd who now feels at home among communities of frequent travelers.
As part of my geekiness, last year I had the opportunity to meet a special pilot, Captain Denny Flanagan, who flies for United Airlines. Captain Denny, as he is affectionately called by the frequent flyers who adore him, has become a celebrity among road warriors for his amazing dedication to customer service. He’s an experienced airline pilot who goes out of his way to make the commercial air travel experience pleasant (gasp!) for customers.
I’ve read a lot of accounts of the big and small things that Captain Denny does to make air travel better. He’s an incredible ambassador for the entire industry and for his airline. (You can read some of these accounts here, here, and here.) If you’ve been on an airplane recently, you probably know that the airlines could use a lot more people like Captain Denny.
Recently, it occurred to me that Captain Denny isn’t just an example for people who work in air travel. In fact, it’s clear to me that — although he is not Jewish and not an educator — he actually has a lot to teach Jewish educators about how to carry ourselves, and about how to be leaders. This, I figure, is the perfect opportunity to find a nexus between two things I love: Jewish education and airplanes. So, with a tip of the hat to Carol Starin’s Let Me Count the Ways, here are six lessons in Jewish educational leadership that I’ve learned from Captain Denny: