Skip to content

An Irrational Rant Justified By Some Theory

February 20, 2009

I’ll warn you that this post is going to come off petty, small, diva-like and spoiled.  I don’t care.  I’m pissed off.  Worked into a lather.  Because I’ve been kicked out of a very exclusive club.  Part of my identity has been stripped away.  I wax and wane from anger to humiliation to defiance … but I like the anger mode, so there I fester.  What happened?  I’ve lost my American Airlines AAdvantage Gold status.  I’m gonna have to wait in line with great unwashed masses of non-elite flyers.  The lost privilege might seem small.  (OK, it is small.  I watch the news.  I get it.)  But it’s worth almost $400 according to American Airlines.  They told me I could buy my way back in.  I’ve heard from friends that if I call and humiliate myself they may negotiate.

I’m not negotiating.  I am too proud to beg.  They can just step.  I feel abused.  It’s unfair.  I flew their crappy airline so much that I was goin’ Platinum for a while.  It was awesome.  I don’t aspire to Platinum or Executive Platinum.  I don’t want to be a road warrior.  I hate the road.  But I want to be Gold.  I like skipping the line and feeling special while I suffer in a cramped seat jetting away from the comforts of home.  All y’all rational people with calculators and in-depth knowledge of qualifying segments need to step off right about now.  I haven’t been flying because, hello, the economy sucks and travel has been cut to the bone.  I’m not gonna do a mileage run.  They just need to love me for me.  Does American Airlines think that I won’t be a legit Gold after the stimulus plan stimulates and the bailouts bail?  Don’t they know who I am?  Or more to the point, who am I if I’m not Gold?  I roll with a Citibank American Airlines AAdvantage World Gold Mastercard.  I like the logos and the points.  I have memorized my AAdvantage number.  I was good to that airline.  Loyal.  They cut schedules.  I flew.  They whipped me through Chicago and Dallas with long layovers.  I flew.  They told me every time I flew that they knew I had a choice in air travel and they were happy I chose American.  I believed them.  I had to fly Delta a couple times last year to get where I was going.  And I felt guilty, but gave Delta their props.  I caught a United flight to Shanghai a year or so ago — I’m better at remembering miles than dates — and I was so delighted with the experience that I couldn’t wait to fly American Airlines on the return for my miles and get back to hating United for stranding me in D.C. that one time.  I don’t like to step out on my airline.  I’m not that kind of woman.  Hopelessly romantic, I kept the little American Airlines shoe bag and eye mask that they give you in Business Class (good stuff).  I proudly upgraded my sister to First Class when we went to Boston.  She turned to me and said, “Warm cookies?  Free wine?  What the hell is going on up here?” I was all, “Welcome, sister, to First Class on MY airline.”  Well, screw them.  They rejected me.  With a letter and an e-mail.  I shredded the letter and deleted the e-mail. I couldn’t face the pain.  Well, I’m traveling next week.  The thought of experiencing the rejection up close and personal was too much.  Those in The Lair who have heard me grumbling about American not pulling a Schooner Tuna and giving an extension on privileges to VIP divas like me (at least in my imagination as I troll through crappy airports) will not be suprised by my recent dramatic decision:  I’m flying Delta for two legs of this trip.  Yeah, Delta.  My new favorite airline.  I’m getting to know their routes, we’re starting to have in jokes.  We’re close in a way that only exists in pre-flight imagination.  Or when you’re in a major fight with your so-called favorite airline over commitment.  I’m still all I-never-loved-American-Airlines-anyway even as I get sentimental over our song:  Silver bird, take me where, there’s something special, in the air. Uh huh.  Something special in the air.  That was our song.  Give me a moment.  Anyway.  They took me for granted.  They pretended to love me, but they didn’t. They think it’s all about points and status and … well, it is.  And that was the deal.  They broke it.  Not me.  I would’ve flown.  All of us former Gold refugees would have flown.  But now I’m going to use my choice in air travel whenever I can as cold comfort in the wilderness.  On Delta I’m a nobody.  But I was never somebody.  On American Airlines I’m a loser.  A loser.  I have lost.  I was a winner and now I’m a loser.  They took my Gold away.

Well I’m not gonna be a loser.  American Airlines will be the loser.  I am taking control and owning this as an empowered woman rebuilding her self esteem.  Our dysfunctional relationship is coming to an end.

But I promised you some theory.  Uh, here it is.  I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing a form of the endowment effect in addition to a big pile of pain and rage.  The value of Gold is worth more to me because I had it than it is worth to someone who hasn’t gotten it yet.  All y’all never-elites just don’t understand.  You can’t understand according to psych geeks.  I call it the Sad Diva effect.  I’m more upset with them for taking my shiny shiny away than the joy I felt at getting it in the first place.

We’ve been talking about expectations and satisfaction and brands in The Lair.  American Airlines didn’t have to do much to satisfy me.  Get me there on time.  Get me there safely.  Be nice.  Give me the whole can.  Write some good stuff in the magazine.  I’m actually a low maintenance flyer.  But now that my pre-recession designer bag has boarding passes with groups other than 1 emblazoned on them, there is almost nothing they can do to satisfy me.  Short of calling me up, saying they’re sorry and that they do love me and they want to make me Platinum to make up for the pain and suffering. The lesson for brands in here is that you can’t take the shiny shiny away and keep the love.  I get that I have to “earn” my status by flying like a drone.  I’d understand if I hadn’t flown like a crazy person in the recent past.  But taking away Gold in a recession feels like theft and rejection and cruelty to the woman who stood by you for years.  What happened to for richer or poorer?  Didn’t we almost have it all American?  Didn’t we have the best of times?  I can’t be rational about this.  I just can’t.  I tried … and then chose Delta.  I will survive.  This post is the 2.0 version of making a mix tape and cutting American Airlines out of photographs.  I’m in the process of justifying Delta with post purchase rationalization.  It’s like buying a Chloe bag and then looking it up online to explain it to your friends.  But not as much fun. I recommend this excellent list of cognitive biases on Wikipedia the next time you want to be your own shrink or avoid losing brand fans like American just did with this diva.

I’m not Effie.  No, not yet.  If you hear me trying to hit these notes in The Lair, I’m on the phone begging American Airlines to come correct.  Enjoy Jennifer Holliday begging like I ain’t gonna beg.  Gold.  Humph.  Keep it.  I’m dealing with the identity crisis and rebranding myself.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. alexmkerlick permalink*
    February 20, 2009 10:55 am

    Agreed. The airline industry is a tough racket. With little or no product differentiation, all they can really do is try to delight their customers. Their number one priority should be customer service.

    I love the list of cognitive biases. It takes me back to freshman psychology. I’m going to start using them in everyday conversations and really get my nerd on.

  2. melissahamilton permalink
    February 20, 2009 12:28 pm

    This is probably the funniest thing I have read in a while.

  3. February 20, 2009 1:17 pm

    Bril. Liant.

  4. February 20, 2009 3:37 pm

    Thanks to Nicole, I got this via her Facebook link.

    I must say… I found it quite funny, although crazy old me was trying to analyze it for the allegory (which may or may not be there.)

    I’m Platinum this year, but know how my response to AAdvantage seems to resemble others’ response to crack.

    If we’re ever flying same-time, same-place, I’d be happy to make you my Platinum guest.

  5. February 21, 2009 2:35 am

    Thanks Mike. I would need the strength of a Platinum escort to make it to the gate. I’m still wracked with despair. But with a Platinum escort, I guess I could go and pretend not to love my ex. American hasn’t called. But I’m right here waiting …

    Anyway, thanks for being there for me Mike. You’re a true friend.

  6. Linda Garavalia permalink
    February 22, 2009 6:18 pm

    I feel your pain, but I of course couldn’t bear it so paid my way back in … but have never felt the same about American. I want to fly Jet Blue and seriously considering relocating to the East Coast just for them. Great post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: