Elite Fliers Are Better Than You

The New York Times has an article today about the ways in which elite flying status is having a larger impact on the travel experience. Elite passengers are subject to fewer fees, get priority boarding, and enjoy privileges that regular passengers don’t. “United is testing a new check-in and boarding procedure at San Francisco International Airport that completely separates elites from other passengers. Frequent fliers are checked in, screened and boarded in their own lines. The new program, tentatively called Airport Premier Services, will be added at United’s hubs in Chicago and Washington in early 2007, and at an undetermined number of other airports later in the year.”

More is in the mail: United is considering a program where nonelite passengers will have to pay a fee to check luggage or get an advanced seat assignment. Elite fliers would get these features for free.

“We’re trying to identify things that people are willing to pay for,” a United spokesperson said. But joining a frequent flier program isn’t enough.

“You don’t just have to be a frequent flier to get a better seat assignment,” said Richard Wong, a lawyer in Washington who is a United and American frequent flier. “You have to be a high-level elite. Otherwise, you could be stuck in the back of the plane.” — MEGHANN MARCO

I’m Elite and You’re Not [New York Times]