Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie: Part Three

[This is my third post in a series dedicated to revealing the thoughts, behaviors and actions of an elite status junkie – namely, me. You can read the first installment here, and the second one here.]

DYKWIA Begins With a Double Upgrade from Coach to First Class

Having locked in United’s Premier level for two years running and getting the taste of constant upgrades when flying domestically (using 500-mile certs), I was hooked on wanting to maintain that status for years to come.

In 1991, I booked my first international trip to visit a friend in France and I logically ticketed it on United to earn the valuable butt-in-seat miles to help in my annual quest to achieve Premier.

a card with a white and red text

United Mileage Plus Premier card circa 1991

On the day of travel I received a dreaded phone call from United in the morning, many hours before my scheduled 5:00 p.m.-ish nonstop from Chicago to Paris. The flight had cancelled and they rebooked me on Pan Am through JFK.

It was really the first time I ever felt a subtle panic by facing the loss of well-planned elite miles through no fault of my own. And my response to the phone agent was something to the effect of, “Oh hell no!â€

My DYKWIA (Do you know who I am?!) persona surfaced for the first time at that moment.

Knowing that United also flew to Paris from Washington Dulles, I demanded that the agent rebook me on that flight, and I think I even explained that I had to earn my Premier miles. Had to. Without exception. (Oy…)

Keep in mind this was long before airline alliances existed as we know them today, so there was absolutely no mileage earning (let alone elite accrual) in a frequent flier program when flying on another carrier.

I got my way and was rebooked Chicago-Washington Dulles-Paris. Upon arrival in Washington Dulles, my DYKWIA surfaced again.

After getting used to upgrading so easily on any domestic flight, I wasn’t really looking forward to flying coach across the pond. I don’t remember if you could use miles in those days to upgrade coach tickets, but I had been saving them for a first class award to Australia so that option was out anyway. So I thought I’d try something…

Given the “inconvenience†of having my nonstop from Chicago cancelled and needing to alter my day, head to the airport earlier and “miss a meeting,†I approached an agent at the gate and complained that United ruined my day and demanded an upgrade due to their error. It was complete BS, of course, and I was such a snotty little 18-year old. I can only imagine what the agent thought.

But to my surprise, she handed me a boarding pass for seat 2A while saying, “we don’t normally do this… I’ve upgraded you to first class since business class is full.â€

I thanked her (at least I hope I did) and recall being silently elated that my scheme worked. It sort of felt like an adrenaline rush and I vividly remember being over the moon walking down the jet bridge and taking my seat. And my, my… was first class service on United back then truly first class.

On the way back from Paris, I didn’t dare try anything similar (guilt had set in by then) and resigned myself to knowing that I’d be in coach. As it turned out, I was op-upped to business class at check-in. Wow!

Fortunately, my DYKWIA episodes from then on out were few and far between, but they did occur. I’ll provide a sampling of some of them in the next installment, as well as a more detailed look into my irrational attachment to needing elite status.

In the meantime, are you willing to share one of your DYKWIA experiences? If you’ve ever had one, of course. 😉

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.


Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie: Part One

Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie: Part Two

Buh-Bye Upgrade Phobia: Rediscovering the Joy of Coach Travel

Using Premier Accelerator as a Fast Track to United Elite Status

Pondering United Premier Platinum Over Gold for 2014


  1. I’m not sure it qualifies as DYKWIA, but it was a few months ago when a friend originally on my itin was split off due to CPU processing. I was upgraded and was trying to get the gate agent to put him on the list, after 5 minutes dealing with him I just said something along the lines of, “Fine, I’ll go to the United Club and they can do it.” Three minutes later an agent at SFO UC had him on list. He got on the plane #5 on list and got upgraded.

  2. And I should add, it wasn’t that he couldn’t do it or was having troubles, he was coming up with excuse after excuse of why he couldn’t/wasn’t allowed to do it (when I knew he was wrong (or lazy)).

  3. @Michelle @TTF: Yep, comp upgrades were certainly nice and more frequent back then.
    @Kris: That’s definitely not a DYKWIA moment… I would have done the same thing without feeling a shred of guilt.

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