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First class ruined me

I remember the very first time I flew in an airplane. I was 15 years old, and headed for a year of studying in Europe. I knew nothing about air travel, and I found myself in a window seat, next to a man who was not even a little impressed by my excitement. As a first time flyer, everything was exciting, even the little trays that the meals came on. I will never forget that first flight, when everything was so new and interesting.

These days, I am considered a "frequent flyer," clocking in 65 legs a year, on average. I am one of those people that parks in the same place at the airport, knows how to get through customs and security quickly, and has the packing thing down to a science. I know how to sweet talk the flight attendants into extra Biscoffs, and which seats not to book on almost any model of Boeing aircraft. I have become pretty good at conversing with airlines on Twitter, and I know exactly how long it takes to run in heels from Terminal 1, Concourse H to Terminal 3, Concourse C at Chicago O'Hare. (Hint, it takes about 2 minutes longer than you need, and no, they will not hold the door.)

But, it took about 4 years of this kind of travel before I started receiving the holy grail of travel rewards - the complimentary upgrade. Finally, I was one of those people. You know, the ones you walk past on the way to the back. You avert your eyes and pretend you don't even care that you are not one of them. You don't need those comfy blankets or cozy seats. You don't even care that they are being offered champagne and juice in front of your very eyes, as you struggle to fold yourself like human origami into a seat built for someone without legs. But the truth is, you are seething with white hot envy the entire stinkin' time.

This upgrade thing hasn't happened often, I'll admit. But it's happened often enough that I have a really good understanding of what it's like. (It's heaven. Straight up.) Recently, on a particularly long, early morning flight, I was upgraded to a lie-flat pod. The angels sang, the sun poured down, and everything was new and exciting and fun again, just like that flight when I was 15. And for six hours, I totally loved air travel again. (Yes, I'll have the salmon, how kind of you to ask. Champagne? Why not?!) And as I sat there, in my little bubble of personal space, I looked out the window and considered a few things.

Imagine if I felt like this all the time? Imagine if my life was full of customer experiences that made me feel like I was in first class? Would it change me? Would I be happier? Would I start to take them for granted? Now, it should be noted that I was not upgraded on the return flight, so it's safe to say my normal person status is still firmly intact. But I still think back on that flight and I wonder if I'll ever really feel the same about economy travel again.

The question is, do your customers feel like they have been upgraded? Do they use your services as a benchmark? Every time someone works with you, do they feel as if they are sipping champagne under a comfy blanket? Do they feel as if they are personally attended to and cared about, rather than lumped in with all the others on the same journey? These are questions that could be asked about any industry, really. And it's not that hard to make people feel special these days, in a world full of self-checkouts and SlyDial. It just takes that little bit of extra personal attention. And y'all, once you get a taste of that kind of service experience, you'll pay more for it. That is the truth.

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