The ultimate luxury for a modern day business traveller is peace of mind. I am on the way to the 2008 WWDC in San Francisco. I had a 3:05pm flight out of O’Hare until a wicked thunderstorm blew through the Midwest. Now that has become a 4:30pm flight. No big deal for me; other than that, the whole airport experience has been quite pleasant. I got checked in, checked in my one bag (first bag still free with United!), and breezed through security with zero wait, and casually strolled over to C15 for my flight. That is where a found a few surprises.
The continuing weather has caused many delays and cancellation across the board. Apparently, the FAA called a full ground stop across the entire United States an hour ago. There are hundreds of people - already checked in, obviously, and awaiting flights or connecting flights - stacked up at service counters all over the concourse. Hundreds, a thousand irritated people, maybe. I even heard a woman yelling at someone. Tempers flaring, aggravation everywhere. And, much to my dismay, every frigging electrical outlet is already taken!
You see, I was planning a nice little Sunday after sit, working on my laptop, coding away or surfing the Internet in bliss. But I’d also like to do that on the flight, which means I need a full battery when I board. Not going to happen if I have to use up the battery waiting for the flight. Ugh.
I searched all over, patrolling from gate to gate, looking for free juice. Nada. Then…I saw it. The sparkling, glass doors of the United Airlines Red Carpet Club. Hmmmm…I wonder…would they let me in? I’m not a Premier member or anything and no business class ticket for me on this ride. Yes!!! They have a daily pass for $50 USD.
$50 may seem like a lot of money…but it really isn’t these days. In a few weeks it will be half a tank of gas for your car! It’s four movie tickets, a bottle of wine, or a meal for two at a chain steakhouse. I will be in here for 2.5 hours and will now be fully productive and relaxed because I’m sitting in a cushy, black leather chair with excellent air conditioning, electrical outlets galore, and 5 bars on my 3G Verizon Wireless Broadband connection. The extra productivity alone is worth the cost of the pass. But now I can relax, have a cold beverage (included!), maybe a snack (included!), and when it is time to fly, I can simply walk out of my happy place and right onto my plane.
I should also mention that there is a dedicated attendant in here, just for helping with rebooking and other scheduling problems. She’s not busy right now. If I were one of those unhappy individuals outside, waiting in Dante’s queue to talk to someone and get on another flight, I’d happily spend the $50 to get out of purgatory and get in here for the VIP treatment.
Anyway, what could have been a tedious and frustrating afternoon has now turned into a very enjoyable respite, hanging out in the Red Carpet oasis surrounded by a desert full of miserable nomads. Hopefully the rest of the week will go so smoothly.