You’ve all been there. You’re sitting in the ultimate social experiment: the airport gate. And while you’re looking at your average boarding pass with “Boarding Group 3” or “Coach class” listed on it, you look over to see the 2’x3′ “red carpet” for those…special passengers.
When it comes time to board, you hear the gate worker say something along the lines of this: “And first we’d like to welcome our Business Elite/ProVantage/Special Rapid Rewards/Star Alliance/Elite Partner (yaddah yaddah) Passengers to board.”
I translate all of these to mean that these people pay a little more to simply get up off their gate seat and sit on an airplane seat just a little before everyone else to enhance their self-confidence.
But then you look over and notice the army fatigues of a man or women, or group, of soldiers who are being treated like they are just any other passenger.
I feel strongly that if there was ONE person who deserves to have ANY kind of special treatment AT ALL, it would be a man or woman in uniform who is serving our country. No questions asked.
I was at the Dallas/Fort-Worth airport today and couldn’t believe my eyes. There was about 6 Army troops at my gate and the one next to us, waiting for their flights. I was initially upset that in the crowded gate area, not one person offered up their seat to have them sit down – they were resting on the floor leaning up against their camouflage sacks.
But then it got worse. When I walked by them and stopped to thank them for their service, as I try to do every time I see a man or woman in uniform, I overheard them talking about how they were on standby.
Yes. Standby. I learned later when I was sitting next to a 30-year old Army soldier named Jake on the plane, that these brave people were in Afghanistan, and had 15 days to go home.
And there was one of them who had been put on standby. I felt ashamed of our society, of the airline, and just in general that we all “stood by” and let that happen.
Luckily, he did get on the plane. But the idea that there indeed was a possibility that after not being home since July and serving in a terror-torn country, the poor young man may have had to wait at a gate in Dallas, just because some people were ahead of him in the pecking order.
That to me is plain and simple ridiculous. I realize that I’m on a soap-box, but seriously folks, what person should get home first – the random person who was visiting a friend, or the soldier who hasn’t been home in months, and doesn’t know if he/she will ever be home again after this?
I do understand that if the gate workers were intuitive to this situation, this near-injustice could have been avoided. Because I admit that if they were to announce that they had a soldier on standby who is trying to get home, some Good Samaritan would have given up their seat for a later flight. I know I would have. But the fact is, that didn’t happen.
I’ll settle with this. I firmly believe that the ONLY people who should have the special in-flight privileges to board early or get a free drink, or even walk on that red carpet, are the people who are risking their lives to protect ours. As the bumper stickers say, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, at your own free will, thank a soldier.”
So this is me getting off my soap box to bow to all of the people who serve our country. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You extraordinary men and women are the real first class passengers, and I’ll roll out that tiny red carpet for you any day.