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Is it rude to accept your upgrade when flying with the band?

It’s happened more than once…  I fly a lot for work, and because of that I’m often one of the first people to get upgraded if a flight is full.  It’s one of the perks about staying loyal to an airline.  I could go on and on about how much I love frequent flyer programs and how easy it is to get obsessive about airline points, but not here.  The problem with upgrades is when you’re working with a band that flies in coach.  (This all goes out the window if you work for a band that flies in business class, and at that point you probably won’t be on the same plane with the band anyway.)

Iron & Wine just played two killer shows at the Wiltern Theater in LA (and KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic, Conan, an AOL session and an impossible [turns out, actually possible] Amoeba in store with the 11 piece band, all in three days.  Tiring?  Yes.  Feeling good about who I work for this year?  Quite.

Woke up early on day four to fly to NYC and conquer the east coast.  Soho Apple store tomorrow and then Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night!  The only problem is that New York City is covered in snow.  Again.  Stuck in LAX waiting at Baja Fresh (is this the only place to eat in LAX?) until our flight can leave.  After a few hours and more than one beer at the Karl Strauss Brewery we get our announcement that we actually will make it to New York today.  The tour manager is running around trying to see if the gear will make it in time for the Soho Apple Store gig.  (It probably won’t.)  Then I hear my name over the PA.  Why are they calling me?  I walk up to the counter and the attendant hands me a ticket.  Seat 5B?  That’s great!  LA to NYC is a long flight and now I can stretch out and have a nice dinner! (and maybe write this blog post?)

But then, I start to think…  There are 14 of us flying to NYC…  Should I be the only one to get upgraded?  What about, ahem, the singer?  The manager is on the flight with us too?  All Coach.  The poor horn players are carrying on saxophones!  Can you even transfer a ticket like that?  Should I just keep my mouth shut?  Out of the 14 of us, I have certainly flown the most in the past year.  Most band members only get to be in one band, but I can travel with three different ones in a year.  Should I just put my head down and accept the little comfort allotted to me and my frequent flyer status?  If the manager or the singer really wanted to be in business class shouldn’t they have just paid for it?  I board the plane with a carry on mandolin, I figured it was the least I could do.  I’m seat 5B, so I’m the seat right in front of the door where everyone boards the plane.  This means that EVERY band member and roadie can give me shit as they pass by.  Is it worth it?

I took a flight home with Stephen Malkmus once and I got upgraded and he didn’t.  We walked on the plane together and as I peeled off and sat in the front, he gave me a little jab an I thought “the guy headlining a stage at Coachella is in the back of the plane and I get in the front?”  I felt so dumb, I told myself I would never do that again.

But I did.  And the vegetarian chili in a bread bowl was really good.  And the hot fudge sunday bar was pretty killer too…

Oh man, when they read this I’ll never hear the end of it.

2 comments on “Is it rude to accept your upgrade when flying with the band?”

  1. At 1:45 am on January 28th, 2011 keith wrote:

    An interesting dilema indeed. Sounds like one for the priest or rabbi :-) .
    You with I&W over this way? If so, see you in Berlin!

  2. At 1:49 am on January 28th, 2011 Mark wrote:

    This happened to me once… I was playing with Smog in Europe. It happened on our flight home. As I checked in the attendant told me it was over booked and I might have to stay and catch a later flight or possibly fly the next day… and I was willing to do that, you know, take one for the team even though I was dying to get home to see my babies… but then a moment later, they bumped me up to first class… at this point I was not in the same area as the other guys in the band so, you know… I was safe from their glare .. I took it, boarded, turned left to go to my fancy seat, and that was that. I say, take it when it’s offered to you. Luck is a good thing and when it goes your way, welcome it. I’m sure you’ll find your way on the wrong side of it soon enough so enjoy when it works out.

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