Favorite Flights I Never Flew

By Robert Mark on May 27th, 2018

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Favorite Flights I Never Flew, by Micah Engber, contributor

The mid to late 1980’s were the heyday of Frequent Flyer Programs. Since deregulation, the advent of low-cost airlines a-la People Express and Southwest, the mainline carriers were searching for a means to maintain their customer base, or as some said, their “strangle hold” on the industry. Frequent Flyer Programs started with American Airlines and quickly spread to all the others. By coincidence, this was also the time when, while living in Pueblo, Colorado, I was doing a good deal of commercial flying.

Pueblo was only served by Rocky Mountain Airlines (Continental Express) when I started flying from there and that was fine by me. There were three or four daily flights back and forth to the Denver, Stapleton hub, and I always loved climbing on board the de Havilland Dash-7’s or Dash-6 Twin Otters.  (Later America West made a daily stop on a 737 flight from Phoenix to Colorado Springs and back. It always seemed like it would have been strange to fly the less than 50 mile leg PUB to COS but I never had the opportunity.)

I joined the Continental One Pass Program early on and was soon an Elite Platinum member. What a wonderful way to fly! In those days most flights were way below capacity which meant I was almost always bumped up to First Class. Although First Class amenities weren’t even near what Business Class is today, it was still pretty spectacular compared to coach. All of the gate agents in Pueblo and some in Denver knew me by name and I was treated like a king.

Many people remember the baggage disaster that took place when the new Denver airport opened, but really it wasn’t very different from the old days back at Stapleton. The Continental Express concourse was located at the other end of the airport from Continental’s mainline terminal and although it seemed my bags always made it outbound with me, they generally never accompanied me home. But the service was still spectacular.

When I would arrive home in Pueblo the gate agent, having already seen my name on the flight manifest and recognizing me as a very frequent flyer, would pull me aside, tell me my bags didn’t make and that they would be delivered right after the next flight was turned around. Who could ask for more?

I kept flying and kept my points banked. At that time, status with Frequent Flyer programs was based on points accumulated, not annual miles flown. I was in great shape as a Platinum One Pass member.

By 1990 I could see that Frequent Flyer programs were changing along with the airline business. People Express had disappeared as had the original Frontier. Eastern Airlines and Pan Am were in trouble. TWA and America West were not far behind. Frequent Flyer programs were changing, and not for the better.

I had moved to Maine and also found that while wealthy with points I was not very liquid in cash. If points were stocks it was time to sell. So I did, both literally and figuratively.

After reserving a few points for something in particular I had in mind; I sold off the remaining points for cash through some specialty travel agents. I must say I did very well. Then I went ahead and used the reserved points for a special flight.

My parents had been talking about another trip to Paris for some time. They had been there together before, and my father had been there on his own many times during World War II. He even studied at The University of Paris post war.

Their 35th wedding anniversary was coming up and it was time to get them back to Paris. Still being within the golden years of Frequent Flyer programs, as a special anniversary present I was able to use my points to get them to Paris, round-trip in First Class. It was not a flight for me to fly, but nonetheless a memorable one that was worth every last point used for it.

Years Later

Seventeen years later, in 2007 my Mom, Harriet was talking about another trip to Europe. She and my father had traveled to many places since the Paris trip I managed to scrounge together for them. We had even taken a trip to London together. That was a very special trip. My Dad and I spent a great day together, part of which included sitting on the banks of the Thames and drinking tea, and then a trip to The Imperial War Museum. By this time however in 2007 his health while not terrible, did not allow for him to be as mobile as he once was, he spent most of this trip on his own near our hotel.

The trip was a return to London for me, and then on by train for my first time in Paris. While in London my mother and I went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Although I had seen it before it’s a wonderful ceremony and worth seeing again, plus it was on the tour.

We were standing in front of the palace gate. I was showing my mom some landmarks so she could get her bearings and know where the guard would be marching in from. It was then that a beautiful young woman that was standing nearby, but was not part of our tour asked me where I learned so much about the area and the ceremony. I told her I had been to London before and loved the city.

We struck up a conversation and it turned out she was a Flight Attendant for Singapore Airlines. My God, I was talking to a “Singapore Girl”!! She was on her first flight since going through training and spending her first layover in London. She was a knockout!

Now look, I loved my mom, and still do, and I was as dedicated a son to her as any son could be, but I was talking to a “Singapore Girl” and not just any “Singapore Girl” but a “Singapore Girl” that was talking to me because she wanted to, not because I was a passenger. A “Singapore Girl” that asked me where I was staying while in London, a “Singapore Girl” that was telling me that my hotel was near where she was staying, a “Singapore Girl” that wanted to know what I was doing later that evening. It was a dream come true!!

As with all flights however, timing is everything. I explained how I was with my parents having taken them here to London and that we would soon be off to Paris. How we had theatre tickets for that night. I asked her when she returned to Singapore, if she might have a turnaround in Paris, New York, anyplace in the USA. Needless to say I never saw her nor heard from her again.

And that my friends and fellow Jetwhiners, is the story behind the two best flights in my life, that I never flew.

For Jetwhine, here in Portland, Maine,

This is your Main(e) man,


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