My flights to and from Atlanta this week reminded me that all things are not created equal.  In short, as cliche’ as this may sound, status matters.  I only hold elite status on one airline now, American.  And being that I’m only 192,000 miles away from million-miler status with AA, I’m going to send every possible mile I can their way until I hit the magic 1 million mile mark.

But my Delta flights this week were stark reminders of why elite status (even bargain-basement lowly status) in your favorite airline’s frequent traveler program can make the difference between an OK flight and a…well…not so OK flight.  My flights were fine, mostly on time, and nothing bad happened.  But to put it simply, boarding in Zone 7 on a full 757 just plain sucks.  I was tempted to check 21″ Samsonite carry-on this past Friday, but I thought better of it.  It’s nice not having to lug it around the airport, but when you arrive at your destination, who the heck wants to wait an extra 30 minutes (if you’re really lucky) for your bag?  Certainly not me.

Long story short, I wound up checking my bag at the gate because the flight was absolutely packed to the gills, and I was in…you guessed it….Zone 7.  Or maybe it was 5…but whatever it was…I was among the last to board.  These things happen, and it probably won’t be the last time it happens to me.  But I couldn’t help but think about how much I missed being Delta Medallion.  I was only Silver last year, but it made all the difference in the world.  Boarding in Zone 2 when seated in coach was a blessing.  And even as a Silver Medallion, I was frequently upgraded to first class as long as I picked my flights and aircraft types carefully.

Early boarding can make or break a flight.  If you can exert some control over your travel choices, do yourself a favor and concentrate on at least the first level of elite status on your favorite airline.  Early boarding is worth it, and if you have to check a bag, most airlines waive the fee for their elite fliers, Delta included.  Status matters, and once you have it, you’ll want to do what it takes to keep it.  Which reminds me, perhaps I need to take some of my own advice and leverage an Amex card offer for Delta MQM’s, huh?