Three-thirty in the morning is a ridiculous hour for a wake-up call but there it was. What made it worse for me was that this was Eastern Standard Time. I had to be up for a 6AM flight out of Ohio back home to Texas, which made it two-thirty in the morning there with something like five hours of traveling to endure including the connection in Chicago. Pillow or plane? I was on the company dime so I had to go with the plane.
I wasn't completely convinced that I needed to be up that early, either. I'd packed most of everything the night before and the drive to the airport wasn't more than 20 minutes at most. Hertz even warned me that no one would be on duty before five o'clock which was right at the edge of that hour before departure when most airlines start to wonder if you're serious about making the flight. And this was "only" a commuter flight I was trying to play by the rules for!
There was a massive line for Air Tran at the crack of dawn at Port Columbus International (someone must fly to Canada) Airport serving the Ohio capital with maybe 10 or 15 people in line for the first American Eagle flight to Chicago. I breezed through check-in and equally as quick through security which for me is the sole reason for being as early to the airport as possible. I don't mind cooling my heels with an over-priced muffin and a mindless magazine if it means not having to stand at the back of dozens of uninitiated travelers fumbling with their shoes and corralling the kids. As it happened I did get caught behind a young Japanese man who didn't understand the increasingly hostile TSA agents entreating him to move down towards the scanners and not completely strip naked at the front end of the long metal tables.
But I digress. The Gate-Agent-with-a-German-Accent noticed I and another passenger were on the tall side and came from behind her podium, no less, to ask if we would prefer exit row seating on the 50-seat RJ. Wow! The other guy jumped at the offer for he and his wife but I was fine with my window seat and enjoyed the first surprise in being the only "elite" customer eligible for early boarding when the announcement was made. The fun didn't stop there, either, as the flight attendant greeted me by name and took my drink order before we had left the gate, again the only one on board to receive such service.
This AAdvantage Platinum thing I could get used to! Being the only elite member at any level probably made the difference but I appreciated it just the same. The lone flight attendant had 49 other charges to serve in less than an hour, after all. When my drink arrived, just a Coke, y'all, it was accompanied by a large bag of smoked almonds free of charge, an item that sold for at least $3.00 to anyone else on the flight if they were so inclined.
The flight was on time. Where I wasn't expecting anything at that hour of the morning and for a short hop to Chicago it made the entire flight that much better. American Airlines is not the biggest player at Columbus but the ground and in-flight crew that morning was certainly a cut above the rest.