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The Joy of Flying American Is Far From Assured

I recently regained my elite status on American Airlines. For most of the past five years, I've had some form of status, although that changed this year.
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I recently regained my elite status on American Airlines. For most of the past five years, I've had some form of status, although that changed this year. You see, I didn't fly much in 2014; consequently, this year, I wasn't even close to having the miles or flights needed to obtain Gold status, the lowest level of status. (American Airlines has three levels: Executive Platinum, Platinum and Gold. Executive Platinum is the highest level.)

In terms of air travel, 2015 has been a difficult, challenging year. I made one international trip to Sri Lanka, which was awesome, though the rest of my trips were boring, domestic and consistently inconvenient or disappointing. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of American Airlines and others, including Etihad and Emirates. The problem is that once one gets special perks when flying, having those perks taken away is painful. As a result, 2015 hit me like a slap in the face.

What simple pleasures could I be talking about? Perhaps you're wondering if this even matters. Oh, it matters. It matters a lot. Allow me to explain, dear reader.

For starters, when you have status on American Airlines, you get bonus miles whenever you fly. If you're Platinum, for example, you earn double the miles. This is huge. In addition, you can check at least one bag without having to pay for it; the Gold level allows travelers to check one bag for free on all domestic flights. This is really good stuff, though some travelers may not agree; when flying Southwest, for example, the first two bags checked are always free.

Let's now turn to the mechanics of air travel. I would argue that this is where things get especially good. If you have status with American Airlines, that means that you don't have to wait in long lines. You go to a special line for airport security and bypass tons of people. Something similar happens when you're about to board. You don't have to wait until group numbers are called. You get on the plane pretty quickly. Moreover, now that I've got my Gold status back, I have much greater control over where I sit. For most of 2015, I've been sitting in middle seats, avoiding coffee and feeling like I'm being punished. Now that I'm back at Gold, an aisle seat -- the best way to travel -- is all but guaranteed. Just thinking about a 2016 full of aisle seats brings me immense joy.

On some level, frequent travel breeds arrogance -- guilty as charged. And when it comes to air travel, I have little patience for people who don't really know what they're doing in an airport or on an airplane, which led to my unrealistic Christmas wish list this year.

The joy of flying American Airlines is far from assured these days. I'm also disappointed that, in the second half of next year, American Airlines "will shift how customers earn award miles from distance flown to dollars spent." Nevertheless, as this year comes to a close, at least I can be sure about one thing in 2016: I'm looking forward to flying again.