Life as a frequent flier is not always fun, contrary to what the movie "Up in the Air" showed. Waking up at odd hours, traversing timezones, forgotten cellphone charger or medicines, every little annoyance adding up. And when the unpredictable weather and random flight cancellations are factored in, it is almost a perfect recipe for disaster. I see all the people stranded on their way to or out of Europe in last few days, and I realize I could have been one of them. In fact, I was, briefly in Berlin, before I was accommodated in a nice hotel, provided with food and was put in a direct flight to US next morning.
All because once my original flight to Cleveland via Zurich and Toronto was canceled, I could stand in the infinitely shorter rebooking queue for first and business class travelers, and get a seat in the direct flight to Newark next morning. If I were in the general queue, with a million people, I would have never made it. That's what happened n Paris last year, when I spent all my day standing in queues, and my night sleeping at the airport. I was a lowly "silver" then, in Delta frequent flier program.
Now after flying over 50,000 miles (when all said and done, I will end up flying almost 75,000 miles this year), I am "gold" in United, and what a difference that made. Flying back to Dresden via Frankfurt last time from US, I was stuck in an utterly chaotic snow covered Frankfurt airport. But instead of standing in endless queues, I could queue up sitting inside the lounge, and spend the night at airport Sheraton, before getting a first class train ticket for next morning, all on Lufthansa. Yes, lounges are nice with free drinks, internet and relaxing ambiance, and domestic first class upgrades are fun, and it is cool to see my bags coming out first, but the real benefit of having "status" is how you get treated in case of these irregularities. To use a borrowed phrase, that is indeed priceless.