I sometimes make references to “playing dumb” or “playing blonde” in my posts. This has nothing to do with being mean to blondes. I was a curly-haired cherub myself once upon a time.
But you know how sometimes people will ask you a question and they’ll just tell you to Google it? The implication is that it was obvious you didn’t need to ask them for their help. Similarly, my dad’s favorite line was to tell me to play dumb and just ask people for what I wanted.
My problem is that I know the rules, or at least I think I do, and so I get very hesitant sometimes about making requests when I know the rules don’t favor me. But it’s surprising how helpful people are when you ask them to bend the rules for you. Sometimes it’s even a policy, but just not one spelled out because it would be far too complicated to explain all the different possibilities.
For example, I’ve been talking this week in my comparison of several loyalty programs that free checked baggage and free preferred seats sometimes extend to companions. But nearly always the rule says that it applies to companions on the same reservation. What if you booked your tickets separately?
It turns out it doesn’t matter at all. I routinely call up United and ask them to move a friend to Economy Plus or ask the agent at check-in to waive their baggage fee. This is more common when traveling with a group of friends or when business rules require you to book travel separately. All I have to do is give the agent my PNR (passenger name record, what most refer to as a reservation number) and that of my friend. Easy.
The only restriction I’ve run into is that I must be traveling on the same plane. It’s okay if we don’t share every segment, but the benefits only extend to the segments we share. Megan and I sometimes had problems with this before she got her own status. She and I would fly from Amarillo to Denver together, then I would head to San Francisco and she to Seattle. We could share Economy Plus seating on AMA-DEN (really, just the exit row) but not the free checked baggage because I wasn’t going to be with her all the way to her final destination.
Getting through the priority security line and the priority boarding line is even simpler. Just make sure you go first. You can take anyone in your party with you, regardless of their status. I know some people guest in strangers to the airline clubs. I’ve never heard of people guesting strangers into the priority lines, even though I’m sure that would be just as useful to a mother with three kids to keep control of.
Finally, you can sometimes extend your elite benefits at hotels. Upgrade vouchers for Hyatt’s Gold Passport program are only supposed to be applicable to paid nights, not award nights, but it isn’t unheard of for people to try booking one paid night and then several subsequent award nights to try to get the upgrade extended. Most hotels are happy to let you stay in one place instead of changing rooms. I got grief for the way I handled this last month, but that was my fault. As long as you can be friendly about it, my point is simple: Just Ask.
You’ll never be the villain for asking. You may know you’re not entitled. You may not have a clue what you’re entitled to. But if you think you have a shot, the worst a person can say is “no.” They will certainly never say “yes” if you don’t try. Just try not to be a jerk about it. There are already enough of those, even in situations when they really are in the right.