Let me start by saying this, if you haven’t watched the movie “Up In The Air” (IMDB link), and if you’re a frequent flyer or remotely a points and miles hobbyist, you should watch it NOW. And you have been warned, this post contains spoilers of the most memorable scenes related to travel and points and miles.
Up In The Air (Movie)
Up in the Air was released in the US on December 4, 2009. It was directed by Jason Reitman (of Thank You For Smoking and Juno fame), and starred George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick in the lead roles. As of 2019, it still holds “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with a Tomatometer rating of 91%.
Here’s a trailer of the movie on YouTube uploaded by soundfan:
This year is the 10th anniversary of the movie, and I couldn’t help reminisce my 10 (+ 2 bonus) favorite travel scenes.
To recap, the main characters in the movie are:
- Ryan Bingham (George Clooney)
- Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga)
- Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick)
Up In The Air Scene 1: To know me is to fly with me
Part of the opening sequence, Ryan describes his travel lifestyle and then sweeps past the airline check-in and is welcomed with his elite status 😉
Scene plays at 06:00 – 07:15:
(Ryan narrating) To know me is to fly with me. This is where I live. I run my card, the system automatically prompts the desk clerk to greet me with this exact statement. (sweeps past the long line, gets to priority access and swipes his frequent flyer member card) Desk Clerk: Pleasure to see you again, Mr. Bingham :-) (Ryan narrating) It's these kind of systemized friendly touches that keep my world in orbit. (Ryan narrating at 7:05): All the things you probably hate about traveling, the recycled air, the artificial lighting, the digital juice dispensers, the cheap sushi, are warm reminders that I'm home.
Scene on YouTube uploaded by AbulaphiaMusic:
So many thoughts here with his statements. The movie strikes a chord immediately in this opening scene showing the lives of frequent flyers and how much status matters and how it makes us happy.
- Ryan packing his carry-on like a true flyer, also zipping past security
- Ryan handing his car rental card to the clerk
- Flight Attendant at 07:30: Do you want the cancer? (do you want the can, sir? :D) (YouTube Link)
Up In The Air Scene 2: I reminded them of your remarkable #1 Gold Club Status
Ryan enters the Admirals Club lounge. He’d like a better car from the rental, and he’s asking his assistant if he reminded him of his status.
Scene plays at 09:35 – 10:30:
(Ryan enters the Admirals Club Lounge flashing his card) Lounge Desk Clerk: Welcome back, Mr. Bingham. (Ryan sits down and calls his office) Ryan's Assistant: Ryan Bingham's office Ryan: You got me in a Dodge Stratus in Kansas City? Ryan's Assistant: They're completely out of all full-size sedans. Ryan: Did you try to..? Ryan's Assistant: Yes, I reminded them of your remarkable #1 Gold Club status and years in the program. They are literally moving mountains to see you in a Sebring. Ryan: (sigh) Fair enough.
As frequent flyers, our status helps us more often than not. The agents try their best to help us out. We expect our status to get what we want, but sometimes, it may not be the case.
Up In The Air Scene 3: Faumey
Ryan and Alex discuss Car Rental programs, Hotel loyalty programs and unleash their stash of cards
Scene plays at 11:30 – 13:55: (slightly longer than usual, but my ATF)
Ryan: You satisfied with Maestro?
Alex: (looking at her Maestro card) Yeah, I am.
Ryan: Little stingy with their miles. I like Hertz
Alex: Mmm, Hertz keeps its vehicles too long. If a car has over 20,000 miles, I won't drive it.
Ryan: Maestro doesn't instant check-out. I like the park-and-go.
Alex: Hertz doesn't guarantee navigation.
Ryan: It's funny, you don't seem like a girl who needs directions.
Alex: I hate asking for directions. That's why I get a nav.
Ryan: That new outfit, Colonial, isn't bad.
Alex: Is that a joke?
Alex: Their kiosk placement blows.
Ryan: They never have available upgrades.
Alex: Basically, it's a fleet of shit boxes. I don't know how they're still in business.
Ryan: I'm Ryan.
Alex. I'm Alex.
(Alex comes over to Ryan’s table and they both unleash their stash of cards)
Ryan: Maplewood card? How dare you bring that into this palace? Alex: Hilton offers equal value and better food, but Maplewood gives out warm cookies at check-in. Ryan: They got you with the cookies? Alex: I'm a sucker for simulated hospitality. Ryan: There's an industry term for that. It's a mixture of "faux" and "homey". Faumey. Alex: (looking at a card on the table) Oh, my God. I wasn't sure this actually existed. This is the American Airlines uhh Ryan: It's a Concierge Key, yeah. Alex: What is that, carbon fiber? Ryan: Graphite. Alex: Oh, God, I love the weight. Ryan: I was pretty excited the day that bad boy came in. Alex: Yea, I'll say I put up pretty pedestrian numbers, like 60 thou a year, domestic. Ryan: That's not bad. Alex: Don't patronize me. What's your total? Ryan: That's a personal question. Alex: Oh, please Ryan: We hardly know each other. Alex: Come on, show some hubris, come on. Impress me. I'll bet it's huge. Ryan: You have no idea. Alex: How big? Huh? What is it? This big? Ryan: Uh Alex: This big? (increasing the width between her arms) This big? Ryan: I don't want to brag. Alex: Oh, come on. Come on. Ryan: Let's just say I have a number in mind. I haven't hit it yet. Alex: This is pretty fucking sexy. Ryan: I hope it doesn't cheapen our relationship. Alex: We are two people who get turned on by Elite Status. I think cheap is our starting point. Ryan: There's nothing cheap about loyalty.
Scene on YouTube uploaded by Movieclips:
This is an amazing scene describing the entirety of how frequent flyers think and roll. From free cookies to new cars, everything matters. It’s not only about free perks, it’s also about being appreciated for our loyalty.
And not to forget, I love the part where they unleash their cards 🙂
Scene 4: Miserable Days at home
Ryan comes “home” after a long work trip.
Scene plays at 18:40 – 19:00:
(Ryan narrating) Last year, I spent 322 days on the road, which means I had to spend 43 miserable days at home.
Shout out to the frequent flyers who spends days at end away from home. Well, that gives us points, miles and status, but it’s also taking valuable time away from family and other personal commitments, hence the reason to maximize our travel even more.
Scene 5: You willing to throw away an entire week on that?
Natalie brings a broken check-in bag, and Ryan dumps it
Scene plays at 27:00 – 29:00:
(whirring sound of the wheels on Natalie's broken luggage) Natalie: What? Ryan: Follow me. (in the luggage store) Natalie: I really like my luggage. Ryan: That's exactly what it is, luggage. Know how much time you lose by checking in? Natalie: I don't know. Five, ten minutes? Ryan: Thirty-five minutes a flight. I travel 270 days a year. That's 157 hours. That makes 7 days. You willing to throw away an entire week on that? (Natalie repacking into a carry-on) Ryan: You don't need this. Sorry. You don't need that. Not gonna need that. They have neck pillows on the plane. They have this. They have better ones there. (dumping the pillow into the trash can) Natalie: I can just meet you at security.
One thing that flying often teaches you, is to be a minimalist with your luggage. A thumb rule observed by all frequent flyers is to not check in bags (unless you’re on a family vacation of course).
Scene 6: He just waltzes in and cuts in line?
Ryan checks in to the hotel at the elite check-in line and a non-member is not happy
Scene plays at 36:12 – 36:35:
(stranger in the check-in line): He just waltzes in and cuts in line? Front Desk: We reserve priority assistance for our Hilton Honors members. Ryan: (handing over the brochure for Hilton Honors) Promotions are great. You should check it out.
Scene on YouTube uploaded by András Kosztyu:
Another reason we’re chasing for status (it’s the end of the year, let the mileage runs, mattress runs, status matches roll in) is to educate others about the benefits of different loyalty programs and the method to our madness 😉
Scene 7: The miles are the goal
Natalie asks Ryan to explain the points and miles game
Scene plays at 36:36 – 38:19:
Natalie: Hungry much? Ryan: Our business expense allots $40 each for dinner. I plan on grabbing as many miles as I can. Natalie: OK, you gotta fill me in on the miles thing. What is that about? Are you talking about ... like frequent flyer miles? Ryan: You really want to know? Natalie: I'm dying to know. Ryan: I don't spend a nickel if I can help it, unless it somehow profits my mileage account. Natalie: So what are you saving up for? Hawaii? South of France? Ryan: It's not like that. The miles are the goal. Natalie: That's it? You're saving just to save? Ryan: Let's just say I have a number in mind and I haven't hit it yet. Natalie: That's a little abstract. What's the target? Ryan: I'd rather not.... Natalie: Is it a secret target? Ryan: It's 10 million miles. Natalie: OK. Isn't 10 Million just a number? Ryan: Pi is just a number. Natalie: Well, we all need a hobby. Ryan: (rolls his eyes and doesn't know what to say) Natalie: No. I don't mean to belittle your collection. I get it. It sounds cool. Ryan: I'd be the 7th person to do it. More people have walked on the moon. Natalie: Do they throw you a parade? Ryan: You get lifetime Executive Status! You get to meet the chief pilot, Maynard Finch. Natalie: Wow Ryan: They put your name on the side of a plane. Natalie: Men get such hard-ons from putting their name on stuff. You guys don't grow up. It's like you need to pee on everything. Ryan: Oh, now who's stereotyping? (referencing to a previous scene where Ryan stereotypes travelers at security checkpoints) Natalie: Fear of Mortality. It's like, yeah, you're gonna die one day. Ryan: And why do you suppose that's singular to men? Natalie: Probably 'cause you can't have babies. Ryan: The baby argument. Natalie: If I had that many miles, I would show up at an airport, look at the destination board, pick a place, and GO.
Scene on YouTube uploaded by Movieclips:
While watching this scene, I realized it can be hard at times to explain a total noob as to why you’re collecting all these points and miles. Sometimes you’re saving up for that dream vacation, and sometimes you’re not.
Scene 8: Matterhorn Program
Alex and Ryan check-in to a small hotel in Northern Wisconsin and Ryan is not a member of their loyalty program
Scene plays at 71:32 – 72:00:
(Ryan and Alex waiting in the hotel check-in line) Ryan: (to the other Front Desk assistant) Excuse me? Are you available? Front Desk Clerk: This line is for members of our Matterhorn Program. Ryan: (disappointed) (a while later, Ryan and Alex enter the room) Alex: Nice digs!
Almost always, we have our elite status-es sorted, and we would never go to a hotel without status. But sometimes, life puts you in a situation otherwise. It’s okaaay (or maybe not?).
Scene 9: Hey, you forgot to give me your #1 Gold Card!
Ryan does not give the Car Rental Agent his loyalty rewards number
Scene plays at 91:51 – 92:35:
Hertz Assistant: Hey, you gotta sign. Ryan: Okay. Hertz Assistant: Thank you. Ryan: All right. (Ryan getting into the car and driving off) Hertz Assistant: (shouting out to Ryan) Hey, you forgot to give me your Hertz #1 Gold Card!
We make sure our loyalty number is entered EVERYWHERE. But sometimes in life, something more important comes up, and the thing that you work so hard towards may not matter at that very instance.
Scene 10: I’m from here
Ryan hits Ten Million Miler
Scene plays at 96:01 – 98:04:
Flight Attendant: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a special announcement to make. Our pilot has just informed me we are passing over the city of Dubuque, which might not seem much to most of you, but means a lot to one of our flyers today.. Ryan: Oh, no... (realizing that he made 10 million miles) Flight Attendant: because he just hit 10 million miles! Another FA: Congratulations! Such an amazing accomplishment Another FA: you must be very, very excited. (Hi) Captain. Captain: (To Ryan pointing at the empty Window Seat) That seat taken? Ryan: No, no. Captain: You're the youngest yet to hit 10 mil. Don't know where you found the time? Ryan: Yeah, I don't know. Captain: Oh yeahhh (taking out the card for Ryan). Here you go. 7th card we've made. Small club. We really appreciate your loyalty. Ryan: You know how many times I thought about this moment? Played out the conversation that you and I would have right here. Captain: Really? What did you want to say? Ryan: You know, I don't remember. Captain: That's all right. It happens to all of us. So, where are you from? Ryan: I'm from here.
Scene Uploaded on YouTube by rfitz511:
The joy of achieving status (specially lifetime status) is unbeatable. And sometimes it can happen when you’re least expecting it. Cherish the moment, and realize how hard you worked to get there. Also, the ending note “I’m from here” says a lot that cannot be described in words.
Bonus Scene 1: They’re 500,000 miles each
Ryan gifts his points to his newly wed sister for a trip around the world
Scene plays at 98:10 – 98:46:
(Ryan calling the airlines customer service) Phone Agent: Hello Mr. Bingham Ryan: How'd you know it was me? Phone Agent: This is your dedicated line. We reserve them for our most loyal and appreciated flyers. Ryan: I'd like to transfer some of my miles. Can I open up an account to Jim and Julie Miller? Phone Agent: Certainly. How many miles would you like to transfer? Ryan: How many miles does it take to circle the globe? Phone Agent: We have our around-the-world tickets. They're 500,000 miles each. Ryan: I think that'd be fine.
We have accumulated hundreds of thousands of points (if not millions), and sometimes these points and miles can make someone’s day. There are countless stories of how someone used points and miles to help his family or friend or a stranger get to somewhere or do something they could have never done.
Bonus Scene 2 – Ending Scene: Ryan is back at the airport staring into ….
Tonight, most people will be welcomed home by jumping dogs and squealing kids. Their spouses will ask about their day and tonight they'll sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places. And one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip passing over.
Thanks to the Points and Miles bloggers out there
I’d like to take a moment to thank and appreciate all the points and miles bloggers across the world who help us travel better, and achieve our travel dreams.
- 10xTravel (USA)
- Amin On Miles (Canada)
- Andy’s Travel Blog (USA)
- Angelina Travels (USA)
- Bald Thoughts (USA)
- Bougie Miles (USA)
- Canadian Kilometers (Canada)
- Card Expert (India)
- Cranky Flier (USA)
- C Boarding Group (USA)
- Dan’s Deals (USA)
- Dan’s Travel Guide (USA)
- Deals We Like (USA)
- Doctor of Credit (USA)
- Don’t Call the Airline! (Canada)
- Dots, Lines and Destinations (USA)
- Easy Travel Points (USA)
- Eat Drink Stay Dubai (UAE)
- Economy Class and Beyond (UK)
- Everyday Points And Miles (USA)
- Eyes On The Points (USA)
- Frequent Flyer Bonuses (Canada)
- Frequent Miler (USA)
- Fly and Dine (USA)
- Fly Miler (USA)
- Frugal Travel Guy (USA)
- God Save The Points (USA)
- Grab a Mile (USA)
- Head For Points (UK)
- Heels First Travel (USA)
- Inside Flyer (UK)
- Johnny Jet (USA)
- Le Chic Geek (USA)
- Live and Let’s Fly (USA)
- Live From A Lounge (India)
- Living The Miles Life (Singapore)
- Loyalty Lobby (USA)
- Loyalty Traveler (USA)
- Michael W Travels (USA)
- Middle Age Miles (USA)
- Mile Nerd (USA)
- Mile Value (USA)
- Miles For Family (USA)
- Miles From Blighty (UK)
- Miles to Memories (USA)
- Miles Quest (USA)
- Miles Talk (USA)
- Miles To Go (USA)
- Million Mile Secrets (USA)
- Mind The Miles (USA)
- Modhop (USA)
- Monkey Miles (USA)
- Muslim Travel Girl (Qatar)
- Nomadic Matt (USA)
- No Mas Coach! (USA)
- Now Boarding (USA)
- One Mile At A Time (USA)
- Out and Out (USA)
- Paddle Your Own Kanoo (USA)
- PDX Deals Guy (USA)
- Pinter Poin (Indonesia)
- Pizza In Motion (USA)
- Point Hacks (Australia)
- Point Me To The Plane (USA)
- Pointshogger (Canada)
- PointsHQ (Australia)
- Points And Travel (USA)
- Points Centric (USA)
- Point Chaser (USA)
- Points Diva (USA)
- Points Finder (Australia)
- Points from the Pacific (Australia)
- Points Geek (Indonesia)
- Points Miles and Bling (Canada)
- Points Miles and Martinis (USA)
- Points Nerd (Canada)
- Points of Arabia (UAE)
- Points Passport (USA)
- Points To Be Made (UK)
- Points Travel Her (USA)
- Points Travel Nerd (USA)
- Points Wise (Canada)
- Points With A Crew (USA)
- Points With Plastic (USA)
- Pointy End of the Plane (Australia)
- Pursuing Points (USA)
- Rapid Travel Chai (USA)
- Renes Points (USA)
- Riku Miley (USA, Japan)
- Running With Miles (USA)
- Sam Chui (Everywhere)
- Smart Money and Travel (USA)
- Straight To The Points (USA)
- Svenblogt (Germany)
- The Expat Flyer (UAE)
- The Free-quent Flyer (USA)
- The Gate (USA)
- The Military Frequent Flyer (USA)
- The Points Engineer (USA)
- The Points Guy (USA)
- The Points Habibi (UAE)
- The Points Of Life (USA)
- The Points Pundit (USA)
- The Reward Boss (USA)
- The Shutterwhale (Singapore)
- The Travelers Club (USA, France)
- The Travel Sisters (USA)
- The Wandering Aramean (USA)
- Thrifty Points (UK)
- Travel Codex (USA)
- Travel Hacking Mom (USA)
- Travel Is Free (USA)
- Travel Miles 101 (USA)
- Travel On Points (USA)
- Travel The Globe For Less (UK)
- Travel with Massi (Germany)
- Traveling For Miles (USA)
- Traveling Well For Less (USA)
- Turning Left for Less Brasil (Brazil)
- Ultima Llamada (Spain)
- Upgraded Points (USA)
- Up In The Air EU (UK)
- View From the Wing (USA)
- Well Traveled Mile (USA)
- Will Run For Miles (USA)
- You Have Been Upgraded (Germany)
- Your Mileage May Vary (USA)
I tried to include everyone I know or could find. If I missed anyone, feel free to drop me a line.
Up In The Air – Final Thoughts
For the record, I actually typed down each scene as it was playing. I hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it. Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.