More importantly, he would build you up so much with the airline that at every connection the computer would flash the letters VIP right next to your reservation. Not because the business Satya brought to them would have amounted much to their bottom lines, but he had brilliantly managed to establish congenial personal relationships with many of the Chicago based airlines sales people, especially with the foreign owned airlines with small offices in the city.

Always impeccably dressed in his navy blue three piece suite and shiny shoes, he would show up with a big smile on his face and often treat them to Indian meals at one of the Indian restaurants in town. And he was good at dropping names. In the beginning, Haresh Shah wouldn’t have meant much to them, but he would build up my status at Playboy and spin the stories of how we knew each other practically since we were still in the diapers. And perhaps even drop a hint that in theory he could talk the company’s other executives that traveled abroad frequently into begin flying their airlines. Over a period of time, he did indeed started getting business from my then boss Bill Stokkan. Through Satya I got to know and meet many of the sales people as well and at least with Lufthansa and KLM I had become an instantly recognized name among the city and the airport staff.

So much so that I was almost always upgraded. Once when Lufthansa wasn’t able to bump me up, the station chief Herbert apologized profusely with: Extremely sorry Mr. Shah. The flight is fully booked, But wait before boarding. Just in case someone doesn’t show up. As I wait at the mobbed gate, I sense someone approaching me with, You must be Mr. Shah. Standing in front of me is a very tall and distinguish north German looking man. Perhaps seeing a question mark on my face, he continues.

‘I am Werner Kellerhals, the regional manager for Lufthansa.’

I had never met the man, but remember his name being mentioned by Satya. We exchange pleasantries. Clasped in one of my hands is the blue boarding card. I notice that his card is red for the First Class.

‘Can I have your boarding card for a sec Mr. Shah?’ And he gently snatches it away from my hand and walks over to the check-in counter. Soon he returns and hands me a red boarding card and the one in his hand is blue.

‘No Mr. Kellerhals, I really appreciate it, but I just can’t…’

He cuts me off.

‘No I insist. You’re one of our best customers and paying for your seat, while I am traveling gratis!’

Once when I arrived in Rio, they announced my name on the PA system to be met by Varig’s PR lady just to say Welcome to Brazil Mr. Shah. Other time I was traveling with Anjuli on the United and connecting in Miami on our way to Brazil. I hear my name announced just as we were deplaning. Waiting at the gate was the United’s station rep to welcome and escort us to their Red Carpet Lounge. As we are walking through the airport, he hastily tells me that we have upgraded you and Ms. Shah-Johnson to the First – hope it’s alright with you? Once we’re seated in the lounge, Anjuli breaks out in a smile, No, it’s not alright. She is all of twelve years old and this is all too exciting for her. Incredible! And I had paid for Anjuli’s ticket with my mileage.

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