Yesterday evening, US Congressman Tom Rice was given an upgrade due to his frequent flyer status. However, he did not use it to enjoy the premium cabin himself. Instead, he took the chance to swap it with someone he believed needed it more, a trainee military policeman. This is apparently not the first time that Mr Rice has done such a deed.
A frequent flyer
Tom Rice first became an elected Republican Congressman in 2012, serving the seventh district of South Carolina. He had previously also served as the Chairman of the Horry County Council between 2010 and 2012.
The nature of a politician’s job can mean a lot of travel, although admittedly less so in the current climate. As such, Mr Rice often finds that airlines will upgrade his ticket due to his frequent flyer status. While this would normally present an opportunity to enjoy a more relaxing flight in a premium cabin, he has a history of not taking the upgrade himself, but instead surrendering it to a fellow passenger.
Not his first donation
According to Georgian news channel WRDW, Mr Rice has a “tradition of bumping a soldier or veteran up to first-class.” The latest instance of this act occurred yesterday evening, as he recounted on his Facebook page.
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Last night, when Mr Rice was offered a first-class upgrade, he took the opportunity to pass it on to Brandon Gary. Mr Gary is a trainee military police officer from Georgetown, South Carolina. He was travelling home on the same flight as the Congressman for a period of leave following training in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Mr Rice explained that:
“I asked Brandon what he missed most about home, and without a moment’s hesitation, he said: SLEEPING LATE! Well maybe he’ll catch a few winks in first class. Tell your mom that your congressman hopes she’ll let you get an extra hours rest. You’ve earned it!“
Mr Rice is also known to have done similar swaps in the past, upgrading soldiers at his expense in January and December 2019. However, his donations aren’t just limited to military personnel. Indeed, last year he also gave his upgrade to a mother and baby to ease the pain of a long, weather-based delay.
Air travel in the US
American air travel is currently in something of a state of flux. Immediately after taking office, President Joe Biden made mask-wearing mandatory onboard airline services in the country. According to Business Insider, Mr Rice had refused to wear a face covering in the Capitol last year, although he was doing so in the picture he uploaded to Facebook with Mr Gary. The country has also brought in a mandatory 10-day quarantine period for international arrivals.
Aside from coronavirus-related restrictions, Biden has also repealed a previous travel ban imposed by Donald Trump. This affected 13 Muslim-majority countries, and had been in place since Trump, who is set to face a second impeachment trial, took office in 2017.
What do you make of Mr Rice’s act? Have you ever had an unexpected upgrade? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!