Five things you didn't know about 'Up in the Air'

By Chris Chamberlin , April 29 2016
Five things you didn't know about 'Up in the Air'

A favourite film among many business travellers, Up in the Air depicts high-flying character Ryan Bingham’s journeys across North America in ways that amass as many frequent flyer points as he possibly can: whether by staying loyal to a particular airline or spending big on business dinners.

But unless you’re a die-hard moviegoer, there are things that you may have missed or might not have even realised – Australian Business Traveller sums up the top five.

1. American Airlines ConciergeKey is real

Take your mind back to when Ryan (George Clooney) meets Alex (Vera Farmiga) for the first time as they showdown their loyalty cards, including an American Airlines ConciergeKey card to which Alex remarks she wasn’t sure even existed.

Well, it does exist – it’s AA’s take on the Qantas Chairmans Lounge: an invitation-only tier awarded to a hand-picked group that includes CEOs, celebrities and influencers with a range of exclusive perks rarely talked about by American Airlines.

Among them, however, is kerbside access to AA’s Flagship Check-in suites – similar to Virgin Australia Premium Entry – regardless of class of travel…

… and AA’s VIP concierge service at selected airports including in Sydney, Los Angeles and New York to zip you through security, into the lounge and then onto your flight before boarding has even commenced, which Australian Business Traveller experienced on a recent Stateside visit.

Review: American Airlines ConciergeKey 'Five Star Service' concierge

As for that exclusive 10-million-mile level which gets your name on a plane and a meeting with the airline’s chief pilot? That’s just in the movie – in real life you’d instead secure four confirmed ‘systemwide upgrades’ to business or first class in exchange for practically living in the air!

2. People addressing the camera were actually fired

A number of terminated employees directly address the camera throughout the movie to share their feelings and the things they wish they’d said to the person and company that fired them.

You’d assume these were paid actors, but these people were all terminated from their jobs in real life – the camera crew captured this footage after claiming to be making an episode about job loss and the corporate climate in the USA in order to elicit their real emotions.

However, the characters who interact with Ryan and Natalie (Anna Kendrick), such as the pastry chef and the woman intent on jumping off a bridge, were indeed part of the cast.

3. Bingham’s entire wardrobe fits in a carry-on bag

Fittingly for a character who never flies with checked baggage, Bingham’s entire wardrobe for the film fits within a single carry-on bag – you’ll notice his ‘look’ rarely changes throughout the picture and where it does, he’s just rotated his shirt or tie.

Life at home also reminds him of time on the road with the fridge in his apartment stocked full of minibar-sized spirits, no doubt acquired to maximise his credit card spend on the company dime and which he can bring through the airport, each being under 100ml.

Look closely atop the fridge and you’ll also spot a jar full of AA’s premium snack mix – but we’re sure those came included with his many airfares.

4. Most scenes filmed in St. Louis

Despite Bingham’s frequent travels, most of the movie’s indoor scenes were actually filmed in St. Louis as real-world downsizing made for a variety of available office spaces in the city, and landlords were happy to have paying tenants, even for a brief period.

The production team also swung by Detroit Metro Airport to film the bulk of the airport scenes in the bustling McNamara Terminal – still used by Delta and Virgin Atlantic, but not American Airlines – and also the closed Berry Terminal at the same airport.

5. Steve Martin was the backup Bingham

George Clooney was always considered the ideal Bingham, but Steve Martin was next in line should Clooney refuse the part, which would have made for a very different movie, and certainly a different script.

Emily Blunt, often recognised as assistant Emily in The Devil Wears Prada and Ellen Page – notable as Ariadne in Inception – were also on the cards for the role of Natalie, but which was ultimately played by Anna Kendrick.

You’ll also spot the writer of the original Up in the Air novel, Walter Kirn, making a cameo in the movie sitting aside Bingham and playing a corporate redundancy specialist during the team’s big ‘Glocal’ meeting.

Also read: Inside the secret world of VIP travel

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Apr 2016

Total posts 24

I simply have to watch this film! Where do I find it please?

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 165

I'm pretty sure it's available on Netflix as well (or maybe Stan). And also in the iTunes Store.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 245

I think I saw it on Netflix :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1390

Its been on Aussie free to air TV before, so will no doubt come up again. Otherwise your local video store (if you still have one near you). Unlikely to be in DVD machines now.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 149

Ironically I first saw this movie while 'Up In the Air' myself LOL. I always wonderred if the 'HHornors' express check in actually works in real life, as I often find the 'HHornors' lane at many Hilto hotels are just like another ususal check in counter. Anyway, it's a great movie and worth watching.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 149

Hilton Hotels I Mean

Usually it is just a desk, but at some hotels like the Hilton Tokyo Bay and the Hilton LAX Airport, there are clear priority lanes which always come in handy. :)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Jan 2014

Total posts 28

I just love that members on here relate to the main character!.... guilty! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 13

This movie came out right in the middle of a work project that saw me flying several times each week. For one year of my life, I got to enjoy the QF Platinum One experience!

It was scary how much I had turned into a Bingham, from being able to spot the fastest moving queue through to the ability to pack my bag in a unique way in just minutes. Unfortunately, I didn't accumulate as many points as Bingham but thoroughly enjoyed it while it lasted.


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