Standby travel is just like the future- what may happen is unknown and you will never know until you get there.
So what should you do if you absolutely, positively MUST be at a certain destination by a certain time and your flying odds are looking pretty slim?
You must make a decision. You can:
- Test your luck and hope for the best- you never know what could happen in your favor. Someone may not show up, other Non-Revs could leave because of the terrible odds, bumping you up in priority, the aircraft could be switched out to a larger plane with more seats on it, etc.
- Buy a “Confirmed for Less” ticket, meaning you will be a confirmed passenger but your ticket is discounted since you have ties with the airline
- Find the best deal and buy a ticket on whichever airline that may be.
Honestly, I’m always one for testing my luck. I’m [usually] pretty flexible, and I know that there is a possibility of me not getting on any flight at all with this method. But I also think that many people are scared to take a risk sometimes. I travel frequently and am always looking at the patterns of seat assignments, and I find very often that more seats become available than what is originally shown as available. It’s actually pretty frustrating because you never really know what your odds actually are to get on a plane. I’ve shown up to a flight that showed -6 seats on it, and I was number 12 on the list and still made it on the plane. With negative seats?! Come on.
So picture this: You’re home for Christmas break in Atlanta, GA. It’s Thursday night, and you find out you have an audition in LA on Monday morning. No biggie, usually you would just figure out what flight you needed to get on based on the loads, and get back to LA. You have three days to get there right?
Wrong. Because on Saturday night there’s an event that you’re committed too.
That leaves Sunday as your only day to get back to LA to be in place Monday morning for the audition.
Ok, well there are at least 10 non-stop Atlanta to LAX flights daily, so you should definitely have a good chance of getting on one of those planes on Sunday. If not to LA, then maybe you could even try ATL to San Diego, then San Diego to LA. Or San Francisco? The options are endless.
Well, not exactly. It’s Friday and you are making your travel plans and then HEY! Guess what? A snowstorm is coming to Atlanta that has cancelled two morning flights to LAX on Saturday! That means over 300 passengers will be rebooked on different flights for the following day, Sunday, the same day that you need to have your butt in a seat on the way to LA. WOOHOO!
What’s more? That same day, a shooting occurs at the Ft. Lauderdale/ Hollywood International Airport, causing a big stir and changes for flights as well.
All of these factors combined make for pretty bad odds of being at your audition in LA at 11 am.
So? Your parents decide that they shall purchase a “confirm for less” ticket so that it’s guaranteed that you’ll have as seat. Ok, probably a good idea.
BUT those tickets, even on a discount, have skyrocketed in price because of the cancellations and the last minute timing.
So, your parents decide (without your consent) to find a deal on a different airline and purchase a cheaper ticket from them. They say you’ll pay for half of the ticket because it’s your audition that you have to be back for in LA.
This all sounds pretty reasonable, right?
Honestly, I didn’t fight it. Because I pretty much agreed that the odds did seem slim and this audition is VERY important. I’d rather not miss a huge opportunity just to save a hundred bucks.
The flight is scheduled to leave at 10:55 am on Sunday. I am such an experienced, well-traveled, frequent flyer so this should be a breeze.
However, I’ve only ever really flown on one airline in my life, besides smaller jets to the out-islands of the Bahamas. So when the reality set in of my flight across the country on an unfamiliar airline, I didn’t like what I was feeling.
I don’t trust those other pilots. I know my own airline like the back of my hand. I don’t want to arrive to the airport in a different terminal. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?
The night before the departure, I make my parents check the standby flight loads on my usual airline. Maybe things have cleared up?
They haven’t. All negative numbers on direct flights, no other connection options looking good.
I will be flying on a new airline.
New Year, New Me, right?
Sunday January 8th, 2016. 9:35 am. 1 hour and 20 minutes til departure. Gate T12.
Kelly arrives at Hartsfield Jackson, Atlanta International Airport. She has instructed her father to drop her off in the usual terminal. [She knows the airport so well that she knows she can get to her desired gate a different way than suggested].
After passing through security, she makes her way to her gate. It’s located in a part of the T Concourse that she has never had stepped on before… and she’s not too thrilled about it.
9:55 am. 1 hour til departure. Gate T12
Upon arrival at the gate, Kelly notices that the flight before hers has been delayed… 4 hours. The gate agent comes on over the loudspeaker, explaining that as of now the Charlotte bound flight is “Still waiting for the crew to get here. As of now, the LAX flight has no gate change”
No gate change yet? We board in 30 minutes…
(Remembers a horror story of a friend who flew this same airline and their flight was delayed 4 hours…)
Kelly calls parents.
Hey mom. So honestly this airline doesn’t really have anything
together. The flight before is delayed and they haven’t
announced a new gate change or anything…
I think that the flight will be delayed for a while. I’m a little sketched out.
Hmm well that’s too bad I guess cause we paid for this ticket.
You have a seat so just sit back. I’m sure they’ll tell you something soon
Kelly is annoyed. Of course this would happen when she’s not even really comfortable flying this airline to begin with. She gets an idea…
What if I check the stand-by flight loads?
Maybe something has changed?
Kelly, no. Don’t even bother.
Dad gets on the phone, agitated
Kelly, just go on the flight. It’s already paid for and non-refundable.
10 am. 30 minutes until boarding, 55 minutes til departure.
Kelly unlocks her phone and opens Safari. She enters in the website for the flight loads and checks the loads with only a glimmer of hope.
Then she sees it:
ATL-LAX. 10:55 am. 12 seats unassigned, 9 passengers ahead of you.
She can’t believe it. She has a shot at getting on a normal flight!
Kelly immediately calls hers parents, everyone in disbelief. Her parents tell her to go up to the gate agent and ask about this paid-for flight’s status. In the meantime, Mom lists Kelly as a standby on the other flight. Kelly has to decide- risk it? Or stick with a sure bet, confirmed and already paid-for seat?
And like I mentioned above, I always opt for letter A: Test your luck.
I ran to a kiosk on the other side of the concourse, the normal, familiar side. Briskly walking to the Air train, I hopped on board ready to take a ride one concourse over to Gate A 15.
Foot tapping on the car floor. Doors open, lights flashing. But no movement. Tap tap tap some more. Nothing happens.
And I’m off the train, sprinting through the walkway between terminals. I make it to A concourse and head over to the gate.
Now Boarding: Zone 2.
The screen now shows new numbers….
13 seats unassigned. WIL/K listed as….
I’m gonna be on this plane!
And I made it. Because testing your luck does work. Not always, but sometimes it does when you least expect it. New Year, Same Airline.
Now, what happened to the other flight?
It was only delayed 10 minutes, which means I could not be refunded. For the first time in my life, I was THAT person whose name was called multiple times for final boarding.
But, I stayed true to my home airline. And when I boarded my flight back to LA, I felt right at home. I even got assigned to an Exit Row seat, which I am currently sitting in and typing this post, legs stretched out in front of me. A happy girl.
And the best part? I gave another Stand-By a seat. For the first time ever, I was able to help another stand-by get to where they need to go. For I was that person they were crossing their fingers wouldn’t show up so that they could hop on board.
What goes around comes around, right?
-The Fly Girl