It’s Not Always The High Life

We’ve all had differing experiences with air travel. Sometimes you are stuck in the back row of the plane next to the bathroom, other times you’re in first class being fed a five course meal. These experiences begin to shape how we view flying- if you fly a super cheap airline, you are likely to have a worse view of flying than if you frequently travel with a well known company. If you always choose a middle seat because of the cheaper cost, you are likely to not enjoy your experience as much as the person in the aisle. The list goes on.

As a Stand-By passenger, some people have this fantasy of my travels where I fly first class everywhere I go and live this life full of luxury. And while some people do have those perks, I do not. I’m sorry to ruin your fantasy.

For example, this week I have been on three different flights- LA to New York, New York to Atlanta, and Atlanta to LA. All three of these flights were completely different from each other as far as experience goes.

From LA to New York, I lived the high life: I flew business class with lie flat seats. This kind of in-air experience comes complete with a comforter, pillow, “Refresh” kit (complete with a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, a sleep mask, socks, lotion, chapstick, and tissues), a four-course meal, and a massage (yes, the chair could also massage you). Calling it a “nice flight” would be an understatement. This is the sort of fantasy people believe I live every time I fly.

Fast forward to my flight from New York to Atlanta: I flew Economy Comfort, a step behind first class but in front of regular coach seating. In this section, the leg room is a little bigger and your snack selections are better. I was assigned a middle seat, which is not what I prefer, but being in this section made up for it. It was a decent flight… until we landed. During our flight, the airline’s entire computer system crashed worldwide. This meant that there were no gates available at the airport because no planes had been allowed to take off. We ended up sitting on the plane on the runway for 3 hours- initial touchdown was 8:04 pm and the boarding door opened to let us off at 11:07 pm. What sounds like a nightmare to most was honestly ok with me- I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be and I was able to finish my homework. I was towards the front of the plane thankfully, but I was in a middle seat which wasn’t ideal. But in that kind of situation, the captain and flight attendants are completely out of control, so why make a fuss over it? There was nothing they could do except update us passengers and communicate with the air traffic controllers.

But yes: a much different experience from the first example.

Jump ahead to my current flying situation as I’m writing this post: I am on my way to LA from Atlanta. I was supposed to wake up and go to the airport for a flight with 50 seats on it, but I decided to sleep in an extra hour and jump on the next flight. Little did I know that this aircraft would be a little smaller than the other one, and there were less seats available. I got on the plane, but am currently sitting in a middle seat. Unfortunately, I am not in Economy Comfort- I am just a few short rows behind it. This means less leg- room, regular snacks, and a mediocre flying experience. But to add to this: On my left is a large man whose body is spilling over into my seat. He is wearing a rain jacket that is draped over onto my chair and won’t move it. He is on the window side, but our row mysteriously has no window. Talk about claustrophobia! To my right sits a man who has been arm wrestling me for the arm rest on my right side- he is in the aisle seat though and has a whole arm-rest to himself, and leg room for days! Can’t he see that this giant man next to me is taking up all of my space? Have some sympathy, man! The icing on the cake: the man in front of me has his seat pushed back. I am literally typing this with my hands attached to my sides, barely any room to be free.

Again- a MUCH different flying experience than the first and even the second.

So, have I unclouded those fantasies you had about me living the glamorous life, as Fergie described?

But at the end of the day, I can’t complain. There’s nothing bad about my life. There’s nothing I would trade about my flight benefits. There are people who are no longer able to get into this safe country, and here I am complaining about being able to fly all around the world for free?

I’m not complaining, I promise. The way I look at it, each experience gives me a new story to tell. I mean, I wouldn’t have this blog if I had the same, awesome, first class experience every single time I flew, right?

It’s not always the high life, but it’s the fly life.

-The Fly Girl

 

 

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New Year, New Airline?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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”

Kelly (V.O.)

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.

Kelly

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.

Mom

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…

Kelly

What if I check the stand-by flight loads?

Maybe something has changed?

Mom

Kelly, no. Don’t even bother.

Dad gets on the phone, agitated

Dad

Kelly, just go on the flight. It’s already paid for and non-refundable.

Ok? Bye!

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….

Number 6.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where In The World Is The Fly Girl?

The past couple of months have had me traveling frequently. LA to Atlanta back to LA to New York to LA to Atlanta to London to Atlanta to LA…. it keeps going.

My roommates in LA have had a hard time keeping track of me. I came home from a recent trip to London and one of my roommates said, “I’ve literally had to look at your Snapchat stories to figure out where in the world you are.”

And I’ve realized that I’m at this stage in my life where that is what I thrive on: never being in one place for too long. The constant “on the go” feeling. The desire to chase adventure and not be holed down to one place.

It’s a thrilling place to be, not ever wanting to be in one place. Yet, at the same time, it’s unsettling. It’s as though I’m trying to escape reality. I want to live a life of glamour and adventure and not face the monotony of everyday life.

The irony? My everyday life is never the same. I fill my days up with countless tasks, meetings, activities, and anything to stay busy. I see friends all the time, make lunch dates, work on writing, music and school work. I yearn to make each day count towards something.

But for some reason, I’m antsy. I desire to travel and see the world. I look for ways to get out of my home-base of LA. It’s not that things are bad here- I’m doing really well actually. But no matter what city is my home base, I want to get away.

Is that a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. I need to learn to be ok with doing nothing. I’ve struggled with this all of my life, so that is nothing new.

I guess the way I look at it, I am not getting any younger. While I’m young, single, and have the opportunity, why not travel whenever I can? Why not take advantage of the situation? I’m making friends all around the world, experiencing different cultures and learning how to be an independent woman.

I live off of the adventure of traveling. The plane rides, guiding myself through a city, meeting up with different friends, even the stress of potentially not getting back to where I’m supposed to be.

Because am I really supposed to be anywhere? This is my life, my journey, and I get to pave my way through it.

Wanna know where I am?

Follow the contrails.

-The Fly Girl

 

Love Is In The Air

An Open Letter To The Passionate Fedora-Wearing Couple Sitting Next To Me On An Airplane

{On a recent return flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta, I experienced the grossest flight of my life. The couple next to me was practically making love without the slightest care in the world that they were in a public place, sitting next to a teenager who looks as if she’s 16. As a Stand-By passenger, I have to be careful what I say to Revenue passengers, because if I say something that stirs another passenger, I could get in trouble.

So, I had to bite my tongue. I could not tell this man and woman to please save their behavior for a private space. I could not tell them that I was there, hearing everything they were saying and doing. I could not tell them they should be embarrassed of themselves and have proper decency in front of a girl. Did I mention this couple was in their 30’s?

So, this is my letter to them; what I would have said if I could. I really hope somehow, someway they see this someday. }

*

Dear Couple-Who-Is-In-Love-And-Wants-The-World-To-Know,

I’m so glad that you are happy together. Truly, I am. Love can be a beautiful thing.

But you know what’s not beautiful? Listening to the sound of you two swapping spit and seeing tongue in my peripheral vision.

We are sitting in a row with three seats. Three, not two. Yes, there is someone sitting directly next to you. Hey, Guy, Remember when you were making your move to rub your greasy hands all over Girl’s leg? Ok, and remember that thing you brushed with your arm a couple times? Yeah? That was my arm. A person. Next to you. Just wanted to clarify.

Even though I may be reading a book, that doesn’t mean I’m in a bubble where I’m   unaware of my surroundings. I am VERY aware of what’s going on here. The whispers, the biting of Girl’s ear, and the sound of kisses all over her face, I mean c’mon.

Thank you for finally breaking it up and deciding to sleep. But let’s remember here, we are not in your hotel room in South Florida anymore. No, we are on an airplane. So maybe don’t sprawl your bodies over the two seats you occupy and spill over into my personal space. Ok?

**1.5 hours later**

I have had to put up with you for an hour and a half, but we made it. We have landed in Atlanta and although you woke up a couple of times to snog some more, I am just glad to be back on land with people getting up to get their bags.

Wait, what did you just say?

Oh. My. Gosh. EWW. Please stop. Please stop discussing your “incredible” intercourse you experienced in your hotel room this morning- in detail. Really? REALLY? Wow, yeah you should be proud that you came in early last night and saved your love making for this morning after sleeping wonderfully together. These are all very important details that I definitely need to hear about your life.

Can you not at least talk softer? I mean seriously do you really not know that you are not alone right now, that there are 160 other passengers on this plane, and a teenager right next to you?

OK, Guy, you really are just a trashy jerk. Trying to convince Girl to endorse your weed smoking habit? So that IS what I smelled from your breath earlier when you reached over to show me a picture of you two.

  1. I did not ask to see this picture
  2. No, I don’t think you’re hot. Why are you asking me?
  3. Girl is right, you are a [insert inappropriate word here]
  4. I would not have laughed that off, Girl
  5. Really? You had to smoke a joint before going on an airplane?

Finally. It’s about to be my turn to deplane. Trust me I am going to RUN down this aisle like my life depends on it. Almost there….

STOP. Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I do not want hear about the dirty things Girl was planning on doing with you last night and I definitely do NOT need to see a demonstration of your finger playing the role of your penis. You are disgusting and if I could make you feel ashamed of yourself right now, I would.

Instead, I’ll just post your story on the Internet. Karma, huh?

P.S. Fedoras are not in right now.

-The Fly Girl

[All events are not over-dramatized for the purpose of writing. No hyperbole here, folks. And just to be clear, as soon as I got home I took a shower because I felt so gross having shared that space for almost two hours with this grotesque couple.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Been Waiting For You

One of the wonderful attributions New York has to offer is its’ ease in transportation. There are a plethora of options to choose from to get in and out of The City, mostly taken advantage of by the locals. If you’re a tourist landing in La Guardia for the first time, you are most likely to either A. Take a Yellow Taxi or B. Uber (thank you, technology). Both modes are fast[ish] and [somewhat] efficient, yet they both cost a significant amount of money, depending on your destination, and who wants to begin a vacation by throwing away all of their money at the airport? Not I.

Alas, on my first trips to New York, with and without adult supervision, Taxi or Uber were the go-to guys. I am in no way saying that you are a “tourist” for using these services, nor bashing the use of them. In fact, I still use Uber every now and then to get to the back to the airport from Manhattan, if I’m in a hurry. However, I would love to enlighten you, the reader, on some cheaper alternatives to get to and from the major NYC airports. Because who doesn’t love to save money?

These alternative forms of transportation are the ones that I have experience using. There may be more options out there that I do not know of- I am not the know-all of NYC transportation! However, I do know some tricks, and I hope you find these useful in your next trip to The City.

 

La Guardia Airport

Uber and Taxi fares from La Guardia to Midtown, Manhattan usually range from $28-$50. While these two services are efficient, here are some trustworthy options to get you into Midtown on a dime.

  1. The MTA Bus System

After I had gone to NYC by myself a couple of times, my parents quickly realized that a lot of my money had been eaten up by cab and Uber fares. After doing some research, my mom told me about the MTA bus system. Think of it as an above ground subway, because that is basically what it is. There are about four different buses that run to La Guardia and take you on different routes, usually to central subway stations in Queens. If you hop on any of these buses, you can get to NYC in about an hour for under $3- the bus fare is bought with a MetroCard, and once you exit the bus and enter the subway station, you automatically get one free transfer on your card. This means that you do not have to pay another $2.75 to get on a train to The City; just a one time payment. That’s right!

Here are the different bus options that I have taken before:

A. The M60 Select Bus

Tickets: For this bus you must purchase your ticket beforehand at a machine right next to the bus stop, using your MetroCard. You MUST actually purchase a ticket- sometimes when the bus stops at locations, MTA Police will hop on and check every passenger to make sure they have purchased a ticket. If not, they owe a $350 fine. This bus was supposed to help you get into Manhattan for cheap, not for $350!

Subway Stations:

  1. On this bus you can get to the Astoria Boulevard subway station with N and Q trains into Manhattan. The stop to get off of is usually about 30 minutes after you’ve hopped on the bus. Landmarks you must pass: the Queens Cemetery, a hookah bar called Hookah. (Or at least these are the landmarks I look out for…)
  2. If you are staying on the East Side of town, I would suggest riding the bus until you get into Manhattan on 125th street, and hopping off at the 125th and Lexington subway station. Here you can take the 4,5, or 6 train up and down the east side.
  3. If you are staying on the West Side of town, you can ride the M60 bus all the way to 125th and Broadway, the terminating stop, and hop on the 1 train that runs up and downtown.

Summary: The M60 Select Bus offers a longer bus ride than subway ride, yet is about the same length in total as the other bus routes from La Guardia. Bus runs every 15 minutes.

Total Cost: $2.75

B. The Q70 Bus

Tickets: No ticket purchase necessary, just a swipe of the MetroCard as you board the bus. (This means your MetroCard must have at least one full fare amount on it!) Once you swipe the card, you will have one free transfer to use for the subway; again a one time payment!

Subway Stations:

  1. Roosevelt Station has plethora of train options to get into The City. You could take the E or 7 train, depending on where in Manhattan you would like to go. Roosevelt Station is the first stop on this bus route after leaving the airport.

Summary: Taking the Q70 Bus means a shorter bus ride but a longer subway ride. It is a smaller bus than the M60, yet not as many people take it, so it may be a better option! Runs every 15 minutes.

Total Cost: $2.75

C. The Q72 Bus

Tickets: Same as above

Subway Stations: I have yet to take this bus, but I do know that it will take you to a subway station where a 7 train is located.

Summary: Even shorter bus ride than the Q70 and M60, however the longest subway ride of all. Bus runs every 15 minutes.

Total Cost: $2.75

 Overall Travel Time for Each Bus: About an hour, sometimes 45 minutes and sometimes an hour and 15 minutes, depending on the day.

* One tip I learned recently is that you should hop on the first bus that you see, since they all take you to a subway station*

  1. Airport Express Bus

I have only taken this bus once, and honestly I regretted it, however it is cheaper than a cab or Uber!

Tickets: Tickets can be purchased right outside the exit doors of baggage claim- look for an employee wearing an Airport Express Jacket. It costs $13 a person.

Travel Time: Depending on where you get off, this bus can take up to 2 hours to get to your destination in Manhattan. The first stop is Grand Central Station, which comes about 45 minutes into the ride. I would suggest getting off here and transferring to the subway to get to your final destination. Otherwise, if you want to go all the way to Midtown at Port Authority, you will be on that bus for 2 hours.

Summary: In my opinion, this option is good if you are traveling alone but are too scared to try the MTA bus/subway system. However, if you are traveling with someone else, each ticket is $13, and you could have just split a cab with the other person for the same price and faster arrival.

Total Cost: Traveling Alone- $13, Two People- $26, etc.

 

 

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

 

An Uber and Taxi from JFK into Midtown, Manhattan will cost you a flat rate of $60, usually rounding to $72 with tax. Don’t worry! There are other options:

  1. The AirTrain/ MTA Subway

The AirTrain is a train that runs to the different terminals in the JFK airport, similar to the Plane Train at the Atlanta airport.

Tickets: You do not have to have a ticket to get on the Air Train, however when you get off at the subway station, Jamaica Station, you must go to the machines and buy a MetroCard at an MTA machine, before you can enter the subway station.

Subway Station: Jamaica Station is the subway station you must get off at; it is the last stop on the Air Train. At Jamaica Station, you will get on the E train and ride it all the way into Manhattan.

Travel Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes (including Airtrain time)

Total Cost: $7.75- $5 for the Airtrain fare and an additional $2.75 on top for the transfer to the subway.

Summary: Taking the Airtrain/Subway is much cheaper than taking an Uber, however can be a little time consuming. If you have the time to spare, I say go for it!

2. The Airtrain/ Long Island RailRoad (LIRR)

Another option once you reach Jamaica Station by Airtrain is to take the LIRR train into Penn Station.

Tickets: Same as above, although instead of heading to the MTA machines after exiting the Airtrain, you must find the LIRR machine. There is only one, and it will be to the right when you walk into the station.

Train Station: The LIRR trains are at the same station as the subway, Jamaica Station. Just follow the signs that say LIRR, look for Penn Station on the schedule, and head to the track where that train will be. Choosing Penn Station as your destination is the best option for getting into Midtown, for Penn is on 34th St. and 7th Ave.

Travel Time: 45 minutes (including Airtrain time)

Total Cost: $13

Summary: While this route is double the cost of the Subway option, it is half the time, and still 4x cheaper than taking an Uber or Taxi. This is the most cost and time efficient mode of transportation to Manhattan.

 

Newark International Airport

Sometimes if flights are crunched to New York, I will end up on a plane to Newark, New Jersey! An Uber or cab from here to The City is about $75- WAY too much for me! Thankfully, there is another mode of transportation that is fast and thrifty!

  1. Airtrain/ New Jersey Transit

The New Jersey Transit is another train system that runs like the LIRR, yet is mainly based out of New Jersey. There is a station directly linked to Newark Airport!

Tickets: Once you deplane in Newark, you follow the signs to baggage claim and then look for New Jersey Transit. Once you get in that designated area, there are two machines from which you can purchase a ticket to Penn Station, and once purchased you are good to go on the Airtrain and the Transit!

Train Station: After the Airtrain takes you through all of the airport terminals, the last stop is Newark Station where you will get off to head to the Transit.

Travel Time: 40 minutes

Total Cost: $15

Summary: Taking the New Jersey Transit to Penn Station is a quick and cheap alternative to a pricy and lengthy Uber ride. The signs are more difficult to read, so be careful when using this mode of transportation- stay aware and follow directions clearly!

 

*

 

All of the above options of travel were foreign to me until I experimented and had the courage to try them. At times it was nerve wracking to try new modes of transportation alone and under a time crunch, however it was exhilarating as well. Life is dull if we never have the courage to try something new- and once you do, you may end up discovering something that you wish you had tried a long time ago. My first time using each of these routes, I had to stay aware and pay attention to the people around me- sometimes asking for help or clarity, but mostly trying to use my natural instincts and sense of direction. There is no shame in asking for help, but there is also no harm in deciphering it out on your own. Sometimes, you may know more than you think.

Last April my best friend and I went up to The City for one day to attend the Opening Night of the Broadway show “Gigi”. Because neither of us had auditions or appointments that we had to be at, we decided to take the M60 bus from La Guardia into the City. I had become familiar with this route, however I had never taken the bus past the Astoria Boulevard stop. When we hopped on the bus, we decided to try a new route together- we would ride the bus all the way into Manhattan and get off at the last stop, 125th and Broadway, because it was the closest stop to our lodging for the night.

We were a little nervous to go on an unfamiliar path, but thankfully we were together and excited for the adventure! And what an adventure it was…

Once the bus made it into The City, the driver stated that the first stop in Manhattan, 125th and Lexington, would be the terminating stop on this route for today.

WHAT?

We were dealt a card that we had no intention of playing with.

You may think that this is not a big deal, but we were two teens, 17 and 18 at the time, and if you know anything about Lexington and 125th, it is a VERY sketchy neighborhood. If you look to your right, you will see a drug deal happening, to the left there are homeless men blabbering and walking like zombies on the streets, taking over the entire block. I’ve been around homeless people before in Times Square, but this was a whole new level. Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

The only thing to do was get off the bus. We hopped off and noticed the subway entrance right away, so we walked side by side and did not say a word or looked up until we entered the underground station. As mentioned above, the 125th and Lexington station has 4, 5, and 6 trains, running on the East Side. We had always stuck to our home base on the West Side, and did not know these subways at all.

At first, our hearts were pounding about as loud as a street performer drumming in the middle of a crowded New York City. The good thing was that we were together, and after we entered the subway we decided to make this situation a game and a test- How Well Can We Navigate The City Without Using The Internet or Maps For Help?

We huddled together and used every bit of knowledge about the subway as we could. Kaley told me that one time she had taken the green line to Grand Central Station and then transferred to a 7 train from there to get into Midtown. So, we decided to hop on the first 4,5 or 6 train that arrived and go from there.

Once we got to Grand Central, we had to walk around the entire station before we found the 7 train. I remember standing on that platform for 5 minutes, waiting for the Manhattan bound train and feeling proud that I had followed my gut and natural instincts to get us there.

We arrived in Times Square and squealed with pride at the fact that we used no technology or even ancient paper maps to arrive at our destination. Then we did what any teens would do- we both called our moms and told them the whole story. They were shocked, relieved, and also a little frustrated that we had not told them earlier that we were potentially in trouble in East Harlem NYC. We explained that we wanted to do this on our own, to prove that we are smart and mature young women.

That night if you had scrolled through your Instagram feed, you would have seen a picture of Kaley and me with the caption “Miss Independents”. That was the first time we truly realized that we could actually live in the concrete jungle and fit in, and it was an overwhelming, incredible feeling.

Although the easy way out is, well, easier sometimes, see what happens when you take a risk or dare to adventure. Welcome new opportunities. Welcome your intuition. Welcome to New York;

It’s been waiting for you.

-The Fly Girl

 

Miss Independent

I was 11 years old when I went on my first flight alone. Because I was under the age of 15, I was considered an Unaccompanied Minor and was looked after by the flight attendants. Where was this 5th grader headed? Probably to her grandparents’ house, or somewhere that she has flown to a couple of times. Summer Camp?

Nope. I went to Texas for the first time; Austin, Texas, to be exact. I had never been there before, let alone by myself. My best friend in elementary school had just moved there with her family, and they invited me to come visit, so I did! They picked me up from the airport and everything was fine. I had a wonderful time, and a week later my friend’s mom dropped me back off at the airport, solo again.

I remember being a little nervous when leaving Atlanta on the plane, but I had a whole row of seats to myself so I lifted the armrests and sprawled out, taking a nap. (This was back when I was short enough to do that, mind you). Departing from Austin a week later, there was not one butterfly in my stomach. I was excited to get home and see my family! I strutted down the aisle and found my seat like a pro.

This time I was next to a wiry girl wearing cargo pants and sporting a butterfly tattoo on her wrist. I politely said hi, digging through my backpack for my Nintendo DS. Next thing I new, she began word vomiting her personal life issues to me, an 11 year old girl, and as the underdog sitting next to someone with authority, I sat up and listened. For the next 2 hours, she warned me of adulthood and how I need to cherish my youth and have fun. “Right now you have no responsibilities and I am so jealous of you. You don’t know how good you have it. God, being an adult sucks”.

I dealt with a lot of anxiety when I was young, so once this woman put an idea into my head that the future was dim my mind began spinning faster than Alice’s Tea Cups at Disney. I practically ran off the plane into my mother’s arms, crying because this woman had honestly scared the crap out of me. I told her everything the woman had foreboded me of, and after comforting me for a while, she said, “Kelly, how old was she? Did she say?”

“23”.

TWENTY-THREE.

When I look back now, all I can do is laugh. How crazy is it that I was listening to some 23 year-old punk vent about the hardships of adulthood, when she was barely an adult herself!? I mean, to an 11 year-old she seemed so old. But now I realize she was probably going through some hard time where her parents decided to cut her off and she was pissed at the world and decided to vent to the first person that would listen to her. I just happened to be the victim, an elementary schooler about to embark on her first year of middle school. After that conversation, I was completely freaked out to grow up, let alone begin middle school.

*

I’ve always been timid of growing up since then. Okay, I can’t blame it all on that one experience in flight, but that conversation really had a big impact on me; I will never forget it. But as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to stay a kid and be in the comfort of my childhood home. I always felt a strong connection to the movie Peter Pan, for Peter and I have the same basic principles of life. I think we would have been friends, and I definitely would have taken his offer to go to Neverland.

Fortunately, I grew up having an incredible relationship with my parents, and home truly was an amazing place to be.

The irony? I have always been a very independent person. The story above is just one example: flying alone at 11 years old? I never realized how unusual this was until I took one of my best friends on a trip with me to Florida in high school, and she was really scared of flying without her mom. She was 16.

Despite my desire to stay forever young, I grew up pretty fast, at least in the realm of travel. [Refer back to “Friends In Flight” where I gushed about being in New York City without adult supervision for a week with my two best friends. We were 15 and 16.]

I was 17 when I went to New York City alone for the first time. It was spring of my junior year in high school, and while most kids were showing their independence by driving into Atlanta on the highway for the first time, I flew to NYC by myself. I landed in La Guardia wide-eyed and bushy tailed, excited for to explore the streets of Manhattan alone. No longer would I have to wait for my mom to catch up with me, or stop at the edge of the sidewalk when the red hand signal was showing. I was free to walk as fast as I wanted and breeze past the tourists at the crosswalk, crossing when the “Walk” signal was not showing. It was the first time I ever felt like a true New Yorker.

I navigated my way to Times Square and sat on the TKTS steps, feeling pretty good about myself when I saw teenage girls walking with their moms and dads and looking completely lost. I know, this sounds prideful. But honestly, that’s how I felt: Independent.

That trip, I met one of my good friends Lauren for the first time. We had connected over Instagram (Yeah I know, how millennial of us), and decided to meet in the City face to face and see a Broadway show together! Lauren was from New Jersey, so she and her mom took the train into NYC that day to meet with me.

Let’s recap: 17 year old Kelly flew to NYC by herself for the first time, avoided sketchy gypsy cab drivers at the airport and took a Yellow Taxi into Midtown, and met up with a complete stranger that she met over the internet?

Yep! Completely normal, right?

When I met Lauren and her mom, we clicked immediately. They were so nice and sweet, and we even got to see one of our mutual friends, Emerson, make her Broadway debut in Violet at the American Airlines Theatre. It was such a blast!

When we sat down for pizza before the show, Lauren’s mom asked about my experience flying alone. I related that I had done it before, but never to New York. I had been to NYC with my mom and friends a couple of times, but this was my first time alone. Her mouth dropped for a second, and shaking her head she exclaimed, “Well, I know a lot of people over 18 would never be able to navigate this city alone for the first time, let alone 17. I give you major props for that!”

That night, I took the subway to my Uncle’s apartment in Harlem after he had texted me specific instructions on which train to take, which direction, and rules of proper subway etiquette. I sat in his living room boasting to him about how I took the subway alone and it was “so easy and fun!” I was bubbling over with excitement and joy, purely enlightened by my first day in the City. He kept laughing at how amazed I was: Baby’s First Solo Subway Ride.

My uncle taught me everything I know about the subway. He pulled up the map on his computer and even gave me a newspaper to read on the train. After our lesson, he presented me with a certificate that read “MTA Green Belt”, and ever since then we have this running joke of MTA Karate. Whenever I stay with him, he will ask about my latest subway endeavors, and if the stories seem challenging enough to him he will move me up a belt. Challenges include switching trains, picking out the best car to get on for the nearest exit I need, near misses, and… wait for it… the MTA bus system.

I’ve come a long way since then: Currently, I am at a Brown belt. Take that, NYC.

In my next post, I will explain all of the exciting, cheap, and easy ways I use to navigate Manhattan. I have learned by trial and error, and now I can honestly say that I am a subway pro. I will provide my travel secrets for getting into NYC for under $3 from La Guardia airport, and my other modes of transportation when coming from Newark and JFK airport.

I truly am thankful that my parents trusted me enough to let me go to one of the biggest cities in the world by myself at such a young age. That day my junior year that I landed in NYC, something changed. I began to grow up for the first time. And while I was nervous at first, I flourished and thrived in the concrete jungle. Being an adult didn’t seem so scary anymore; it was thrilling.

Walking down the halls of my high school that Monday seemed so trivial and unexciting. I was anxious to go back to the freedom of Manhattan again. I thought to myself,

“Get ready world, here comes Miss Independent”

The Fly Girl

Adventures on Airplanes to Abaco

[ Warning: The some of the contents of this blog post are a little graphic. If you get queasy easily, maybe skip this post]

My family’s favorite travel destination is Abaco, Bahamas. Abaco is a chain of out-islands far away from the touristy crowds in Nassau and out of reach to cruise ships. For a week, my family will go boating, snorkeling, fishing, and beach hopping all across the island chain, hitting our favorite spots at Elbow Cay (pronounced “key”), Tiloo Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Manjack Cay, Guana Cay, and others. These islands are made up of 4th and 5th generation Loyalists from the Revolutionary War, their family names prominent on boat businesses, ferry companies, and grocery stores. I just experienced my 11th trip to this hidden paradise, so I thought I would reminisce on travel stories from the past!

Because Abaco is small and unadvertised, many commercial airlines do not fly there. The smaller airlines that do only fly out of Florida, so our trips begin there. Once in Florida, we connect on a no-name airline as paying passengers. While these trips may seem boring from the lack of Non-Rev stress, some of my best stories come from these 6-60 seater aircrafts. Stay tuned if you are interested!

Yes. You read the above statement correctly. The airplanes that fly to Abaco range from only 6 seats to about 60 at the maximum. Talk about a tiny plane! One of my earliest trips to Abaco was on a 6 seater, and I vividly remember walking up to the plane and sitting down facing the back of the plane with my mom sitting directly across from me facing the proper way. That was a fun flight!

Back in the olden days (early 2000s), Abaco’s airport on the island of Marsh Harbor was the size of a studio apartment in New York City. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but it was a little house looking structure, with one room where you walk in to find the gate agent. They had three gate agent stands, but no designated gates for any flights, no air conditioning, and one snack bar with flies zipping all around. If you arrived to the airport early, you had to wait outside on the benches, for that was the only seating area available. This may not sound bad at all, however the Bahamas gets pretty hot and muggy, and when you have food poisoning, it feels like you’re in hell.

When I was 13, I got food poisoning the morning we left Abaco. Food poisoning in it of itself is awful, but add a 30 minute ferry ride, a 15 minute cab ride on unpaved roads, and a 4 hour delay at a tiny airport with no AC, and you have a slumped over 13 year-old Kelly with a bag of melted ice held to her forehead. The worst part was, I never threw up until we landed back in Florida. At that point it had been 9 hours of a nausea and pain and I couldn’t take it anymore- I upchucked all over my seat as I stood up to leave. I felt immediately better! However I felt bad for the cleaning crew that day…

*

One of the most popular airlines to fly on to Abaco is Bahamas Air. It’s notorious for late departures and top-notch straight outta flight school pilots. Sounds great right? One year, our flight was delayed 2 hours because of a patch of thunderstorms settling over Florida. After the storms cleared up a little bit, we were cleared to depart from Marsh Harbor, so we were all thrilled. We got on the little 45 seater and took off to 10,000 feet. Everything was all fine and dandy until the flight attendant’s voice came over the loud speaker and boasts, “Well folks, you are so lucky they cleared us to fly! On our last flight, we almost died. Literally. Our plane got struck by lightning I think. It was CRAZYYY”. All of a sudden everyone’s pretzels fell out of their mouths and hands clung to the armrests of their seats. The rest of that 45 minute flight was full of so much tension that you could hear a pin drop, even with the loud hum of the engines. Can you imagine sitting on an airplane with no way out and the flight attendant telling you that the last time this plane was in the air it almost crashed? How comforting is that!?

*

A couple times my parents decided to fly into Nassau and connect from there to the out islands of the Bahamas. These connections sometimes meant staying a night at Atlantis, which my siblings and I loved as kids.

Atlantis is one of those places where one night is enough- all you can do there can be done in one day. We don’t even really consider it “the Bahamas” because the island is flooded with tourists and cruises. The Abaco Islands form a little oval with each other, one side made up of the main island, Marsh Harbor, and the other side is a chain of smaller islands (like I mentioned before). On the outside is the open ocean, but on the inside is The Sea of Abaco, where most of our boating adventures take us. The Sea of Abaco is too shallow for cruises to go through, so none of the islands have been contaminated with that many tourists. Woohoo!

One time on the way home from Abaco, we had to connect through Nassau. Because it’s a bigger airport and a more popular destination, there are more opportunities to people watch. At this time, back in 2008, my family and I were obsessed with Adult Alternative artist India Arie and her song “video”. When we connected through Nassau back to Atlanta, she and her band happened to be on our flight, sitting in the row across from me! When we deplaned I stood up with my mom and told her how much I loved her music. Her guitarist was with her as well, and gave me one of his lucky guitar picks with his name engraved on it. This was definitely a moment I will never forget.

 

*

My parents always enforced a strict sunscreen policy on our trips. Because we stayed for 7-10 days at a time and spent all day everyday in the sun, we had to re-apply constantly. I started going to Abaco when I was 6, so imagine the stress my parents endured of maintaining our sunscreen supply. One of the best inventions was the Rashguard, a sun-shirt that you can wear underwater and dries quickly, but also acts as a protectant from the sun (and sunscreen).

About halfway through our 2nd trip to the Bahamas, my sister (who was about 13 at the time), was on the beach with her friend all day. My mom had come outside and asked Lauren if she had sunscreen on and replied, “No!”. Two minutes later my mom came out, handing Lauren her Rashguard and walked back in the house to hang out with the other adults.

5 HOURS LATER

EXT. GREEN TURTLE CAY, GILLIAM BAY BEACH

MOM

Lauren, do you have sunscreen on?

I see you aren’t wearing your Rashguard.

LAUREN

No!

INT. VACATION HOUSE, BEDTIME

CU on Lauren as she lays in bed crying because her back hurts so much. We see that her skin is as red as a tomato and has now bubbled over.

 

LAUREN

It hurts, Mom! I can’t sleep!!

Mom walks to shower and proceeds to soak three towels, then lays them on Lauren’s bed for her to sleep on.

 

What does this story have to do with airplanes? Well you know how when you get sunburned, a couple days later your skin starts to peel? Well imagine getting the worst sunburn of your life, so bad that you have bubbles all over your skin, and then about three days later your entire body begins to peel. The timing is perfectly aligned with your flight home away from paradise. And you are sitting next to your little sister, (me), and once we stand up to leave the plane, she sees your skin all over the seat and yells, “EWWWW LAUREN YOUR DEAD SKIN IS ALL OVER THE SEAT”, loud enough for all to hear.

This was yet another time I felt bad for the cleaning crew.

 

*

Lessons learned from all of these flights? Just because you are traveling to paradise, does not mean your travel time will be paradise as well.

En route to my 11th trip to Abaco, I got to sit next to my boyfriend. Thankfully, nothing crazy happened on this flight. This trip was the exception to my statement above: sometimes, traveling to paradise can be paradise, especially when you get to experience the islands all over again through fresh eyes.

We won’t be back in Abaco for a couple of years, but I will never forget that view from 10,000 feet in the sky looking down on turquoise waters and lush green islands.

It’s Better in the Bahamas,

The Fly Girl

 

Let Me Sleep Among The Clouds

Preface: I have always been a semi-weird sleeper. On the weirdness scale, I’m at about a 4- not to the degree of a total freak who sleepwalks out of the house at 3 am, however apparently I do have some strange sleeping habits. When I was younger, my mom and I used to have a “slumber party” in her room while my dad was away for a few days flying. I remember one time when I was 8, my mom told me that I had talked in my sleep in the middle of the night, saying, “Pringles. Pringlesssss.” Either this is a case of child obesity, or just a little girl who loves chips and also happens to be a sleep talker. Or both? In 5th grade, I had a sleepover at my friend’s house and slapped her in my sleep. I have no recollection of this event. (Or do I…?) ((No. I don’t. ))

Sleeping on an airplane is an interesting concept. Unless you are in business class on a 5+ hour flight with lie-flat seats (refer back to my “London Calling” post if you’re curious), then you are doomed to a 90 degree seat that MAY be able to angle at 96 degrees upon takeoff if you’re lucky.

For decades people have tried all sorts of remedies for airplane insomnia. Neck pillows, traveling with giant blankets, ear plugs, fuzzy socks, noise canceling headphones, etc. Personally, I have no trouble sleeping in the sky because I am forced into the situation so often.

“What’s the secret? What brand of neck pillow do you recommend?” I have never tried a neck pillow, so I am not apt to answer that question.

Honestly, it just depends on the circumstance. If you’re in a window seat, using the window as a makeshift pillow can work. In this situation, you are gifted with a little more leg room on the window side, so you don’t have to worry about your legs hitting the person next to you. Using the side of a plane as a pillow pet is not ideal, however you can’t complain because you have it much better than the aisle guy.

Aisle seats aren’t for sleeping. Let’s face it. When you sit in the aisle, you have the responsibility of getting up to let other passengers out of the row if they need to use the restroom. Plus, in the aisle seat you are overexposed to the prowling flight attendants. One moment you’re off in dreamland and the next you awake with the pang of nerve damage inflicted on you by the drink cart that just hit your foot as it passed by. I mean if you like interrupted sleeping time, then this spot is for YOU!

Middle seats are a gamble. If you happen to be sitting next to someone you know, I say go for it. However, if you’re like me and primarily travel alone, use at your own risk. You can’t let your legs run free, for fear of touching the stranger next to you. And again if you’re me, your head could end up on an unfamiliar shoulder.

Yep. When I sleep sitting up, which I frequently do, my head becomes deadweight and swings back and forth like a tetherball. If I’m lucky, it will land in the realms of my seat space, but more times than I would like to admit I have woken up to find my head either:

a. on a stranger’s shoulder

b. invading the personal space of the passenger next to me

or                    c. halfway into the aisle (if I’m in the aisle seat)

 

I’ll even go as far as saying that last year, when I was flying constantly I remember waking up to find my head on the shoulder of the man next to me (who was wide awake) with a little spot of drool on my chin. I had no clue how long my head had been in the way, because, well, I’m asleep!! How embarrassing.

And sometimes it’s not just my head that causes problems. My arms and legs tend to have a mind of their own. Last week on my way to Atlanta I fell asleep and woke up realizing that my fist was resting on the edge of the seat of the woman next to me. I quickly folded my arms across my chest and shut my eyes before I could catch the woman’s glance.

But despite my weird habits, I can sleep on a plane, so hah!

Here’s the real key to sleeping soundly on a plane. Are you ready?

Ok.

If you’re aircraft has personal TV’s on the seats, hit the “listen” or music button. Go to On Air (the radio) and hit the channel called Sleep Soundly (or channel 5). Plug your headphones in, turn the volume down low, and I promise you, you will be knocked out within 5 minutes. The soothing sounds of the rainforest and symphonies are the perfect way to relax and forget that you are on a plane with at least 150 other people who are just as uncomfortable as you.

I cannot take credit for the above secret. If this advice works for you, thank my mom. She is the one who gifted me with this knowledge a couple months ago. Thanks, mom, for not only helping me, but also helping all of the other people reading this blog.

 

 An Open Letter To and From The Dream Crushers

I think the only thing more uncomfortable than sleeping on a plane is waking someone up to go to the restroom. An airplane is a melting pot of personalities. Sometimes you win the lotto and sit next to nice, friendly people and other times you never speak a word to the person you will sit in close proximity to for the next couple of hours. And if your case is the latter, it makes it even that much more unbearable to wake up the person next to you.

Currently on my way to LA, I am in a window seat and the woman next to me is in the aisle. She is armed with a personal blanket from home AND a neck pillow. You go, girl.

However, she and I have barely spoken. Right when we took off, she pulled out her sleeping weapons, tossing and turning frequently. The signs of an unsuccessful sleep. When the drink cart came around for the first time, we both unlatched our tray tables to get snacks. The flight attendant handed us pretzels and cookies and immediately she put hers on my tray, saying nothing. Was she playing Alpha, thinking she can use my tray table too? Or was she being nice? I couldn’t decide because she’s in her 30’s. I awkwardly glanced over and inquire, “Do you not want these?” She responded with one word, “No.”

After she drank her water she attempted sleep again, this time more successful than the last. Maybe neck pillows do work?

By about halfway through this flight, I needed to use the restroom. This woman had the aisle seat, so it’s her responsibility to let me out if I have to go right? We all know this.

I tried to make it as painless as possible. I even tried to hold it until she stirred, so I could then wake her up when she was only half asleep. But I drank a lot of water: my full glass that the flight attendant handed me, and half of my Nestle 24 oz. water bottle. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I lightly tapped her shoulder. She awoke wide-eyed, looking straight at the ceiling, as if Doctor Frankenstein’s monster was just brought back to life. Her head slowly turned toward me and I squeaked out “Hi. Sorry, I need to use the restroom.”

I expected a groan of some sort and about 30 seconds of fumbling with her things before letting me out.

Nope.

Instead, she closed her tray table and looked at me. She expected me to literally crawl over her to get out. And me being the one who actually needed to go, I did what I had to do.

When I came back she was asleep again, so I grabbed the seat in front of me and pushed myself off the floor, hurling my body into my window seat so as not to stir her sleep. I didn’t.

All this to say, if you are in the aisle, be nice about it. You chose the seat, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t teenage girls feel terrible about kindly waking you up. Just be courteous.

And maybe don’t pick the aisle next time?

And to someone sitting in the window or middle seat, please be courteous when having to wake someone up. Lightly tap their shoulder and say excuse me, instead of trying to yell in their face or hitting them to wake them up. Also, if you can hold it a little longer, do so and see if the person next to you wakes up in the meantime. Even better, wait until they get up to go to the restroom, and then go. That’s a win-win for both of you! Don’t be that guy who has to get up 15 times in one flight to “stretch his legs”, climbing over everyone in the row.

If that’s you, maybe pick an aisle seat next time?

Sincerely,

The Fly Girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Distance Made Easy (Or So You Would Think)

I’ve been sitting in my seat on my flight to LAX staring at my laptop for the last 5 minutes trying to come up with a clever way to tell you that I am in a long distance relationship, but I couldn’t come up with anything that would come off as cute about it. So, here you go:

I am in a long distance relationship.

My boyfriend, Parker, lives in Los Angeles. We met in Atlanta four years ago, and have been dating a little over a year and a half. He is also an Actor, and our relationship is filled with understanding and encouragement on both sides.

When he moved to LA last August, I thought it would be daunting to stay together as a long distance couple. Even though I knew I would move to LA in five months time, there were still a lot of unknown factors when it came to maintaining a long distance relationship.

“Oh c’mon, Kelly. Five months? That’s nothing. Plus with all of the enhanced technology these days, you two can see each other over FaceTime every day if you want to. And text. And call. Back in my day, there were no such things as cellphones and we had to do this thing called ‘write a letter’…” said Every Adult Over The Age of 50.

I would stand there, pretending I was intently attune to the conversation, and once the advice (well lecture) was finished trickling out, I would add: “And thankfully, I also have  flight benefits!”

During those four months of our long distance relationship, with the entire country’s expanse between us, Parker and I saw each other at least twice a month. The great thing about his locale was that it was in a city that pertained to both of our careers: THE city for the film industry, Los Angeles. I could fly in for meetings, workshops, and auditions and also get to see Parker! I flew in and out, creating a foundation for myself in LA while getting to spend time with him in between.

I do understand how lucky we are. For one of us to have the ability to fly for free and come as often as needed was such a help to our relationship. Going into it, we both decided that if we became the priority over our careers, a break would be needed. But thankfully, a balance was kept and the groundwork of our LA careers was laid in those four months.

Once I moved to LA in January, we were no longer long distance anymore. I lived at the beach with my sister, he lived in a suburb of Hollywood, and we saw each other almost everyday.

But now I am based out of Atlanta for the summer before returning to LA in the fall, so for the next three months we are long-distance again. This should be easy, right? We have already endured a long distance trial, and I can fly out whenever I want with a B R E E Z E !

Sometimes though, having flight benefits does not make for easy travel.With every benefit in life comes the rules and sets of limitations.

The fact that I fly for free does not mean that I automatically get on any flight I want. I can’t just flick my wand and teleport to a seat like some wizard in Harry Potter.

I am called a Stand-by Passenger. I am a Non-Rev (Non revenue passenger, meaning I do not pay for a seat), which means I am a lower priority to any paying passenger on a plane. If there are seats available on a flight, then I may get lucky and get on the plane. It can be smooth and easy, or extremely stressful. Never in between.

Within the world of Non Revenue passengers, there are different levels of priority that decide the order of the list of passengers awaiting a seat. On a simple day, the list is prioritized based on the number of years the employee in the family has been working for the airline. The traveler whose family member has worked the longest would be the first on the list, etc.

However, every Non-Rev gets six special passes per year called S2. If someone checks in as an S2, using one of the six treasured tokens, then that person moves to the top of the standby list. A Non-Rev who has a 2008 start date of employment could pass another with a 1988 start date if they check in as an S2 on that flight. WHAT?

And sometimes there are people who get to the airport amusingly early who wander around and realize they can take an earlier flight to their desired destination. They then ask the gate agent if they can switch to this flight, and the gate agent tells them that they might be able to get on but will have to wait to see if a seat is available. So what does this mean? This passenger is now also considered a stand-by and is added to our list. However, because this person is a Revenue passenger, meaning they paid for a ticket, just not necessarily on this particular flight, they are put at the top of the Stand-by list. Customers first! Not so amusing anymore.

Things happen. Sometimes mechanical issues can occur, delaying flights or canceling them. That means there are now 150 people at least scrambling to jump on the next flight available to that destination. And since they do not have a seat assigned, they are put on the Stand-by list, ahead of all Non-Rev passengers. Also during holidays, traveling as a Non-Rev is pretty tough. Flights are always booked tight and there is very little room to squeeze on.

And this particular travel day, I encountered both of these scenarios. It is the day after Memorial Weekend, which means vacationers are flooding the airport, sunburnt and exasperated, trying to get back to home to press “play” on their everyday lives. I had checked the flights the previous night and decided to list myself on a flight at 9:45 am that had 3 seats left on it. I checked the Non-Rev list and decided that I would use one of my precious S2 passes to jump ahead of other passengers. Even though my dad has been working for the airline for 26 years and our priority is already high on its own, a lot of Non-Revs had checked in using one of their last S2’s, because they knew it was a holiday weekend and flights would be tight. So, apprehensively, I had to use one of mine to jump the people who had jumped me. Confusing, right?

I get to the gate and the list shows no seats left. None. At all. I guess the numbers had changed by the time I had arrived at the airport. I was listed as number 5, as there were some Revenue passengers ahead of me also crossing their fingers that they would get on this flight.

My mom and dad taught me to never leave a gate until the boarding door is closed. Even if the odds seem stacked against you, you never know what could happen. Sometimes people fail to show up to the flight, and after their name is called twice the gate agent releases their seat and gives it away to a standby passenger.

This time, there were five people who had failed to board the plane, so the gate agent lined up the first five people from the Stand-by list onto the boarding area. My heart pounded with excited nervousness of the possibility that I may get on this plane after all! I was the last in line, as we were lined up in order of priority.

And then, right as the gate agent was about to call our names individually to board, two people nonchalantly came up to the gate. They had been standing there the whole time, picking their noses I guess. At that moment I knew I had lost my shot. In the end, two others showed up and only one Stand-by got on that flight.

My name was then rolled over to the list of the next flight, leaving at 10:53 am. There were more seats available on this plane, so thankfully I got on! I texted Parker saying, “Pick me up at noon?” and whisked myself away in the book I was reading.

About 10 minutes later the captain comes on the intercom and says that right as the flight attendants prepared for departure, one of the boarding doors malfunctioned and the emergency slide was inflated. He had called maintenance, and they would be here soon. For now, hold tight.

In those situations, you do one of two things: whisk yourself away in your book again or completely freak out. I chose the latter. I immediately began a texting war with my mom, going through all of the possible scenarios that could affect me. The maintenance could take a couple of hours to fix the aircraft, at which point I would still have a seat on the plane. Or, a new plane would be brought in, and all passengers transferred to it. (But if this plane were smaller than the one I was on, then there would be no way I would have a seat). Third, everyone would be asked to de-plane and get rebooked on other flights. Which means all remaining flights of the day to LA would be FLOODED with Revenue Stand-by passengers.

Thankfully, I have the power to look up every flight leaving the airport and check the loads to see which plane I could possibly have a chance of getting on. My mom came up with other options, connecting to San Francisco and then arriving in LA, flying to Salt Lake, or maybe even to Tampa to take the last flight of the night.

Meanwhile, time was ticking and I knew there was another flight to LA at 12:15 pm. It was 11:30 now, and all passengers had been asked to de-plane and wait in the gate area for further notice. To me this sounded like my death sentence.

I snuck over the gate of the later flight, which was thankfully only a couple down from the one I had previously been at. I checked the list and there were, surprisingly, 50 seats on the flight. Thankfully, this later flight had changed aircrafts at the last minute, and brought in a bigger plane than anticipated. Which means? More seats for me!!!

I then ran back over to my previous gate where I found out that our plane was being fixed and would be delayed about 2 hours. This meant that most people would not have to be rebooked (unless they were dealing with connections), and that the 12:15 flight, which would now leave earlier than my original one (which was my second flight of the day I had tried), would be wide open. So, I jumped ship. I swapped flights with my S2 priority and jumped everyone, getting a better seat than I had had on my last plane, and now fully stocked with free “Apology” snacks from my last flight.

After about 8 phone calls with my mom, 4 hours of being at the airport and 3 flights tried, I finally made it. I am currently writing from my aisle seat near the front of the plane. I am finally headed to LA after being apart from Parker for three weeks. I also get to experience a cool acting opportunity while in town, so it’s a win-win!

Phew, I know that was long. But I wanted to give you an inside scoop on what it is really like to fly for free. While it is glamorous sometimes, like flying first class to Europe, it can also be extremely stressful, which is the case most of the time.

But it’s thrilling (sometimes). You play travel agent for yourself (or your mom does), and you figure it out. It may not always be a walk in the park, but that’s life.

Yes, my long distance relationship is maintained under very ideal circumstances, but keep in mind, it may not always be easy. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

*If you think this story sounds stressful, then get excited. Because honestly, today was about a 5 on a stress scale of 1-10. I can’t wait to continue to share these experiences with you! *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends in Flight

You aren’t going to believe this. It’s just too good to be true. You’re going to think, “Wow this really would make for a great TV Show”.

My absolute best friend, Kaley, flies for free as well. Her dad also works for the airlines so her family has flying benefits. At any given point in the day, I could literally call her and say, “Hey! Do you want to go to New York?” No we don’t have our own private jets or a pool full of money, we just happen to be best friends who fly for free and who have the bulk of our other friends in New York City. That’s not out of the ordinary at all! Pshhh.

ISN’T THAT CRAZY? Oh, and that’s actually happened before, multiple times, the whole “Let’s fly to New York today!” thing. In fact that was the case of our most recent trip to the city. Our mutual friend had a college graduation party at a swanky venue in Midtown, Manhattan, and we couldn’t refuse the invitation. We decided to fly up for that party and spend one night in the city. Are we Serena van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf yet? We wish.

I tried to come up with a simile for traveling with your best friend, but all I could come up with is: “Traveling with your best friend is like traveling with your best friend”. It’s exactly how you would imagine it! Two teenagers taking on the airport (and Manhattan for that matter) like total pros. We have had conversations about how our families would hold competitions when we were little to see who could navigate through the airport the best. It may sound strange, but as an 8 year old I took such pride in knowing the airport terminals like the back of my hand. OK let’s be real, I still take pride in it. But I can’t talk about that feeling with just anyone, because they wouldn’t understand. But to talk about that with my best friend? Perfect.

While we ride the Plane Train in the Atlanta airport, we both mouth the words that the Voiceover is saying because we know them by heart: “The next station is Concourse A. A as in Alpha…” We hop off at our terminal, T (we had come from terminal F) and head to our gate. Businessmen and women stare us down, looking for a sign of a parent and then realizing that we are traveling alone to New York City, a feat that they never could have done at 18 and 19 years old.

But this isn’t our first rodeo together. Our first time traveling to The City alone was when we were 15 and 16 years old (along with our other friend who was 15). We were in Manhattan for a week by ourselves, training at Broadway Artists Alliance. None of our moms were there, as so many other kids’ were. In fact, my parents were out of the country that week and I barely had access to call them! Talk about becoming independent at a young age.

Ahhhh we were naïve then. I remember the three of us linked arms walking down the street as if we were playing Red Rover, nervous about potential dangers from New Yorkers. Man that was a scary walk… all the way to our nearest Starbucks at the end of our street. Bravo, young Kaley, Kelly, and Ann Marie. So proud.

However silly that sounds, I do give us credit for being three young teenagers in The Greatest City In The World alone. While there were hotel chaperones through our training program, our moms had all signed us up for the option of walking back alone and taking care of ourselves. And we did have some hardships on the trip: Our hotel room was on the second floor, visible to the lobby. Our 4th night there, our lock on the door broke. We had no idea what to do! I couldn’t call my parents, but thankfully the other two called theirs. And of course the moms began to freak out. Maybe calling them wasn’t the best idea after all… I mean we can handle this, right?

In the end, we notified the hotel concierge (who we were friends with by name; Winston and Paul we owe you one!) and they called a mechanic to fix it in the morning. We alerted a hotel chaperone of what happened, and she checked up on us that night. We ended up staying in the same room, and barred the doors with all visible furniture possible. (Imagine three girls shoving hotel room chairs and suitcases to barricade the room from the outside world).

So much has changed since then. When Kaley and I traveled to New York last week, we stayed in Harlem in my Uncle’s apartment to which I have a key. We rode the subway like it’s our job and walked through Midtown, this time not playing Red Rover but playing Lets Blend In Like Locals. And we do! Little lost lambs, otherwise known as tourists, will come up and ask us directions. Now THAT is how you know you’re a New Yorker.

I am so blessed to have a friend in a similar situation as me. Not only a friend but also my best friend! We understand each other so well and I can talk freely with someone about flying and not have to worry about sounding spoiled. Score!

While we don’t always get to sit together when we travel, the flight is still so much more fun with a friend.

When we reached 10,000 feet on our way home from our one night stand with Manhattan (that actually turned into two nights because New York wooed us), I snuck into first class and tossed Kay some cinnamon rolls.

As I deplaned when we landed in Atlanta, I walked up to Kaley where she had been waiting for me. A brown package flew threw the air and landed in my hands: Brownie Brittle, a treasure from the First Class Snack Bin.

Now that’s what I call friendship in flight.