Tuesday, August 19, 2008

flying by the seat of your pants

well I am home. 26 hours in transit yesterday has left me wiped, but I am glad to be here in my apartment. it was a very close call yesterday in Paris as I finally got on the 3rd flight of the day by the skin of my teeth.

I fly stand-by and let me tell you a little about how it works:
the first biggest misconception about flying stand-by is that it is free. it is not, nor has it ever been free. cheapER but never free. even though it has given me many opportunities to travel, see family and friends and see the world- as far as I am concerned, the cost one pays for never knowing if or how you will get home is quite high. you are there "standing by" hoping that a seat might be open on the plane and then the airline wants to fill the seats so they will put you on when space permits. this might sound easy, but it is not.
yesterday was probably in my top 3 most stressful flying experiences in 31 years of stand-by travel. there were something like 80 stand-by passengers (those are currently working employees, everyone from ticket agents to pilots, their families and sometimes friends, then retired employees family members-thats me at the very bottom of the seniority list) and those 80 stand-by people are vying for 5 seats left open on the plane. there were 2 flights to Montreal and 1 to Toronto daily from Paris, and I tried all 3. my last chance was a Montreal flight at 1:30pm... and the flight closed, was full, all of 3 stand-by people got on and they told all of us to come back tomorrow. and then they looked at me. to my advantage I was the only person flying alone, and I only had carry on baggage. and even though the flight was full they allowed me to go down to the gate and make sure there wasn't some last minute change.

* now considering that flying stand-by is often totally dependent upon paying customers not showing up for their flight- this is something I will never understand. if I paid full fare for my plane ticket I would not NOT show up for my flight. ok, maybe you had such a wonderful time you decided to rebook for a later date, or you were in a car accident- but I don't see how you can arrive at the airport, check in, go through customs, security and then not get on the plane.
and this, is how I got home yesterday.

so back to me standing at the gate, and they are calling the names of 2 people who did all of above, and were still not on the plane. and there are about 8 agents all working at the gate and looking at me and calling the other passengers names again, and again... and then finally they decided to give the spot to me. it was something out of a space odyssey movie, they sealed the door at the gate and I stood their on the ramp waiting for an agent to accompany me to the plane. they shuttled me off in a bus to the plane waiting on the tarmac, I got on, and they closed the door.

its almost a day later. you can see why I am relieved to be here. taking it easy today and back at work tomorrow. I missed my apartment and my friends, but over all it was a great trip with so much to see and do. I am grateful for my travel companions and the hosts along the way. now a bit of catch up on life back home...and planning the next get away (sooner than you think)


Crissy said...

Welcome home!
Canada missed you!

Crissy said...

Well, if you think flying stand-by is difficult, try having your flights all booked and then the airline goes completely out of business!!

I spent all day doing damage-control ... rescheduling things, rebooking hotels and trains, trying to get over $2400 refunded for our airfare ... oh yeah, it's been a (*insert extreme sarcasm here*) F-U-N day! :P