I am always looking for good deals and ways to save money. Who isn’t? Imagine flying anywhere you wanted with an airline for a very low price, but… you would have to fly standby. Ever since my European travels last summer, I have been keen on traveling. I jumped at the chance to fly to a destination of my choosing with little effect on my bank account. Have you heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for?” This is my cautionary tale of standby and that sometimes…paying for that peace of mind just might be worth it!
I was able to get two standby tickets and being the considerate and precious daughter that I am, I asked my mom if she would like to go on a trip with me. This in no way had to do with the fact that she would be willing to pay for a lot of my meals, etc. Riiiiight. She agreed and we decided to plan a trip to…drumroll please….London! Since it was before the Olympics, it wouldn’t be too crazy and my mom has always wanted to go. Plus, I lived there last summer, so I deemed myself the perfect tour guide. We knew this standby offer was a great opportunity and wanted to take advantage.
Still on a budget though, we found a great hotel for 5 nights on expedia.com. The only catch? The good deal was non-refundable. We shrugged our shoulders, and figured what else could we do? We booked the hotel. It was a great deal and in the perfect central London location.
With standby, you want to choose a flight where there are a lot of empty seats. You only get on, if there are unoccupied/unpaid for seats after everyone else has boarded. We planned to leave on a Wednesday late night flight because it had the most vacant seats. Chances were looking good!
We packed our bags and headed to the airport. Now, here is my first very important tip for standby flyers: only pack a carry-on. Do not check your luggage! You will see the importance of this later. That being said, I packed all my clothes in a carry-on bag. My mom chose to check a bag that was half-empty “in case we bought a lot of souvenirs.” Bad idea.
When we arrived at the gate, our fingers were crossed and we eagerly stared at the screen listing approved standby passengers. We were number 10 and 11 on the list. Not bad. There were still 24 empty seats. We waited… and waited…and… waited some more. Once everyone had boarded we noticed we were standing around in a group with about 12 other standby passengers hoping our name would be called to walk through that wonderful door to board our flight. However, something odd was happening. The screen said there were more than 20 seats unoccupied but the gate agents weren’t calling any of our names. Our question was soon answered. Houston, we have a problem. More specifically a weight-ratio problem. Apparently, a lot of cargo was added to the plane. The weight from the cargo meant that no more passengers were allowed on because the plane would become too heavy. Cwap (the CW version of crap).
So it was 10:50pm and we learned that we were not going to be flying to London that evening. Don’t forget that non-refundable room. Double cwap. After devising a plan of attack for the following day, me mom (when in London…) and I went back home feeling defeated.
Arriving at the Atlanta airport the following morning, our plan was to fly to JFK airport in New York City and then get on a flight to London from there. Unfortunately the JFK flight was full! We ran to a nearby terminal and were able to get on a flight to LaGuardia Airport in New York. We just barely made it! Phew! But then of course more problems arose! There were weather condition problems in New York so our plane had to touch down in Baltimore for 2 hours before we could get to the New York Airport. Talk about stressful. As time ticked away we eventually made it to LaGuardia and we sprinted to the taxi stand for a cab to nearby JFK airport. Once we got to the airport we were rushed through security because we had 30 minutes until our international flight departure. So much for arriving 2 hours before flight time. As I impatiently waited for the security guy to hand me my luggage back we heard the following loudspeaker announcement, “Final boarding call for all customers flying flight 9 to London-Heathrow.” Triple cwap. I grabbed my suitcase and we sprinted to the terminal. Why is it that the distance to the gate is always inversely proportionate to the amount of time you have to reach it? I definitely felt ridiculous running through the airport. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I kid you not, a little child even yelled “Run Forrest Run” to me as I blazed passed him. I didn’t find it very funny. (Editor’s note: I do.) Sweating and out of breath, we arrived at the gate and were told we had seats on the plane. THANK GOODNESS. As we nonchalantly tried to walked onto the plane I had a smile on my face. Finally, we were going to London. Just took a bit of stress, time, ingenuity and more stress. Oh, and did I mention STRESS?
We had a wonderful time sight-seeing in London and fortunately made it on our first flight back directly to Atlanta. It felt like a piece of cake compared to our departing flight. Why do you always use a carry-on when flying standby, you ask? This is why. Since my mom had switched standby flights multiple times, it took awhile for her checked luggage to catch up to her. It didn’t make it on the JFK to London flight. It didn’t arrive until 3 days later and that was after we had to take the Tube back to the London airport to pick it up. She ended up wearing my clothes for the majority of the trip and the same pair of pants every day until she received her luggage. It was difficult, but luckily I had everything I wanted with me in my handy dandy carry-on.
Was flying standby worth it? YES. It was an incredible deal, especially for an international flight. However, there were a lot of frustration trying to get on flights and finding mom’s luggage. It is very stressful because getting on the flight is all up to chance. We had to pay for a night in a hotel that we didn’t use. It sucked, but it was still less than the price of the ticket.
After all, that is shoe shopping money!
Good News: Georgia Girl found a job.
Bad News: It’s in NYC. Which makes her a New York girl. We will miss her and wish her the best as she embarks on her new career.