Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top 10 Reasons NOT to fly Standby

Recently I had the opportunity to fly to Finland and back on my wifes special pass tickets that the airline makes available to you for working for them. I'm not going to say which airline, and I'm not going to say how much things cost etc. That's their business and I'm not in that business. The following reasons are just the technical red tape you will have to go through in order to get to your destination. Please, I'm doing this as a humorous aside, not a gripe. In general the flight benefit is wonderful as long as you understand...

10. The plane turns into a bus - Sure it's obvious, but it's true. That confirmed seat you have on the plane is now a bus ticket that is only valid if they have a seat for you. People that need control should not travel this way because your route will change as the available seats do.

9. You NEVER get the aisle seat - Unless that plane has no people on it, you will ALWAYS get the middle seat usually between the fat lady that has yet to sing and the gentleman with the enlarged prostate sitting in the window seat.

8. There is always someone more 'senior' than you - If you have been in the airline industry for 25+ years this doesn't apply. Many airlines determine extra seating availability by seniority within the company. So if you have a pass on a plane and the person next to you has a pass and he has also worked for the airline for 2 months more than you, he automatically gets preference in the list. Of course it's not that simple but it is how it is. The funny thing about this is the company thinks they are saying 'Thank you for your loyalty' to the long-suffering employee with seniority. Really they are saying 'We don't like you nearly as much as we like them' to the employee that just started using their vacation passes. Personally, I think they should determine flight order by who is wearing the fanciest hat.

7. The more you got, the harder it is - If you are traveling with family, this whole process just got a lot harder. You don't want to separate from your family. If you are not traveling with the employee, you get a lowered preference and are less likely to get on any given flight so you don't want to split up. Also, if you separate, your likelihood of getting some of your party stranded at an airport just went up a lot. So now you don't just need your seat, you need ALL your seats. This gets to be extraordinarily difficult and adds to the stress and everything else.

6. Everybody else thinks you can fly for free - Even when it's free, it's not free. You don't pick your flight, your flight picks you. If you have particularly cheap friends, they might want you to 'equalize' your flight benefit with everyone else to go to a destination. Oh your so lucky, you get to fly for free. Yes, it is a benefit, but it is a dwindling one. Not only is it not free, but you have to pay taxes levied in many locations immediately. If you are not prepared for this, you could find yourself cash poor for your 'free' flying. The only reason this is a part of the list is because when it catches you by surprise it will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

5. Where's the Seats?! - This is more a problem with the benefit of free flight and the whole flight benefit model. Back in the 80's, Airlines routinely purchased flight legs that had few travelers on it in order to force competition and add to exposure. These days, The seats themselves have become more and more cramped, and airlines are flying much more lean legs. They take away flights and are reluctant to add them. Where there were 3 flights to a location, there will be 2 with smaller planes. This might be good for the company, but it's no good for the employee.

4. Dress up time! - If you are going to try to fly first class (why not? It's free ;) ). You can do so, BUT you have to dress up in slacks and a button down shirt etc. They don't want just any rabble flying first class. Of course if you pay those outrageous ticket prices for first class, you can dress in a tank top and cut offs and they will still give you exceptional service. So next time you go through first class on the way to your cattle car seating, look at the dress code. The people dressed up to fly are probably doing it at a DEEEP discount. This is actually a pretty small price to pay for flying first class as long as everything else goes well, which it won't but man oh man, when you are in those seats enjoying real food...mmmm

3. Employee services are likely quite a walk from your flight - This is only really annoying if you have dressed up for First class and you are going to have to walk all over the airport to get your next leg ticket because the flight you thought was going to be good ended up filling up so you need a different out. Many times in the course of flying, you will have to fly on a 'code-share' airline. this means that they have an agreement with your company to sell you a cheap ticket. This comes out of your company. So if you are at one code-share airline and you need to get to another, you must buy a different code share ticket. This means walking all the way to the employee services and back to your next gate. If they don't happen to share the terminal you are in, then you are in for a journey. This is easily remedied by buying lots of code share tickets for all of your contingencies. After all, you're flying for free right?

2. lemme check the flights - When you buy a regular airline ticket weather online or from an agent, you look at your options, and you buy your ticket. Now your time is yours. You can worry about all the other aspects of your trip. When you are standby, you must check not only your flight, but all of your connecting flights because your plans change all the time. So if you add the cost of constantly checking the computer for your flight availability, it gets to be a little more expensive.

1. Until you are on the plane and flying away, you are not on the plane - I've seen this happen. People with standby tickets are boarded on the plane and then someone with more seniority or someone with a paid ticket comes in late and kicks you out of your chair. Until that door is closed, you don't really have a seat, you just have high hopes.

Don't get me wrong, flying stand by is a great way to get places for very cheap or possibly free. And I've certainly used more than my fair share of that benefit and I greatly appreciate it, but before you sink a few years into an airline career, just consider the above. It's at it's best flying one leg flights alone. After that, it starts getting dicey.

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