Usually I cringe at the thought of connecting through the Chicago O’Hare Airport and last weekend was no different….
After trying to fly standby from Denver to Grand Cayman to no avail I had to make a plan B, and fast. Some of you know that I fly standby, which is great and amazing and fantastic when it works and the pits when it doesn’t!
Here’s the deal: Omg, you can really fly where ever you want for close to nothing, if not actually nothing?!
The short answer is YES, and then it’s followed by a very big BUT!
ONLY IF: there are available seats, and no other flight delays where they re-route paying customers onto your flight that just 5 minutes ago was indicating there were 50 available seats, and if the weather cooperates and doesn’t throw a category 5 lightening storm at you, and if you don’t get trumped by “revenue standby” people who just wanna get home sooner – I get it, but still! And sometimes when they’ve put everyone on the plane and they have been calling the Smith Family of 4 on the PA for the last 10 minutes you get your hopes up, slightly… and then a little more with each airport page that goes out. And with the modern TV screens at the gates you know that you are number 2 on the standby list and with simple math if Smith doesn’t show up you are ON!! You kinda hold your breath a little….
But… wait…. What’s that? In the distance, down the terminal some commotion catches your eye. No! Please no! It’s all 4 of the Smiths running toward you in a tornado of clapping shoes and bouncing bags and they are yelling “wait, we are here!”
And what’s still worse than that is when your name gets called, and you get your seat assignment, and you get onboard, and you put away your bags, and you sit down, and you put on your seatbelt, and you breathe…. but only a little because the aircraft door is still open. And then this happens…
The gate agent comes on the PA in the plane and calls your name to collect your bags and please come to the front. The guy they were calling 45 times in the airport who never showed up…showed up. And you’re back in the gate area.
This is when the Plan B’s come out and your critical thinking skills need to be on point!
Step 1. Don’t take it personally. After 26 years of flying standby, sometimes I still do. I am grown; and I admit I have sought out the corner of a gate area behind the podium to, quietly, and usually with sunglasses on, drop my head let out a few tears of frustration before collecting myself for the dreaded stage 2 of pass travel.
Step 2. Brain must think of all other possible options to get you to your destination. This consists of your knowledge of basic geography, your computer skills, and your time management. Without these you’re screwed. You need to look at the departure monitors first to see if there are other flights. If there are no direct ones, you’ve got to think about what location will get you closest and then find out if there is a connecting flight. Once you have a chosen route you need to log into the employee website to get an idea of the loads to see if you even have a chance in hell to make it happen. If all options fail, move to step 3… and hopefully avoid step 4.
Step 3. Buy a ticket on another airline. Yep, then I’m right back there with everyone else in the world who has to pay for airline tickets. But with a lot more stress involved. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice luxury to know that I have a seat on a flight and no one can kick me out of it. It’s just the time, effort, and anxiety that precedes the actual purchase of said flight that gets me.
Step 4. Sleep in the airport. This is a LAST resort! This happens when the day got away from you, you stood by for all flights you could, and now there are no more flights leaving because it got too late, an there’s weather so all hotel rooms are booked up too. *Travel Tip* always travel with something you can use as a blanket!! Airports are really cold at night with no people in them!
So I skipped step 4 and found myself in Chicago last weekend.
To be continued…