Flying standby has always been stressful. These days, even more so.
You show up to the airport with your kids and cross your fingers, hoping to snag seats on a not-totally-full flight.
We’ve squeezed our family of four onto flights a few times. Sometimes we had to divide up and sit in middle seats, but we got on. Good enough.
But my family is done trying to fly standby.
After the last failed attempt, I decided: I’m done. I decided this while making a 9-hour drive home in a rental car, which cost me an extra $120 in gas, $70 in food, $30 in tolls, and a $300 rental drop-off fee. Might as well have just bought the full-price airline tickets.
Now that airlines have cut the number of flights, most flights are full. Standby seats, even during off hours and weekdays, are hard to come by. Weekends and holidays are completely out of the question.
We’ve used my flight attendant friend’s “buddy passes.” Since we’re not employees or immediate family, we’re at the bottom of the standby totem pole. Totally understandable. But even my friend – a 16-year employee of a major airline — has a hard time flying standby. She admits: it’s not the job perk it once was.
I don’t expect sympathy for whining about not being getting super-cheap flights anymore. But you’ve gotta give me this: it’s yet another way the airlines have sucked the joy out of airline travel.
As I’ve lamented in past posts, if you’re with the kids, you’re either first class or last class.
But flying standby often means neither. So I am throwing in the towel.
(I can hear you other standby fliers cheering, “Good! More seats for us!”)
Here’s why I am giving up:
1. Even if you show up with the kids , odds are you’ll sit in the airport all day, moving from gate to gate after not making it onto flights.
2. If you get on a flight, odds are your family will be scattered through the plane, sitting in middle seats between strangers. If you have little kids, that’s doesn’t work.
3. You can get your plans and hopes up for a fun trip somewhere. But the wait for a flight will drain the excitement out of you. Or force you to cough up money for overpriced last-minute tickets. Or make you return home with your packed suitcase.
From now on, I’m buying the tickets. Or road tripping. You win, airlines.
And to my fellow (former) standby fliers, good luck!