I’m in Hawaii!! I’ll post about the adventures we’re having in the days to come, but I wanted to get a quick post out about how I got out here. Literally, not philosophically.
One of the employment benefits of working for an airline is what is known as Pass Travel. This little post is about what that stand-by experience can be like. Good and bad.
Son #2 is at the conclusion of an internship on the island of Maui. He’s doing a bird recovery/reforestation project. Son #1 and I, both students, found ourselves with a window of opportunity to visit Sam over the holidays. Both girlies are working, Glenda in Vegas and Amy in Utah, so Ben and I are the lucky ones who get to do the trip.
There in an internal employee website that gives information about the “loads” on any particular flight, so that we nonrevs (non-revenue) fliers can make choices about the best time for travel. This site lists the flights, how many seats are on the airplane, how many of those seats have been sold, and how many remain for us freeloaders to use. (Technically, pass travel is not free – there are minimal charges that are attached to each flight, based on mileage.)
The holidays are never a good time to attempt pass travel, but if you are strategic, choose your flights well, and are flexible, sometimes it works.
Ben lives in Denver and it was his plan to fly from Denver to Salt Lake City to LA, and then on to Maui. I would start from Nashville, fly to Atlanta, then LA, then meet up with Ben for the flight into Maui. The flights online looked tight, but doable.
From years of pass travel, we’ve learned to check your main bag (with items you won’t grieve losing), put some overnight stuff in your small carry-on (toothbrush, clean undies), dress comfortably and in layers (Denver in Dec vs Maui in Dec), and prepare your attitude. When the children were little, we developed a family motto specifically around pass travel: Life Is An Adventure. If you’ve ever tried to keep 4 preschoolers happy in the Memphis terminal for 36 hours, you will understand.
Off we go. I leave my home in Murfreesboro at 11am on Saturday, Ben leaves his home in Fort Collins at 3pm. Getting from Nashville to Atlanta didn’t present a problem. It was in Atlanta that the plan began to deteriorate. My honey was at home with the employee website pulled up, guiding me on the phone. LA had become out of the question. The first 3 flights I watched push back were oversold and 35 standbys were left standing at the gate. I began to seek other options (keep in mind it’s December 28th) it was clear that Atlanta (Delta’s main hub) was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t find a way ANYWHERE. Every flight out of Atlanta to any city was overbooked. I saw a sliver of opportunity in a flight to Seattle (by now it’s about 9pm), and sure enough, I got the last standby seat.
In the meantime, Ben was having the same experience in Salt Lake City. He hadn’t had a problem leaving Denver, but SLC (another Delta hub) was a clusterf*&k. His squeeze was doing the same as mine, and guided him to grabbing the last seat on the last flight to San Francisco.
So instead of meeting in LA on Saturday night, I’m in Seattle, and Ben’s in San Fran. We had good chances in the morning for both of us to get to LA, and that was the plan. In true pass travel fashion, we both find a nice, comfy, slice of carpeted floor in our respective terminals. Here’s a pic of mine from my viewpoint:
And in a turn of fortune typical to pass travel, I got a first-class seat on the early flight from Seattle to LA. This is the breakfast they wanted me to eat:
Ben was having the same experience on his flight out of San Francisco to LA, and he got there a few minutes before I did. After our joyful reunion (around 9:30am), we decided to spend the 8 hours waiting for our flight somewhere besides the LA terminal. In true Jordan-adventure fashion, Sam had previously scoped out the terminal-proximity-food-and-shade scene, and he was able to tell us the direction to head out.
We ended up grabbing a six-pack from the grocery, 2 animal-style, protein-style double doubles from In N Out, sitting in a park under the glide path.
One more trip to the grocery for the remaining 2 hours’ entertainment:
Then, finally, at the gate in LA, waiting for those elusive seats, listening, listening for: “Passengers, Jordan, party of 2” to be called over that loudspeaker.
Sweet Sammy met us at the airport with leis, fresh pineapple, chocolate-covered macadamias, and Hawaiian beer. Stay tuned for more blogging about the Maui adventures.
So, pass travel. Is it worth it? Yes, absolutely, 100% no doubt. Among my children’s friends, I often encourage them, if they are unsure of what direction to go in life, to consider working for an airline purely because of the benefit of pass travel. But pass travel requires a mentality, a combination of a sense of adventure, flexibility, patience, a letting go of control, patience and flexibility on the part of your eventual host, and maybe even a little diplomacy thrown in for gate agents and fellow pass riders/passengers.
Life Is An Adventure!
Thanks for reading!