I recently just flew standby to A-L-A-S-K-A for my dearest friend Bev's wedding. I'll tell you it was quite the experience, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed! Let me just put this out to one and all - FLYING STANDBY IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!
Monday January 3rd I called my other dear friend Stephanie (who hooked me up with tickets) about flying standby for Tuesday January 4th. As we talked about the flight she got online to check the status. What was brought to our attention was the completely sold out, booked flights to Alaska for the week of January 3-7, 2011. We were both in shock, we couldn't believe that people were actually wanting to go to Alaska this time of year. The only reason I was going to Alaska this time of year was for my friend's wedding. When she saw the flights and where my tickets were taking me (Vegas to Portland, Portland to Anchorage) she said there was no way I was going to be making it out of Portland. I of course managed to stay somewhat calm. "What can you do for me?" She made some phone calls and and got the times changed for me so that I would have a better chance of getting out of Portland. I thanked her forever, as she continued to say, "Don't thank me yet, you're not there yet."
Tuesday, January 4th, my sister and her friend packed me up and shot me down to the Vegas airport to try to catch a plane. I arrived at my new times as I checked in at the counter the "Older" man checked me in. And, as we chatted it up I told him I was standby to Anchorage and he also said, "Well good luck on getting there!" I told him that I was going for a wedding and it wasn't until Saturday, the 8th. He then said, "You should make it by then." What was I in for? He then was so sweet and made some more changes. Instead of flying to Portland he changed me to Seattle seeing that Seattle had flights leaving every hour until midnight. Whereas Portland only had three flights the whole day. I thanked him for his help, and in return he gave me his number and told me to call him because he frequently ski's in Brian Head. Um....okay? Not sure that I will be calling him, but totally flattered!
I check my bags and patiently wait for my flight out of Vegas. I was actually hoping that I wouldn't make the first flight so that my Sis would come back and get me so I could go shopping. With much luck I got on the first flight, and had no problem whatsoever. I arrived in Seattle around 3ish their time. I immediately found the next connecting flight and found that mounds of people were also wanting the same flight. Trips from Seattle to Anchorage were booked solid, and even overbooked. My odds for getting a flight were looking very slim. After missing the 4:00pm flight I picked up my bags and walked all the way to other side of the airport to try another flight. This flight was around 5:00pm and it was KIND OF looking like I might actually have a chance. However, that chance was shot to HECK. So, I asked where the next flight was and once again started my long walk to the next gate. (Note: these gates where never right next to each other...it usually meant taking a train to the other side of the airport and walking some more!) I found the next gate and popped a squat as I once again waited to see if I even had a chance.
Around 8:00pm I was still in the Seattle airport and people were starting to look the same, meaning that all of us "standby" people were sticking together and not getting on a plane. As we all stood waiting with anticipation I decided I should start making some phone calls and see if my few friends in Seattle would let me come crash on their couch because the odds for me getting a flight weren't going to happen. It just so happens I have a mission companion that lives in Seattle who was so willing to let me crash on her couch. It didn't happen, but just the thought of her taking me in on such little notice was so sweet! And, as I waited for more bad news about not getting a flight it was nice to talk to her on the phone and catch up. After talking on the phone with an old friend a woman came up to me and asked if I was "standby." I told her I was and we exchanged stories of how long we had been waiting and where we were going. We immediately became fast friends and stuck together the rest of the night walking from gate to gate. As the night went by and flights were getting ready to end we had discussed our options and the best bet for both of us was to stay the night in the airport and hope (and pray) that the first flights of the morning (6:00am and 8:00am) would have people sleep in and miss their flight. I know, I know, that is not something you should pray for, praying that people would get stuck in traffic, oversleep, etc. Well, that is what I did and that is what I had my family and friends do for me.
(Image found through google images...this is not me, but I'm pretty sure this is what I looked like - embarrassing!)
Wednesday January 5th I found a little corner of the C Concord and nestled down for a restless night of sleep. I stuffed my bags under my seat and then held on tight to them. I am pretty sure I only got about two hours of sleep and was totally jealous when I woke up and saw across from me on the benches a man sprawled out and snoring away. I set my alarm on my phone and woke by 5:00am to have enough time to try to freshen up and get me something to eat. I immediately made my way to the gate with the 6:00am flight. There were all my standby friends. We shared our nights sleep stories and hoped that we would all get on this early flight. One sweet lady had been stuck in the Seattle airport for 4 days and I was just hoping this would be her chance. As the plane started to board the ticket agent was positive we all would have a chance. There were over 20 of us standing around waiting to get this flight. As the plane filled up many seats were left open. The ticket agent started to call names. After several names were called my new found friend (who had been stuck for 4 days) got her name called. I yelled out to the group - "You got a seat! You got a seat! I think I might cry!!!" Yes, that is what really happened. Lack of sleep makes me crazy... The next name called was my other friend who I had met the night before. She had got her seat! I had kept telling her the night before that she was going to get this 6:00am flight. I was so happy for her, but it also meant that my name moved up! As the people were dwindling down so were the seats on the plane. He finally called the last name. It was not me. The doors shut and the ticket agent gathered the rest of us around and pointed us to the next gate. We then began our long walk to gate D.
My standby friend was gone so I found some new people to chummy up to. We grouped together and shared our stories. The next in line was a young man who had been stuck for 2 days. (Side note: at this point I was still as positive as can be because the wedding was still a few days away, and I was just overly grateful that I didn't have to pay full price for a ticket so if it meant waiting and walking from gate to gate - well, so be it!) We continued to wait and wait. The clock had never moved so slow. My stomach was churning with luck as I felt like this was going to be my ticket to Anchorage - no pun intended. As 7:30am arrived they finally started to board the plane. People were not checking in, and again our chances for getting a flight were looking good. As the time inched away the flight was still not getting full. Finally, the ticket agent started to get ready to call standby folk. The first name called was the young man who had been stuck for two days. They called his name and nobody approached the desk. I looked around and saw him fast asleep. Nobody was making any movement to him. I finally couldn't take it and ran over to him and slapped his knee. NOTHING. I then began to shake his knee...it took a few more shakes and he suddenly woke up. I said, "I'm not sure but I think they just called your name you need to wake up!!!!!! Hurry!!!!" Yes, I was completely dramatic and freaked out a little. But seriously he had been stuck for 2 days and I wasn't about to let him get stuck for 2 more days. He made his flight, and that meant that I was two seats away. Next my other new friend got a seat. That meant I was NEXT IN LINE! Holy cow, I was about to get a seat!!!!
Music to my ears, my name "Williams" was called. I didn't cry, I know you were thinking I probably did, but instead I ran to the desk and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I found my way to my seat, got situated, and was excited to see that most of my other "standby" friends also got a seat on this early flight to Anchorage.
That was the coolest ride I have ever been on - flying standby! I seriously loved every moment of it. Even sleeping on a bench and freezing. Totally worth it. However, this "standby flying" is not for everyone.