Non-Rev Adventures on United Airlines, Part III

If you missed it, Part I and Part II

New York was fine. We did about half of what I wanted to accomplish, but my friend did find a new pair of UGG boots for about 40% less than she would pay in Germany.  Who needs Broadway when you have shoes?

Now it was Sunday afternoon, time to go to Washington. But the weather wasn't cooperating. A soupy morning of light rain and dense clouds meant United Express flight cancellations, including a flight to Washington National and a flight to Washington Dulles. We were trying to get an afternoon flight to Dulles and with the cancellations, suddenly the flights went from being "wide open" to being oversold. All of them. My friend, beginning to pick up on how the standby game works, looked over at me with a frown.

Heh, heh. Hi.

Truthfully, I was about ready to bail. We were number on 7 and 8 on the list of a flight booked over by one with possible weight restrictions. I reserved a car and prepared myself mentally for a five hour drive through the rain down I-95. Before cancelling the flights, I chatted with a United Club agent who was very friendly and told me that I had a good chance of making the flight (because of two disconnecting passengers) and told me not to give up.

I smiled, politely, but wasn't amused. I asked her if seven others might misconnect as well. She said she'd say a prayer for me.

Well guess, what? The prayer was answered. For whatever reason, my friend was ahead of me on the list--maybe because she checked in first. Anyway, about 10 minutes before boarding, she got called and was given a boarding pass. There was no room for me, I was told.

She told me to have a nice drive, but I convinced her that a road trip wouldn't be so bad. I could tell she was skeptical.

Boarding began and everyone dutifully boarded the now-delayed flight. Once everyone was onboard, the agent said, "You know what? I still got a seat. Here ya are Mr. Klint."

Presto! We made it on the flight--and in the exit row nonetheless, the only tolerable seats on a ERJ-145.

I was beaming though my friend was still stressed out a bit over the whole affair. But hey, United came through--we made it on the first and only flight we stood by for.

But after this day, I could not bear to make my friend fly anymore standby. Plus, I wanted to introduce her to how I normally travel, which is most definitely not standing by for an economy class seat.

So when we flew from Washington to Los Angeles a couple days later, we flew on American Airlines, in first class. And when she returned to Frankfurt, I bit the bullet and coughed up for a one-way business class ticket on Lufthansa, non-stop. It was worth it. Standby may have worked just fine, but it makes me thankful to fly with a confirmed ticket in a forward cabin on most trips...

And that was that. The true fun on this trip was not our time spent at airports or on an airplane, but these indelible moments will stay with me a long time. 


Darrell January 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Great story. Thanks for sharing.

Dan January 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm

When a 'lady friend' is visiting you, next time use the confirmed business class ticket for the outbound! You can always have her standby to get home ;-)

Ray January 7, 2013 at 02:06 pm

My simple policy while deciding whether or not to fly non-rev is always this: if I need to be somewhere on time, I fly full-fare.

PK January 7, 2013 at 02:06 pm

I wasn't aware of a $15 fee for Western Europeans to register with homeland security but it's disturbing because when I went to western Europe, I was treated with such respect and politeness by passport control. Shameful.

Next, dealing with a complex airport: My elderly Ukrainian inlaws who speak 3 works of English (that's it!) were able to navigate CDG all on their own including dealing with a missed connection and flagging down a Russian speaking Air France representative (we wrote the airline a very nice thank you letter). Their FIRST flight in 50 years and first international flight. It's not that difficult to follow the signs to your gate even if you have to go through a tram and passport control. After all, they have little choice.

Getting from NYC to DC: I'm surprised a saavy traveler such as this didn't just schedule Amtrak to begin with. It's a scenic trip and probably faster than dealing with getting to a NYC airport and going through security. And there's always boltbus and megabus but you have to be careful about when you leave or you get stuck at rush hour at the Delaware border at the interstate construction and toll booths.

@PK: I certainly looked into both bus and Amtrak. Amtrak tickets were over $200 each (more than a week in advance) and I just could not stomach a 5hr Megabus trip followed by another hour to the end of the Metro Orange line. Dulles was too convenient. And with frequent flights to IAD and DCA as a back-up, I felt it was worth the gamble.

I suppose I over-dramatize the airport experience, but I still wish I was there!

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