The airline employee standby game is fun, but it can be frustrating too. Unlike standing by as a revenue passenger with top tier elite status on United, where you can generally count on being accommodated on whatever flight you want to standby for, this is not the case with airline employees (and their friends...), who are among the last to clear.
Friday afternoon I was trying to get from Frankfurt to Dublin on Lufthansa on standby—key word, trying. The loads did not look bad earlier in the day—an A321 with 185 seats overbooked by three with three waitlisted and six standing by. So a colleague and I proceeded to the Senator Lounge about an hour before the flight, thinking our chance to make the flight was pretty good.
As a side note, travelers on staff/ID tickets with Lufthansa Miles & More HON, Senator, or Frequent Traveler status are permitted lounge access even when standing by. Star Gold members from other programs are not granted access.
Back to the story. We get to the gate just before boarding has started and find the waitlist is now 29 people deep. I am number 18 on the list so it doesn’t look good. We add our names to the jump seat list and I run into a friendly Irish-American Lufthansa FA I sat next to on my Lufthansa flight to Dublin last June. She doesn’t remember me (oy vey) but I remembered her—what a flirt she was to the crew and gate agents and how she was a woman who seemed to get what she wanted.
She was below me on the waitlist, but I leaned over to my colleague and said, “Mark my words. She will get on this flight.” She was having a nice chat with some of her other colleagues standing by for seats and perched only a few feet from podium, trying to include the Lufthansa Flight Manager (essentially the head gate agent) in her conversation.
In the end, she got a seat and my friend and I did not. Of course.
Now I’m not complaining—it could have been that the waitlist screen was just displaying priority incorrectly. But I have to doubt it. As I have mentioned before, for all the talk of Lufthansa and rules, Lufthansa is often willing to bend them when necessary and here it seems the gate agent was taking care of her own.
So I spent the next four hours back in the Senator Lounge. My colleague was able to catch an Aer Lingus flight that departed about an hour before the late Lufthansa flight, but I am glad I held back—the Lufthansa flight, though also overbooked, went out with open seats and I scored an exit row and an open seat next to me. While my friend paid 2EUR for a bottle of water, I enjoyed a Greek salad and all the beverages I wanted courtesy of Lufthansa.
Meanwhile, six of my other colleagues were trying to standby for Lufty’s late flight to Beirut to attend the wedding of one of our former colleagues. Due to high loads and a weight restriction on the flight, they missed it and were unable to attend the wedding. They had already tried to catch the morning flight to BEY and failed.
That’s the sad reality of flying standby. It can be great—you can go just about anywhere in the world if you work for an airline (thanks to partner agreements), but you can never count on getting a seat. If you really need to be somewhere, it is wise to purchase a ticket because you really are at the bottom of the waitlist totem pole, as so many of us found out on Friday.