People look stunned when I tell them that we mostly fly for free within the continental U.S. I usually have to add that it is ‘stand by’. Sometimes things do not work out as planned, especially for a family of four travelling together. On a good day everyone gets on, has seats together, makes the flights listed for, and the luggage gets there, too. Let’s just say there are more bad trips, than good. The kind of long days being stuck somewhere, or even over night, that make you decide it might be a while before you take a trip again.
But on the slim chance that everything goes smoothly, it is an amazing benefit. There are still people in America that have never been on an airplane. We have been able to help family and friends get where they need to be. The airline lifestyle is ingrained in us. It shows in the two tiny travelers we are raising. Knowing that we can pick up and go anywhere has always been comforting. Leaving that life creates a lot of anxiety. Since my husband reenlisted, we only have a short period left until we are totally separated from the airline industry after 15 years. I do not like the way it sounds or feels.
As we contemplate moving to the west coast, there will come a time when we will no longer fly for free. It will also be the farthest west we have lived, and farthest away from family. It has been years since we actually had to buy a plane ticket. Welcome to the real world. I do not know how much we will like it.
It is always an adventure when we take a trip together; the things we see, the people we meet. When my husband wears his military uniform it is especially humbling as many people will come forward to say “thank you for your service.”
On our most recent trip the Captain, who works for the same airline that my husband is on a military leave from, made sure that our family was accommodated on a flight. Many times the gate agents simply want to forget about the non-rev’s standing by for a flight. He made sure that did not happen. It has been a while since I felt the camaraderie of one crew member looking out for another.
It is during these little trips we take that I notice stuff that other people probably would not. I know what sounds, chimes, and things that are happening mean, that nobody else does. I do silly things like say the public announcements to myself because I still have them memorized.
I think I will start listing my observances like this after each flight: Here are just a few from our most recent trip:
- First class lavatory is for first class passengers. When sitting in coach, even in the first few rows, you need to take yo ass to the back of the plane to pee.
- If the plane is broken, you do not want to fly anywhere on it ‘idiot in the row in front of me’ berating the crew- like they are happy about sitting here with you for four hours. Trust me, they are not.
- No, sir. Your bag is not going to fit, but why don’t you waste 15 minutes trying, and delay everyone else on board.
- What happened to ‘more leg room in coach’? As my knees hit the seat in front of me on the brand new Airbus 319. Sure, each seat has its own T.V. screen, but wait until the person in front of me reclines.
- Seeing our luggage being removed from the plane before we have even taken off is never a good sign. Flight cancelled. Never a good thing for a standby passenger. Back to the drawing board.
It’s a funny thing when you look back and recall certain moments you thought would last forever. They do not. Does this mean we will be regular passengers now?
I do not think I will ever be ready to let go.