Sunday, September 14, 2014

Standby Travel

Gives me ulcers.

You can probably stop reading now.  
Yes we fly free, but what is the true cost??!  It seriously stresses me out.  

Out of all the trips we've done this past 5 months, only 1 trip have we flown on the flights we aimed for:

-Boston, Massachusetts
-Orlando, Florida
-Puerto Rico
-Portland, Maine (Our Stress Free Success!) - unless you count running into the middle of the road and jumping on a moving bus whilst folding the stroller between traffic in order to make it to the airport...
-Savannah, Georgia
-Los Angeles/Long Beach, California
-New Orleans, Louisiana
-Seattle, Washington
-St. Thomas

I know I am definitely not the most seasoned standby traveller you'll ever talk to, but in my few months I did learn a few things.  You just really have to

1.  Be flexible,
2.  Willing to split up
3.  Very polite

to be a good standby traveller. I've learned that gate agents have the power to do anything, to always pack pants, a sweater and socks for unexpected air-conditioned airport days, and to be sure you have a working and charged smart phone where you can login to check current status' so you can make quick, reasonable judgement calls. 

For me, on top of the uncertainty and stress of standby, is "pass riding" with a child.  Making sure she is safe, happy and comfortable in these environments is really stressful for me.  It wouldn't be AS bad if I were just looking out for myself.  It's the times when she has diarrhea, is vomiting and/or throwing tantrums in the middle of the waiting area that make times really tough.  (All of those things have actually happened.)  But even without her- sitting at a gate after missing 5 consecutive planes, just praying that someone won't show up in time and that the flight attendant ahead of you will please maybe take the jump seat-- it's very stressful.  Especially when you're tired, hungry, and the prospect of paying for a car rental or hotel, or worse, a full fare last minute flight is very near on the horizon.

And here is the long story of coming back from the Virgin Islands:
When we left for St. Thomas, there were at least 10 open seats on the STT (St Thomas) to SJU (San Juan, Puerto Rico) leg.  Well the night before, there was only 1 seat open, with 1 standby listed before us.  BAHHH.  If we can’t get off St. Thomas we don’t have a hope of getting home! By the time we woke up, 2 seats had mercifully opened, so we left at 4:30am to make that early flight, giving ourselves an entire day to get back to JFK before work the following morning.  (The only other pass rider on our STT-SJU flight had been stuck on St. Thomas for 3 days trying to get out!!) 

So we made it to San Juan by 9am, the 9:30 to JFK was full, but there was a single seat open on the 10:30 flight.  For a variety of reasons I won't go into, we decided to send me.  So there was Scott and Tatum, ready to get on ANY PLANE that would get them closer to New York.  They missed 6 flights to JFK, 2 to Newark, 2 to Fort Lauderdale, 2 to Orlando, 1 to Jacksonville, 1 to Tampa, 1 to Chicago, and probably some more I'm forgetting.  With SO MANY options that day we assumed/hoped they would make it somewhere, and worst case scenario, get a hotel in Florida and take a 5am to LaGuardia, putting Scott to work on time.  Well, once they missed the very last flight of the day, they went out to the rental car I'd arranged from home, and drove from about 11:30pm- 2:30am across the island to Ponce, an airport where there were 2 open seats on the 5am flight.  The drive was really tough.  Navigating dark new roads, and an hour in, Tatum tells Scott "Dada, Tummy hurt!" and then started throwing up.  Her vomit launched so far forward that it hit him in the arm and got his leg.  Then he watched it splatter the middle console and later found her clothes wet and chunky and a puddle of puke in her carseat.  You can bet I was feeling realllly bad and guilty at this point that I wasn't there in Scott's place.  

He found a gas station (with bullet-proof glass thicker than we have in Harlem) and washed out as much of the car and carseat as he could, putting all the puke clothes/rags in a grocery bag.  We always pack grocery bags.  The security at Ponce airport wanted to know what was in and potentially open the puke bag, and Scott told them, "Go right ahead, that's my daughters puke bag!"  The man just sent it right on through.  Anyway, they did make the flight, arrived to JFK about 8:30 and was to work about 9:30am.  This was quite the dramatic, stressful and memorable event.  It's still too soon to laugh about it, but I have a hope that one day this will be more "memorable" and less ulcer-inducing.


Julie T said...

Ai , yi , yi! That almost gives me ulcers just reading this! 😬. This is how I would feel if I were experiencing what you did: 😱. This is how I would feel if I were the airline employee who might decide to open the puke bag:😵

Heather said...

I remember hearing this story when it was fresh, but rereading it in all its detail makes my stomach hurt for you. I am so amazed and impressed by your brave toddler travel. I get worried just traveling with littles when I have guaranteed tickets, I can't imagine having it be a question mark. So glad you got to take such good advantage of your time with Jet Blue, even if it did have a higher unexpected cost. Sick about the puke clothes. Wow.

Chelsea said...

Sounds like good memories had by all! ;)

Tara said...

Yikes, I think I would have just thrown the puke clothes away. poor Scott! I'm impressed you guys kept flying even after so many memorable experiences :)

Kimberly Moore said...

Oh my. This is definitely one for the books!! I can't even. You are so brave to only leave a day to get back. We get paranoid and usually leave 3 or 4 days to play the return game!

Sandra and Brent said...

This just made my stomach hurt. Oh. My. You are brave souls! Hope that this is as bad as it ever gets!

Unknown said...

I've found snickers for the gate agents to work well. They take their job as gods very seriously. Our worst time was getting stuck in Hawaii for 8 days. People think that sounds heavenly. They don't realize you're sitting at the airport for 8 full days