Flying Standby: A Blessing or a Curse?

I think the time is now to spill the beans about my life of travel. No, I don’t make millions. Nope, I didn’t find a mysterious bag of benjamins. I simply fly for free [minus the simply].

Ryan and I owe our lucky life of free or nearly free airfare to Ryan’s father, who has worked for United Airlines for 20 years. After flying with United every 1-2 weeks for half a year now, I have no complaints. United employs a wonderful workforce.

The major downside of this perk is our standby status. We can only fly if spots are available on a flight. Bad weather days or the random late flight can change the seats available from the  bouncing positive numbers to a dwindling negative within minutes.

Flying standby proves to be risky sometimes when we must change our destination the day of our trip or simply spend a rough and restless night sleeping in the airport terminal. This is a reason a vacation changes from Peru to Hawaii.  This causes us to miss the exact event we were flying for in the first place.

The inspiration to vent in regards to the question of the value of standby is the fact in which Ryan and I are waiting in limbo at this very moment. We have two itineraries: two international destinations we may or may not visit. Our final destination is Corsica, France. We are determined to hike the hardest trail in Europe, the GR 20, which is in Corsica.

Please refer to this blog to read more about our two week long hike on this beautiful and treacherous island: trip:

United flies to a number of European cities but not directly to Corsica. We are in a pickle to determine what city we might fly to because the available spots on the flights have been filling up fast.

Evaluation time is here. Standby status: blessing or curse?



Based on the flights at the time:

1.5 weeks ago: We are going to Milan. Milan it is!

1 week ago: We are now going to Rome. Do like the Romans do!

4 days ago: Let’s look into Paris…

2 days ago: Could Barcelona work?

1 day ago: Aight, London calling…

12 hours ago: I think I always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower anyway!

3 hours ago: Let’s just see if we get on the flight to Paris but keep Milan in mind….

At this very moment, we have two plans: one for flying into Paris and the other for flying into Milan. What a life, right? What a stressful, spontaneous life I freakin’ have to deal with.

Would I rather pay thousands of dollars instead of endure spontaneous and spotty plans?



If we fly into Paris, we will then take a bus to the other airport in Paris and then fly to Calvi, Corsica. If we fly into Milan, we will take a train from Milan to Livorno, Italy. From Livorno, we will take a ferry to Corsica.

Which one will we end up taking? No clue. Don’t even ask me how we are getting back to the states either, its too early to tell. The truth of our travel plans will be revealed at the airport.



Yes, we must be present at each potential flights terminal. We must be dress code approved. Yes, I said dress code. The standby must look presentable. Males should wear collared shirts. Females shouldn’t wear any shorts or skirts shorter than three inches above the knee. Demeanor must look clean and groomed. No plastic flip flops. No spandex.

If you read any of my blogs, you know Ryan and I are backpackers. We carry everything in a backpack no matter what the destination. Now, do you know how stinkin’ (and I truly mean stinkin’) hard it is to look clean and groomed when you have been backpacking Hawaii for 6 days or hungover from a ridiculous weekend in New Orleans? I do envy those who can wear pajamas and slippers to their flight.

Would I pay for a ticket to wear whatever the hell I want?





If a seat proves empty on a full flight, you bet your ass your seat will be located in the emergency exit row. Those who frequent themselves with air travel know the emergency seat does not lean back. The emergency exit row will invite you in with more leg room until you realize your ability to lean back has been compromised.

You think: this won’t be so bad. Only five hours to go right? Forget about leaning back to sleep.

I’ll tell you the trick of the trade: lay on your tray table and hope and pray the lucky ticket holder in front of you doesn’t test the depth of which their chair can lean back. Good luck. How am I suppose to save everyone on this plane if mental rest and is so hard to accomplish?

Would I pay for a ticket to escape the grasp of the exit row?




I might poke fun at the way I travel but I can’t deny the overwhelming verdict that flying standby is a BLESSING.

At one point, I was flying every single week. Texas, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, and now, Europe. I created a life to withstand the spontaneity. I don’t spend my money on booze or clothes or eating out. I work for myself so I won’t have to miss a shift or piss off the boss.  My passion to venture drives my budget, my flexibility, and my patience. The listed moans and groans of standby simply curse the blessing. The blessing in which I still have the power to go wherever I want, whenever I want, in any direction.

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