How to Fly Standby on Delta Airlines

Is it an art form? A science? Or just a lot of good luck charms and mysticism?

Personally I believe in the last option…

It’s not shocking that I have far more experience regarding the logistics of flying down under than I do domestically in my own country. For domestic travel I’ve been flying Southwest Airlines exclusively for the last few years, mostly because of the flexibility in their booking and re-booking options. For overseas travel I’ve used Qantas and Air New Zealand, and Jetstar (a subsidiary of Qantas) for travel between and within Australia and New Zealand. I am planning to travel the rest of the world in coming years, especially Japan and Europe, and am looking at other options for affordable travel with flexible options.

Airlines such as Delta can not only get me to just about any city or country in the world, but also have rather luxurious First or Business class sections on most of their flights, especially those overseas. My grand fantasy was to be able to use a Delta Buddy Pass to fly a red-eye from Seattle to New York City, on any date that I wished, in a comfortable, fully-reclinable first class seat and get fantastic rest so I could greet the early morning sunshine and the hustle and bustle of a fresh new day in Manhattan. The world would be at my finger tips, and I would be right there ready to conquer it. Like a boss.

My good friend and fellow outdoor-enthusiast, Danielle, the one who procured said buddy pass, is by now very used to my fantastic and glamorous views regarding my life, but didn’t want to burst my bubble right away. Unfortunately the buddy pass was not Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket I had been dreaming of. Instead of being greeted with cocktails and red carpets, I barely got to New York at all that night. I got a window seat, but I forgot my pillow and how cold airplane walls get, so I slept horribly and felt miserable and stiff when I arrived. Since my father had driven out to Long Island the morning before (so much for flexibility with my travel plans), I had to spend another hour and a half alone in transit getting out to see my relatives instead of bursting with energy and romping around in the busiest city in the country like it was my playground. Oh, and it was raining.

On the way back to Seattle I wasn’t able to get on the 9:30am or the 12:30pm flights from Albany to Detroit, but fortunately I got the very last seat on my only option from Detroit to Seattle. I had never been so happy to sit in a middle seat for five hours straight in all my life. I suppose my travel plans weren’t as flexible as I originally thought. I just wanted to wait until the last minute to confirm them. I clearly went about this all wrong, and I intend to learn from my experiences and do it the right way next time!

Rules for Success Regarding Standby Delta Travel:

1. Obtain Buddy Pass from close friend who is willing to check standby lists any time between 5am and midnight to see if going to the airport is even worth your while.

2. Dress well, look presentable and be polite.

3. Do not carry excess luggage. If possible, try not to check bags.

4. Don’t fly to Atlanta, unless your final destination is Atlanta.

5. Do not fly out of any airport from which you can see cows and pastures – this normally is an indication of smaller planes, and thus fewer total seats leaving the airport on any given day.

6. Try to have several exit strategies before leaving your home airport, to avoid having to pay for a hotel in a hub city.

7. Carry a good luck charm at all times. Personally I use a good luck lady bug that my mom gave me before I went to New Zealand.

8. Always be flexible with travel dates and/or destinations. If all other flights are overbooked, be willing to fly to Brazil. Hey, life is an adventure.

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November 28: Otra Vez

Things to remember: It’s not a rubbish bin, it’s a trash can; it’s not a chemist, it’s a drug store; look left when crossing the road. Ok, it’s spelled Center – I’m definitely in America.

Yesterday was perfect, but today I must have woken up on the wrong side of the air bed. Perhaps it’s my alternate reality Monday, or just Monday. As I type this, the Giants are losing. Definitely not my day. Continue reading

28 November: Flying in Style

There is never a good time to leave New Zealand. It just becomes an inevitability. The ski season is lively and fun, the rugby in the Spring time brought the world together, and the summer provides warmth and daylight for tramping, camping and exploring the world-famous landscape of the islands. I was just getting used to extended daylight hours, the conveniences of the city, and most importantly, the company of good friends in Auckland.

I couldn’t have asked for a better last day, a relaxing Sunday afternoon watching hockey with Brian and laying in the sunshine reading my book and watching my clothes dry. Even knowing that I had a posh comfy seat and complimentary champagne could not entice me to leave.

When the time did come to head to the airport Monday afternoon I was surprised by the extra room I had in my suitcase. Warm weather travel certainly beats hauling around ski gear! In the Duty Free shop I purchased a 1L bottle of 42 Below Feijoa vodka to add to my New Zealand vodka collection back home and continued to the Koru Club Lounge upstairs.

Air New Zealand’s business class lounge has a complimentary buffet as well as wine, beer, spirits and non alcoholic beverages for self-serve. The friendly staff was also available to make espresso drinks and provide assistance. They clearly knew I was coming because they had hockey on TV and a spinach, corn and tomato salad on their dinner buffet.

I was struggling to stay clear of eating too much dessert, but the mini pavlovas were my weakness! I followed up with a mochaccino before heading to my gate.

I got settled into my seat in what I call anti-social class and the flight attendant showed me how the seat rest and table worked. The man in the seat across from me offered to take a photo so I suppose it’s not entirely anti social though you don’t have someone right next to you.

I read up on some Kiwi news, drank some champagne and sparkling wine (to tell the truth I enjoyed the NZ sparkling wine more than the champagne) and committed myself quite enthusiastically to watching four and a half hours of parts one and two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My stipulation for watching the films was that I intended to watch them both sequentially, and this was the perfect opportunity!

I enjoyed my second round of dinner, though I was a bit confused by the diabetic meal I had requested. The entree was a smoked salmon, and in my meal they served prawns; I’m not certain how much more sugar salmon contains, but the prawns were certainly tasty. I selected the lamb as my main dish, and was disappointed when the flight attendant brought my special meal out. As tempting as the spinach looked, I asked if the meat was chicken or pork, and as I don’t eat white meat, requested the lamb dish instead. I think she may have been a bit irritated by that, but it was my last chance to have a nicely prepared medium rare lamb steak and I wasn’t about to give that up!

Quite overfull from the variety of food and drink in my stomach I experimented with laying my bed down, and at first found it a bit confusing the way the seat folds forward, like I was sitting in the back of an SUV. They provide quite nice bedding, and the seat does lie fully flat, parallel to the floor, something I do prefer to the beds on the Qantas flights which sit at a bit of an angle.

I enjoyed the movies, taking an intermission to change my clothes and brush my teeth, and fell asleep over the Pacific Islands.

Day 9: Birthday!

I made my attempt today at contacting biotech companies about careers in the best way I know how, by entering through the front door, stating my purpose, and speaking with someone representing the company who may be able to assist me. As I fully expected, they intended only to direct me to their careers website and not give me any further assistance. Life Technologies was definitely the most helpful and the woman at the front desk gave me the name of someone in HR, though I don’t actually have any way of contacting them other than calling the main line. Well, at least it’s a start, and they did take my resume in person. Continue reading