Galley Gossip: How flying standby can make you religious

Dear Heather,
I read your post about flight attendant buddy passes and I think you forgot the best part about flying standby. You become a much more religious person. Why? Because when you fly standby you tend to pray a lot…
It all starts when your alarm goes off at 2 AM. “Please God let the loads on the aircraft be light and let me be the first on the stand by list.”
Then when you get to the airport and see your name on the list, you start the second round of prayers. “Please Lord let me make this flight, please!” Most likely you won’t make the flight, but you will get rolled over to the next flight, and so on and so on until you FINALLY hear what you’ve been wanting to hear all day…your name called! YES!
By this time it’s usually late in the afternoon. You’re given a boarding card and immediately start praying again, “Thank you Lord Jesus for this boarding pass.” You make a mental note to go to church more often!
While opening and shutting several full overhead bins, the flight attendant makes the PA that everyone must take a seat so the flight can depart on time. You begin to panic and pray for an empty bin, because as a non-rev you were the very last person to board and the flight is full, full, full. After you find a bin, and thank God, you take your seat, a middle seat located in the last row, and though you should be happy and jumping for joy, you’re not out of the woods just yet! In fact, as an experienced non-rev standby passenger you will not stop praying until that cabin door is closed!

Oh no! Now the gate agent is walking down the aircraft aisle. The praying and sweating are going into overdrive. You try not to make eye contact with the agent as he/she walks down the aisle. The praying continues at a furious pace, “Please don’t let the gate agent come to me, please God, please!”

Your heart is racing faster and faster as the agent gets closer and closer and that’s when it happens. He/she stops, looks you square in the eye, and says, “we have a revenue passenger that needs your seat. Please collect your belongings and follow me.”

Then it’s on to the next gate where the praying and waiting start all over again!

Mark, an optometrist / wannabe flight attendant

Dear Mark,

Holy Moley, Mark, I will pray that you never have to non-rev travel again! But you’re right, non-reving is a stressful experience, one I dread each and every month, which is why I almost always buy a seat whenever I travel with my three-year-old son.

Whenever people find out I’m a flight attendant and start hinting around for a buddy pass, I just shake my head and think to myself, are you crazy! Because seriously, it’s just crazy to non-rev when you can buy a ticket for cheap on-line for cheap these days. Especially if you prefer to actually arrive at your destination, not spend the entire day rolling from gate to gate.

And now a question for you, Mister Wannabe Flight Attendant, why, oh why, would you want to be a flight attendant? I know you’re crazy because you’ve been non-reving – by choice, but just how crazy are you? Please tell me this flight attendant thing is just a fantasy and not something you’d actually do, not when you’ve got a fantastic job already. I mean do you really want to wear the pin striped apron and serve chocolate chip cookies at 30,000 feet? Because honestly, I wouldn’t mind wearing the white robe with the thesescope while asking people to read the last line.

Hmmm…are you thinking what I’m thinking? Maybe, just maybe, we should get together (during Halloween of course!) and swap uniforms. Call me.

Thanks for the letter. I couldn’t have explained non-rev travel better.

Happy Travels,

Heather, a wannabe doctor who will be praying to get on a flight next week

Photo courtesy of (meditation) Joe Shlabotnik, (doctor) Curt

GALLEY GOSSIP: 10 ways to be REALLY annoying at the airport

1. BE A PERV – Get frisked. Several times. That’s right, just keep going back and forth through airport security. When TSA looks at you funny during the pat down, grin mischievously and say, “oh yeah, that feels good.” Make sure to mean it when you say it. If you don’t get frisked, just smile and tell them you think they missed a spot. Use your eyes to show them the spot. You know the one. See how many times you can do it and actually get away with it.

2. FLIRT – Walk around, linger at a gate, and when you find that perfect someone stare intensely. Don’t blink. When they finally catch you staring, walk on over and use the flight delay / cancellation / on time boarding as an ice breaker to get to know the one you’ve been scaring. Go for it! Ask that person out on a date. You can go to the food court for coffee. If you still like each other after coffee, grab a bite for dinner. Take it a step further and try speed dating.

3. EAT – Don’t you know that calories don’t count at the airport? So go ahead and enjoy. No place to sit? Have a picnic on the floor. At the gate. Make sure you’re surrounded by passengers before you sit down. Use nearby luggage as a makeshift table. Be romantic by bringing along a date, perhaps the one you picked up at the gate. (Scroll back up to #2)

4. CALL YOUR MOTHER – Or better yet, call another mother, like my mother. Make sure you’re wearing the blue tooth when telling the mother of your choice what you’re doing, and not doing, and make sure to give details, lots and lots of details. Take it up a notch and explain to her, very loudly, exactly what the passenger sitting next to you is doing. Continue the play by play for as long as possible.

5. READ – Out loud. Help others around you catch up on the latest celebrity gossip. Make sure to let everyone know that Jen is pregnant with twins and that John Mayer is the father. Ask those seated nearby what they have to think, and the let me know whether or not they believe Jen is finally over Brad. While discussing these oh so important details, don’t forget to prop those feet up on your suitcase. Better yet, use another passenger’s suitcase. When you’re done, get out a notebook and make a list of things you think Jen should do, as well as the things she shouldn’t do, and share it with those around you. Don’t forget to fill me in.

6. ANSWER A PAGE – When someone is paged over the airport intercom, drop everything you’re doing, your magazine included, put your hands over your ears and cry out, “I’m hearing voices again!” Another option, “Leave me alone!” “It wasn’t me! I didn’t do it this time!” Or how about just pretending you’re the one who was just paged, every single time someone is paged, and take the call. See if anyone notices.

7. BOTHER THE AGENT. Whenever you see the agent about to make a PA, stand up, walk over to the counter and mimic the agent as he/she makes the announcement. When the announcement is over, make sure to ask “When are we going to leave? Can’t we just get a new airplane?” Don’t forget to use the word ridiculous as often as possible whenever addressing someone wearing blue. In fact, just yell it out whenever you see a uniform passing by. Even when you’re not at the airport.

8. PLAY A GAME – How about, What’s in your bag? Guess what other people pack by pointing at a bag and stating the contents inside the bag out loud. When you’re done, open the bag to see if you were right. Not fun enough? Okay, see if you can steal your neighbors food when they’re not looking. (Take it on your picnic and share it with your date) Bonus points if you can snag a drink, too. After that try having a staring contest with your neighbor, but don’t tell the neighbor, only inform them who won. Next you can practice breathing. Swallowing. Sleeping. Disappearing.

9. WORK OUT. Use the moving sidewalk like a treadmill and the escalator as a stair stepper. Make sure to wear athletic shorts and use your tube socks as a sweatband while listening to your Ipod. Run back and forth through the terminal carrying as many bags as possible and scream out, “I’ll be damned if I pay that fee!”

10. TAKE A RIDE – Stand smack dab in the middle of the moving sidewalk and go for a nice long leisurely ride while taking in the scenery. Never mind all those people anxious to get to their gates standing right behind you. When you get to the end, double back and do it again. Or find a wheelchair and get rolling. Wrap a luggage tag around your arm and ride the baggage claim conveyor belt. Have your travel companion arrive with a luggage cart, pick you up, load you on, and roll you away. Don’t come back. Take the bus next time.

10 1/2. HUG A FLIGHT ATTENDANT. Make sure to announce that it’s hug a flight attendant day and that you’ll be giving out hugs throughout the flight. Why? Because you know the crew has been wearing the same polyester uniform for days, because they’re not getting paid for the delay, because you really do know it’s not their fault, and because they’ve already heard that story, the one about your worst flight, which happened to be your last flight, or was it this flight? You can’t remember, so you’ll just tell it again.


Galley Gossip: A question about losing booked seats on the airplane

Dear Heather,

I have a question. We have a flight booked to Orlando with an airline that has seat assignments. Twice they have changed our seats so that we are not sitting together. The first time we were able to have it corrected. But this time, I guess the flight is completely booked and so far they have not been able to find us two seats together. My concern is that my mother is a senior and afraid to fly. Is there anything I can do? And why do the airlines do this? We booked months in advance and used this airline to make sure we would be sitting together. We flew to Orlando last year and did not have this problem. Does this happen often? Just wondering and looking for advice.

Thank you.


Dear Sue,

I’m sorry to hear of your troubles with the airline. What happened to you is not right and unfair. Now I could tell you why I believe this keeps happening, but the truth is I don’t know for sure, so I emailed your question to my friend who is an agent for the same airline I work for at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Before I share what my friend, the agent, had to say, I just want you to know that I understand what you’re going through, having to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to sit next to your elderly mother, as I have a two year-old I travel with regularly. When traveling on my flight benefits, the odds of getting two seats together are slim to none. There’s nothing worse than having to beg and bribe people to switch seats. Talk about stress.

Sure, you can ask the flight attendant to help you, but due to the fact that the flights are staffed with minimum crew, and the crew is busy checking emergency equipment, setting up the galleys, greeting passengers at the door, and dealing with all that carry-on luggage that will not fit into the overhead bin, the flight attendants will not be able to assist until the boarding process is over. Boarding, by far, is the busiest time for a flight attendant, which is why you probably won’t see one until seconds before the aircraft door is shut, which just adds to your stress. You don’t need more stress. You’ve been through enough already.

Now here’s what my friend, the agent, had to say about your lost seats, and what you can do about it in the future…

Yes, it happens more often than not, unfortunately. Some of the time it is an equipment change, meaning the original aircraft scheduled is switched out for one of many reasons (a completely different panel of Q & A’s). When this happens all of the reserved seats are dropped and need to be re-assigned. If there is a schedule change (sometimes people are unaware of it because it may only be by a few minutes), this will cause seat assignments to drop, too. This is probably one of the most frustrating situations for not only passengers, but for agents as well,because most of the time the solution cannot be reached until you are standing at the gate prior to boarding the flight.

My suggestion: call the airlines and inform them that your mother needs wheelchair assistance (Even if she doesn’t, because she is elderly). At the time of the call, ask again if there are seats together because of the fact she will need assistance. If they are unable to switch them over the phone, don’t just take the closest seats together (especially if one is a middle seat). Instead opt to take a window and an aisle. Once you get to the airport and remind them you need a wheelchair, ask again if they can change seats. Most likely they will advise you to ‘check at the gate’. Please be patient. Although I realize this is frustrating, it’s not over yet.

Once you get to the gate, go to the gate agent. The gate agent has the ability to unblock seats and if willing to help, could page some people to switch a window next to your mom for the window you are holding, for example. If all else fails, once you get onboard the aircraft (and by the way, if your mom takes the wheelchair ride, you’ll be boarded first), ask the people seated near you or near your mom to swap seats.

As an agent, I see this day in and day out, and I sympathize with your aggravation. My grandparents had a similar situation last year when traveling for the holidays. I gave them the same advice after they were getting upset when they weren’t getting anywhere over the phone. I urged them to be patient and polite (agents do not respond well to screamers) and ask at the points I suggested. Sure enough, hours later, they arrived safely and at the last minute – they were about to give up – were able to swap seats and sit together on the flight after all.

I hope that helps, Sue. Thanks for writing and good luck!


Photos courtesy of Joshuacw (top of page) and Viviandnguyen (above)