I thought I was up to speed with airport terminology, but on a recent trip to the US, I came across an expression which was new to me – a travel class simply known as stand-by. I discovered it when I missed my connection, despite allowing a two-and-a-half-hour gap, because my British Airways flight from Heathrow was delayed 1 hour and 45 minutes. When we arrived at Dallas Fort Worth we were given another seat on the next available flight, but to actually guarantee a seat, we were told we would have to pay for it, along with the added pleasure of paying extra to check our bags. When the American Airlines agent realised we were not completely happy to pay for our flight again, she said we could go on stand-by. When asked why you can’t just have a seat we have already paid for, she just gave some long-winded unconvincing answer, which roughly translated means ‘preference is given to people who are willing to pay the dollar’. If you don’t want to pay, there’s always stand by. If you accept stand-by, you get a ticket, but you are given the feeling that it’s just a token and you’re not really likely to be going anywhere because, if the flight fills before your name reaches the top of the list, you’ll be put on the stand-by list of the next flight out - stand-by is perfectly targeted to give you enough insecurity so you’ll cough up the cash. If you do hold out, you are left to play a waiting game - and boy don’t they just keep you waiting. It’s only once the last of the mosquitoes has flown though the open cabin door, the names of stand-by ticketholders are called out. Yes, named and shamed to the rest of the passengers, who are now buckled up and sitting comfortably. When you make your way tentatively through the cabin, you discover you have the middle seat in a row of three with the biggest person you have ever seen in the aisle seat, so the visit to the toilet you put off while waiting in the departure lounge because you didn’t want to miss your name being called, is now not going to happen. On top of that, because all the overhead bag space has been filled to bursting, your cabin bag is taken off somewhere down the back of the plane. So, unless you think quickly you won’t be able to grab your phone and headphones to listen to some music to take your mind off your full bladder. As well as total discomfort you are guaranteed not only to be the last on the plane, but the final passenger to trudge off – long after the last of the now blood-gorged mosquitoes has made its way back out the cabin door – the only other blood sucker to benefit from stand-by seats.
Playing the waiting game
You are named and shamed to the rest of the passengers, who are now buckled up and sitting comfortably