Flying By the Seat of Our Pants

Our 22 year-old son just started working for United Airlines. 

It’s a terrific job that he is enjoying and we are so proud of him. Beyond the benefit of kvelling about one’s son, his job offers parents “flight benefits”. This means that Mike and I get to fly stand-by for free on United flights. It’s a totally amazing benefit and frankly a little unbelievable.

As we planned our trip to Singapore we decided we would take advantage of this benefit. This meant that as we embarked on the largest trip of our lives we had no plane tickets and our departure was dependent on ever changing stand-by lists which were beyond our control.

While we hoped to save a lot of money I definitely paid a bit of an emotional price. In the weeks preceding our flight to Singapore I watched the seat availability like a hawk logging into the United system 2-3 times a day to see how the seat counts were changing. 

We really wanted to fly “Polaris” which is United’s international business class. The flight was 16.5 hours and the idea of being able to lay down was tantalizing. About a week in advance there were 18 seats in Polaris so I was hopeful, then 16 then 12 then 13. We had our fingers crossed. Then the day before the Polaris seat count dropped to 2. At the same time our priority on the stand-by list fell as more tenured employees, parents and retirees requested the flight. We went from being second and third on the list to 7th to 12th. It was not looking good and even less good for the next day and days after. 

We decided to let go of the Polaris dream and just “go for it”, taking any available seat. We headed to the airport unsure what would await us. We were assigned seats in economy. The good news was that the flight was not full so we would likely have empty seats next to us and we had mentally prepared for a long flight in the back of the plane. 

Then, about 30 minutes before boarding two seats opened up in Premium Plus which is kind of like domestic business class. Larger seats, more recline and a foot rest. And, better yet, we would be sitting together. Woo hoo! We were thrilled!!

We boarded our flight, settled in and enjoyed the “friendly skies” all the way to Singapore.

Thank you Jacob and United!

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