After a few days in Northern Ireland, I had a further week off work as Dina & I have been invited to her cousin’s wedding in Dallas, Texas, U-S-A, U-S-A (sorry, I just can’t resist). This trip has been on the schedule for many months, however, this trip was definitely a first for me as we decided to fly ‘stand-by’. To those of you who don’t know, ‘stand-by’ the process where you basically put your self on the list to fly in case there are any empty seats on the plane. If there is space & you’re high enough up the list, you fly… no space & you don’t. It is also much, much cheaper than buying a ticket. Dina has a long history of flying ‘stand-by’ successfully & so I agreed to give it a go.
At 0400 on Thursday morning, the alarm goes off & we jump the bus to Dublin Airport… hoping to catch the 1000 flight to Chicago, before connecting on to Dallas. In a final check on availability on Wednesday night, Dina discovered that the flight looked pretty full, but there are always a few who don’t show (something which airlines know and try to overcome by over selling the flight, a process which certainly got a lot of bad press in the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s but I’m not sure it’s actually against the law??). With this in mind, we arrived at the check in counters of American Airlines in the airport.
In terms of our listing for ‘stand-by’, Dina has a higher priority than I do as her mother used to work for American Airlines and has benefits, one of which include a registered ‘next-of-kin’ as well as wider family list (of up to half a dozen people or so). As Dina is the registered ‘next-of-kin’ and I’m on the family list, she had a ‘D2’ categorisation, I had a ‘D3’ categorisation.
At the check-in desk, Dina was invited to proceed through as she was definitely on the flight (the flight itself was delayed by almost an hour)… I was told to come back at 0830, so we headed off for breakfast… my gut feeling was that I wasn’t getting on the plane. We headed back down & I went through the first security screening – a Q&A from an airline official the likes of which I’ve never seen before. He asked me everything from what was in my bags, to how long I’d owned the bags… and cheekily (in my humble opinion) he asked me when I entered Belfast (outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland), as well as when I’d entered the country.
The next step was to wait.
After about 20 minutes, the lady in charge came over & said I wasn’t getting on the flight and that I should go to the ticketing desk & ‘roll-over’ on to the next day’s waiting list. I’ll be honest, it was a sullen walk… I have never been refused access to a flight before for any reason and this hurt. It was doubly bad because Dina was going to be on the plane & heading off to Dallas without me.
At the ticketing desk, we started proceedings, only for the Airline lady to come over smiling… to tell me that there was one seat left (somehow?!) and that I would be getting on the flight!! Smiles all around!! We made our way back over to the check-in desks and as I was around 5 yards short, the lady’s phone began to ring. “Where is she?” she said down the handset & I knew immediately. Someone had turned up late & I was back off the flight.
This time it hurt twice as much… there’s nothing worse than having hope pulled out from under you (years of watching Northern Ireland has taught me this painfully). I had been beaten by someone turning up late, for a delayed flight. Ouch.
So back to the ticketing desk for me. Whilst we were there, I asked Dina to go & ask the lady what time I should arrive at the following day… Dina never came back. Apparently, the lady spotted Dina and scolded her for still being on the wrong side of security and told her to go immediately or she’d have her bags taken off the plane. Dina had no choice but to go. I spent the next 5 minutes waiting for her to come back from her 30 second errand before discovering the text message on my phone. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse my girl was taken away from me without a proper ‘goodbye & safe travel’s’.
I had to thank my tiredness for getting me through the journey home & the waiting in Belfast. I slept most of the day truth be told and headed to bed early. Nothing of consequence happened other than me managing to watch the highlights of the third test on the TV.
On Friday things went considerably better. From the moment I arrived at Dublin Airport and spoke to the first Airline lady I had a positive vibe. To be fair, I probably had a good bit of sympathy from the crew after yesterday’s debacle with the ‘yes / no’ carry on. I was asked to wait for 20 minutes and then without prompting, the wee blonde eastern European lady came over to me smiling & telling me that I’d get on!!
After a smaller security Q&A than yesterday, I went through security, headed for the American “pre-screening” and apparently entered US soil outside Dublin once I’d given a fingerprint or 10 and went through a second scan (American Customs apparently). Despite all of this, I still had no seat number, so I was starting to feel a bit nervous. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. ‘Stand-by’ passengers were called forward, I was checked in and boarded for the 7-ish hour flight (with limited entertainment!!).
We arrived in Chicago a little late, but not too bad for my connecting flight… which again, I was booked on ‘stand-by’ for. I was actually quite confident of getting on this flight. Silly me. At the gate I got chatting to a guy called Eric who was a ‘stand-by’ regular… and when they put up the listing for standby I was way down the list, around 19th. Sure I moved closer to the top, but the flight was nearly full, so I headed to the next flight gate. This time I was 22nd on the list (something which peeved me no end, as instead of getting priority as I was being rolled over, I was getting bumped by Executive Card holders… grumble, grumble).
So with flight 2 out of the question, Eric & I headed for a coffee shop & a chat, before heading to try flight number 3!! This time I was was 33rd on the list!! So I cracked. I was only going to be in the US for 5 days originally, with this flight trouble, I was looking at only having 3 days… so I asked how much it was to buy a ticket & paid. Sure it was expensive (though not as expensive as I thought it might be) but it meant I was getting to Dallas & still had my evening left.
The flight went on time, I got to the Car Hire centre & picked up my ridiculously small and yellow Chrysler ‘something or other’ and hit the road to the hotel to meet up with Dina. Over 24 hours later than I’d planned, it was good to check in at the hotel & see my girl.
Roll on the vacation!!