Standby flights have their positives and negatives. Let’s start with the cons.
Uncertainty of travel, the possibility of traveling to numerous other airports, and the possibility of missing your flight. The benefits – cheap tickets and the possibility of flying first class. So many possibilities, not many certainties. A ticket that would normally cost $1800-plus can be bought for about $800.
Whenever possible I always fly standby when traveling internationally and for a few young recent graduates looking for adventure without a strict schedule standby is perfect. Robbin and my tentative flight itinerary looked like this:
BWI -> JFK (stay overnight) -> Tokyo Narita -> Shanghai-Pudong.
Everything went according to plan until the connection from Tokyo to Shanghai. We arrived at the gate hesitantly for the crowd that was amassing could have fit onto two 747 Boeing planes. I approached the counter anxiously. “Are there any available seats for this flight?” The attendant quickly glanced at our tickets and told me there was no way we were getting on this flight.
“There is a flight going to Beijing that leaves at 6:55. If you hurry you might be able to make that one,” she told me as quickly as she had looked at our tickets.
I glanced at my watch. 6:20.
We grabbed our bags and moved as quickly as two people could wheeling around luggage. We arrived at our new gate and the attendant took our passports and boarding passes and began vigorously working on getting us to the capital. She told me there was going to be a small cost associated with printing out the new tickets. I gave her the thumbs up, meiwenti, no problem. She then informed me there may be a chance we won’t make the flight before she can print the new passes.
“What are the chances we can get on this flight?” I questioned.
She was too busy to pay notice to my question. Phones went off, papers were printing and people were boarding, the line was shortening. Time was running out to get our passes. I fiddled with my passport and Robbin swiftly used the last remaining Wi-fi before our possibility of flying to cancel our reservation in the hostel in Shanghai. The website read: No Refunds Available for this Reservation.
“Sir?” Oh no what now? “Here are your boarding passes. Welcome aboard.” A sigh of relief came over the both of us. When traveling abroad, particularly on standby, you get used to things not working out and find ways to deal with the situation.
When I traveled to Taiwan I learned to adopt a Taoist mentality. Do not search for ways to work things out for you will never find the solution. Let the solutions come to you and you will always prosper.
We may not be on our way to Shanghai like we had planned, but we we’re getting into China.
Vadim Rubin is an ethnic Belarussian learning to speak Mandarin Chinese. He is a coach, teacher, linguistic, and an aspiring world traveler and journalist. As an avid volleyball player and coach he spends a majority of his time on the court with sweaty volleyball junkies. Off the court he enjoys to travel, write, and teach English as a second language. Last summer he traveled to Taiwan to study Chinese and wrote about his adventures in his blog: http://yourinnrchild.blogspot.com/. This summer Vadim is, yet again, making the half-world trip to Nanjing, China to continue his study of the Chinese language and to write about his adventures.