Sunday, October 24, 2010

A lot of time in jumpseats

Looking forward to November 1st and doing as little as possible.

I have about 20 hours left to fly between now and then. Fifteen from my line and 5 overtime. The good thing is the 5 hours is out of my domicile, not my TDY domicile.

Four of my friends planned a trip to Vegas over the weekend. My wife and I planned to go. It would be our first trip alone since having my daughter.

We wanted to leave Friday morning and return Sunday night. Well the National Rodeo Finals were in town over weekend. Flights out Sunday were overbooked in all directions.

Instead we planned to go out Thursday night and return Saturday night. My mother in law flew in to watch my daughter.

Thursday night flights began to fill out of nowhere. It wasn't looking good. My wife was really looking forward to going to Vegas as we used to go a lot....and were married there.

We gave ourselves two flights to get out. We both packed our clothes in my suitcase...this decision would later come to bite us.

Ten minutes to departure and the first flight was full, but a few passengers were not yet on board. The agent began calling names. They finally called my name. Just one seat open in the cabin....and the flight deck jumpseat. Done.

The flight crew was nice.  I wasn't looking forward to the jumpseat...especially on a narrow body.

I squeezed in and sat down. We arrived and were happy to have made it.

The flights back Saturday night were really open...about 60 seats between the last two flights.

Saturday afternoon around 2PM I checked the flights....something bad happened.

Turns out there were several cancellations. Suddenly everything was overbooked. We said goodbye to our friends and headed to the airport.

The standby list were incredibly long. Several revenue passengers in addition to non-revs. List was 50 deep and every flight was full. Time for a back up plan.

My wife and I have discussed this situation in the past. One where I could go (flight deck jumpseat) but she would have to stay behind. In 3 years on non-reving we have never had to execute such a plan.

She began looking at ways out of Vegas on Southwest. I looked at ways out via places Southwest flew. Finally found a way.

She called Southwest to list as a non-rev. I called my airline and arranged a ZED (Zonal Employee Discount) pass. Just about every airline participates in the ZED program. It's a set fee based on certain lengths. Staying in one zone and pay the one zone  fare. Going further, you pay the next zone length fare. Her flight for a one zone flight was a reasonable $40.

I heard my name called for the jumpseat. I saw a Southwest pilot trying to jumpseat as well. I knew the next flight 30 minutes later had no jumpseaters and gave the Southwest pilot the seat so I could sqaure away details for my wife.

She was a bit frazzled as this situation developed very quickly. We both knew if she didn't get out of Vegas Saturday night, there was no chance of getting out Sunday.

My name was called again and I had to leave. Problem....all her clothes were in my suitcase. I needed the suitcase so I could wash my clothes and commute to my TDY on Sunday. I quickly transferred clothes to my Ipad bag and gave her the bag sans my Ipad.

Even though it's my mainline carrier operating the flight, I still follow proper jumpseat procedure by asking the Captain for a ride. Done. I took my jumpseat (in a wide body....much more room!) and watched my wife through the window.

She had to quickly pay for her ZED pass and then make it over to the Southwest gates. She thankfully got a seat (Southwest is VERY nice to non-revs from other airlines).

Once I landed I got a text she sent previously asking if I could arrange for a hotel. I quickly made a reservation at a hotel using a discount code from a previous employer (La Quinta has great rates and nice rooms!).

I arrived at home at 10:30PM. My wife arrived at her hotel at 9:30PM. She would be leaving the next day at 6AM. I later told her that's how many of my overnights are. I arrive in the dark and leave in the dark, never seeing much beyond what's between the airport and the hotel.

This morning I woke up and began planning my commute. The morning flights were open, but I was beat, and wanted to spend time with my daughter. I realized I would likely end up in another jumpseat.

I picked my wife up from the airport at 10:15AM. She brought me back to the airport at 12:30PM.

Once again the flight was full. I was given the flight deck jumpseat again....on a narrow body.

Long flight. Great crew who even gave me one of their crew meals.

I work the next three days at my TDY domicile before finally heading home Wednesday evening or Thursday morning....depending on how tired I am....and the flight loads. I don't care to sit on a jumpseat if I can avoid it.

Oh...I was up quite a bit on Thursday night in Vegas.....downhill from there...made a good size donation to the local economy.

The standby list for flights out of Vegas on my mainline carrier is over 100 deep. Majority are non-rev's who will NOT be getting out tonight.

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