Flying Without Entitlement

I’ve mentioned or hinted at in the past that I’m an American Airlines kid. My dad has been with the company for over 25 years now. One of the benefits of being a family member of someone who works for the airlines is that we get flying benefits.  Yes, that means we get to “fly free”, but not as a ticketed passenger. If you don’t know, there are two ways to fly. You can purchase a ticket, which pretty much guarantees you a seat on an airplane or you can fly standby, which means you only get a seat on the airplane if there’s an open seat.

Flying standby means you get put on the standby list. Passengers on the standby list don’t get processed on a “first come first serve” basis exactly, but rather by priority. There are different levels of priorities that passengers can have, and usually passengers using rewards programs, passengers with emergencies, passengers who got bumped from previous flights, etc. tend to get higher priorities. On the other hand, people flying standby with employee flight benefits are on the lower end. And since I’m over the set age for a family member for American Airlines, I have to fly at the lowest priority AND it costs money (at severe discount, and it docks off that price from my dad’s pay check). The nice thing is…aiming for first/business class seats cost just as much as a coach class seat. So clearly I try to aim high.

(I will say as an aside, you don’t need to have flight benefits to fly standby)

For 95% of my life, I’ve been flying standby because of my dad’s flight benefits. We’re always one of the last passengers to board the plane, we’re always getting bumped from flight to flight, and there were a few times where we have had to sleep at the airport terminal overnight because we couldn’t catch a flight. Crazy.

Even Tom Hanks has to do it for certain movie roles

In the past several months, I’ve had multiple trips to Japan. Fortunately, my company pays for my tickets and my project gives my team and I permission to get Business Class tickets. It’s a weird feeling for me to be a ticketed passenger. And boarding first because of Business Class and rewards status. And use of the nice lounges. It’s really nice to be able to experience the other side of flying with these business trips.

You see, what prompted me to write this blog post is a particular comment that another passenger made. I was settling into my Business Class seat on a flight home from Narita (NRT) back in May. Because Business Class gets to board before the Economy Class passengers, I basically get to see everyone else pass me as I’m settling in. I was just sitting reading my book as I heard a passenger say to another, in a sort of sassy and snarky way:

“Wow look at these seats, man. Our seats suck in the back. Look at all these special people with their special seats.”

I didn’t look up from my book, but that comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I wasn’t offended or anything.

But it gave me pause to think about the circumstances at which I’m able to have such special seats. I mean, honestly…it’s my job that pays for this kind of seat. There’s nothing that I’ve done to merit that I need to have Business Class seats. On top of that, I absolutely had no idea at the beginning of the year (or even when I started my job with this new team that I didn’t put myself in) that I would get to travel to Japan as frequently as I already have.  In other words, I didn’t place myself in this position to be able to have a Business Class seat. It’s very much a nice-to-have.

So that passenger’s comment made me think about how grateful I am to have this opportunity to fly this way. And I would be just as content flying on +12-hour flights in Economy Class (via standby, and I’ve done it before for trips to the Philippines).

I actually really like flying standby almost moreso than flying with Business Class tickets. It’s very, very adventurous because it is so uncertain sometimes. Each time I fly standby and am able to get a seat on a plane, I can’t help but feel grateful for the ticket and to get on a plane.

Lol, there was this one time that I went to Connecticut for a dear friend’s wedding. On the way back, I couldn’t catch a plane home. So I did some research for flights available to me as a standby and invented my itinerary as I went. In the end, I flew from Connecticut to Chicago to Arkansas. Then I spent the night in Arkansas (yay Kayak-ing up a hotel and car rental) and took the first flight out from Arkansas to home Monday morning.  You see, if I were a ticketed passenger, i would’ve never gone that route! And I’ve never been to Chicago and Arkansas until that point!

I also really like flying standby because I fly without entitlement. I’m often the last passenger on the plane. Use of Admiral’s Clubs and lounges are not included as I’m not a member or have a ticketed business class ticket. I don’t earn miles. I often get the least ideal of seats when I finally get on the plane. There’s always the uncertainty of being able to even get on a plane. Just to get the ticket to get on is good enough, and that’s what’s worth the sufferings of travel. Everything else is a bonus! I don’t need or deserve hot mixed nuts, complimentary alcohol, gourmet meals at all, choice of gourmet meals, seats that lie flat, a mattress I can put on top of my lie-flat seat, complimentary use of an airline-provided cardigan to wear while on board in case I get cold, airport lounge access because of Business Class tickets, priority boarding and luggage check-in, complimentary use of noise-canceling headphones, 13”+ widescreens for my seat, and the list goes on.

I’m not entitled to the things that are available to me as a ticketed (and Business Class) passenger. But they are available to me because of my current blessed and fortunate circumstances that I didn’t purposefully put myself in.

And because I’m not entitled, I am more fully aware of my sense of gratitude for these opportunities.

That awkward moment when I apparently hit Platinum and get to board the plane first!…in the very back. And here I am working on this very blog post.


The Terminal // Blog –


2 thoughts on “Flying Without Entitlement

  1. Pingback: The Three Ways I Can Fly | En Fuego

  2. Pingback: Travel As A Non-Escapism | En Fuego

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