Remember Standby? It was popular during the layaway - eight track - mimeograph era. Yep .... we fly standby today ... side by side with the poor college students, airline employees and homeless people. We're in the airline employee (retired) line. We're called the "non-revs". That basically means we are freeloaders who hang out at airports looking for hand outs.
Here's how it works:
Step 1: The non-rev checks the computer for possible "space available" flights. This may take up to four hours (if you are my wife). The first challenge is actually getting on the Delta website. I think the ticket agents must have the same challenge based on the lines at the airport and the amount of time it takes them just to type information.
Step 2: Once the information is found, the data is translated into English for the spouse's benefit. For example 101(179) means that 101 seats out of a total of 179 have been booked ... so there is space available for 78 more passengers. Often you see something like this -10(179). That means that the airline has oversold that flight by 10 seats ... hoping that 10 people don't show up. Isn't that special? Can you imagine another company doing that ... for example taking your money for a new television set and selling yours twice hoping you won't really pick it up?
Step 3: Listing your name(s) on the standby list. This just requires you to place your names on the computer so that when you get to the airport you will be in the standby queue. Our flights are usually at 6 in the morning or at midnight. Those are the only flights that usually have space available.
Step 5: Getting pissed off. Once you check the monitor and find that the flight that you just checked the night before on the computer ... which had 78 seats available ... is now oversold by 10 and there are 45 standbys ahead of you in the queue ... you calmly approach the gate agent with the logical question: "What happened?" The gate agent calmly ignores your question and instead says "Step away from the counter and check the monitor for updates. If we can't get you on this flight, we will automatically put you on the next available flight." Now you are officially pissed. The next flight might be a week from Tuesday.
and it's only a 4 hours and 50 minute flight !!!!