Risk of Traveling Standby: My disastrous trip home!

United 747-400

Risk of Traveling Standby: My disastrous trip home!


Our time in Melbourne had come to an end. We took the second half of our Jetstar Airways round-trip flight back to Sydney. We enjoyed another 2 days in the city and then set our alarm bright and early that Sunday for our morning flight back to the US (we don’t remember the exact time…you’re about to see why it doesn’t matter).

After waking up a little late and rushing to the airport, we walk in to see a TON of passengers waiting outside the Delta ticket counter. Keep in mind, these passengers were not in line. Outside of the US, after standby passengers check in they are not given boarding passes to get through security until they’re cleared. After arriving and seeing this mass of people we are then told United had cancelled TWO of their 747 out-bound flights for the west coast and were pushing all their customers over to fill up the Delta flights.

What does that mean to us as Delta standby customers? We’re screwed.

The night before when I had been looking, there were about 30 open seats on this flight (here’s the seat map), and a dozen or so in Business Elite. We were around 10 or 12 on the list, and I thought we may have a comfortable ride back! Nope. We were told there are only about two empty seats on the plane. I then looked back on the website to see we’d moved to around 18 on the standby list. NOT A CHANCE. My streak of good luck had dried up, I felt hopeless.

Delta 777 Business Elite

What I had hoped to fly back to the states…

At this time, Dave made more money than me (I was unemployed, it wasn’t that hard – don’t worry, he still makes more money than me!) and he had a job he could not miss. So, unfortunately, he had to book a flight back to the US for later that afternoon. He snagged an American Airlines flight to Hawaii and then onto LAX. Meanwhile, after mulling my options, I took the train back into the city determined to get on the flight for the next morning. The hostels we were in previously were now full, so I checked into this gem. Here’s a quick hostel review: don’t stay there. Not good.

DLUX Hostel

d.lux Hostel in Kings Cross. Not recommended.

Now I’m alone and unafraid in Sydney. No worries, I’ll enjoy the day and head back in the morning…

Sydney Sidewalk

Interesting sidewalk quotes in Sydney! (right outside the hostel)

Let’s sum this thing up: I go back not one, but TWO more mornings. NOTHING. Zero seats. The second time back (the third day total), I said enough is enough. I was devastated, tired, and broke. I wasn’t doing this anymore.

What’s important to note at this time is that I had very little knowledge of the miles and points game. Had this happened in present day, this would have been much easier.

I need to get home and I definitely don’t have the money.

David “X” Kornreich to the rescue. At the time, X knew more about points and travel than anyone else I knew. I hop on the airport wifi, open up Skype and call him. I then tell him the situation I’m in. After a series of emails and phone calls and maybe 15 minutes, he has me booked on the United flight back to SFO and eventually onto BWI. Not only that, he got me first class! I told him I would get back to him when I got to the US to transfer some points to him. Out of no where I went from stranded in Sydney to booked all the way to Baltimore in first class for around 17 hours.

United 747-400

United 747. My ride home. Yes!

Ladies and gentlemen – that is the power of miles!!

Total Cost to X: 80k United Miles + ~$150.

Real Total Cost to Me: I didn’t have any United miles, and this was still a time when United miles were more valuable than the US Airways miles I had. Lucky for me, US Air was offering a 100% bonus promotion on Shared Miles. So it ended up costing me about 45K US Air miles + ~$555 (I gave him 10k extra miles to make up for the difference in value).

All in all, I spent ~$700 and 45k US Air miles to get a same-day ticket to the other side of the world in first class. One way tickets to the east coast for anytime that week were around $1,300 or so. I think I made out pretty good!

Thanks again, X!

Next up

The last post of my journey: Flight Review: United Global First SYD-SFO and SFO Arrivals Lounge

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