Flying Standby to China

Recently I had the opportunity of flying standby to China. It was my first time doing an international standby flight and I was understandably nervous, but also really excited about it. I’ve been struggling to do a lot of things the last year and a half, so it was a really big deal for me to do something so unreliable. Standby is highly unpredictable because you don’t know if you’ll be on the flight until the entire plane has boarded sometimes. Which is what happened this time.

My original flight out of PDX was scheduled for 7pm, but it started looking a bit risky, so I was keeping an eye on the 4pm flight. I finally decided to change to the 4pm flight the morning of my departure, but when I went to make the change, I saw that the 4pm flight was gone and that the 7pm flight was way oversold. That meant I had to change to the 2:40 flight and leave in the next 20 minutes If I still wanted two shots to get to San Francisco in time for my flight out to China. This flight was pretty booked, too, which did not give me good odds. Sooooo much panic. I called Tim to tell him we needed to leave NOW instead of in a few hours like we’d planned. He was still in bed, so he jumped out of bed and hurried over. We had to stop back by his house again because he’d forgotten his medication (it’s important), so we grabbed that and then we rushed to the airport. Thank goodness he lives just a few streets away.

And, thankfully, the ride to the airport was uneventful. Traffic was perfect and Tim may or may not have gone a little over the speed limit. Even so, I was so dang stressed out and worried about missing the flight. Tim was playing Mitch Hedberg, a comedian, on his phone because laughing helps me calm down. So does xanax, which I took. lol.

We arrived at the airport around 12:30 and had time for Tim to park his car and help me get my luggage to security. He was super sweet to go with me. He said he wanted to make sure I got there and didn’t have any problems with my bag. And before we went to security, we stopped to take a selfie. I know, it’s blurry. I was in a hurry to get to security and off to my gate to see if I could get on the flight, so I did a quick snap to have a picture of us together on my phone and ran off to the line.

Security went pretty fast and I was able to get to my gate without any issues. I checked in at the counter to let them know I was a standby passenger and to see if there was an update about the standby list. The flight attendant checked to see where I was on the list and how many empty seats there were. Unfortunately, I was the last person on the standby list, but she told me to stay until the doors closed because you never know what will happen. So, I waited.

23 minutes later, the flight attendant started issuing standby tickets. The wait was so stressful. I didn’t know if people had been added to the flight from other flights or if another standby passenger with more seniority had switched to my flight, so even with the exact number of standby seats listed as standby passengers, anything could happen.

Thankfully, after an excruciating wait, I was given the last available seat on the flight. It wasn’t the business class seat I’d reserved, but it was a seat. My name was called at 2:13 and I was able to snap a quick photo of my ticket to send to Tim to confirm I was on the flight and then run onto the plane. Thank goodness. It was such a relief to be on board.

The flight was packed, but I was fortunate enough to get a window seat. I was pretty happy about that. I like being able to lean against the window and fall asleep on my flights. And I was very thankful when a kind gentleman offered to put my bag in the overhead bin for me. I didn’t realize it was as heavy as it was and when he saw me struggling to get it up high enough, he offered to help. It was very kind.

The flight ended up being delayed for a bit and didn’t leave until closer to 3pm, about 45 minutes past the original departure time. It wasn’t a big deal, though, since I had an 8.5-hour layover ahead of me and I was at least on the flight. The pilot didn’t say why we were delayed, just that we had to sit tight for a little while. Thankfully, it wasn’t too terribly long and we were soon on our way.

The first leg of my journey was pretty short, just under 2 hours. I was able to sit back and take a nap after enjoying my customary ginger ale and snack, which happened to be a stroopwafel. Yum. I love those. And I love that I was able to sleep. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep on flights, but I crashed out pretty hard on this one.

We landed around 4:30pm and I took a leisurely tour through the airport. Which means I got lost and couldn’t find my gate. lol. I finally found it, though, and commenced sitting and waiting. Tim and I started playing Wheel of Fortune on our phones so we could get to a high enough level to play against each other. And we also played Words with Friends. I was also watching tv shows and texting him, which was fun.

What wasn’t fun was that they kept changing my gate. That was a little annoying. But, it got me up and walking around. And over by the food when I was hungry, but feeling too lazy to wander in search of food.

After the second gate change, I just found a place to sit in a central area, after buying food, and just hung out there for a while. It was a nice little cubby hole that made me feel like I was studying at the library.

Finally, about an hour and a half before my flight, I decided to go over to the gate and hang out. There were plenty of seats available on this flight and a very short standby list, so I wasn’t in such a rush to get over there. An hour later, about 20 minutes before boarding started, I was given a business class seat and was able to board the plane with the rest of my group.

Oh, you may be wondering what’s with the pink wand. Well, Tim went to Walmart the night before my flight and decided he wanted to lighten my stress a little by getting me a cute glow-in-the-dark wand. I’m a last-minute packer, which always stresses me out, but I can’t help it. I thought it was adorable that he did that and decided to take it with me as a memento of the super sweet guy who was waiting for me back home.

And, of course, while waiting for everyone else to board the plane, I took a selfie to show Tim I’d made it on the flight.

And I also sent him a ton of pictures of my seat. Because, well, flying business class is pretty nifty. Big seat, tons of leg room, pillows, blankets, slippers, multi-course meals, a little care bag, huge movie selection, and a seat that lays down. Yup, I love business class.

The funny thing that happened while waiting for other passengers to board the plane was while I was trying to fill out my customs form. I wanted to get it done right away so I wouldn’t have to scramble while we were landing (Helpful tip for you worldwide travelers out there!). Because everyone forgets to fill those forms out during the flight, even when they mean to do it. So, I pulled out my pen and started filling it out. And then my pen decided to explode on me.

It wasn’t terribly awful, but it did leave black smudges on my customs form. Thankfully there was nobody sitting next to me, so I was able to use that form. And thankfully the flight attendant was super accommodating and got me a bottle of vodka, tons of napkins, and some extra strength hand sanitizer to get the ink off my hands. It didn’t get all the ink off my hands, but enough that I wasn’t smudging things anymore. I sent Tim a photo of my inky hands after trying to clean the ink off and he said, “You have the dark mark!” He’s such a dork. lol

About 30 minutes after the flight took off, flight attendants started passing out hot towels for passengers to clean up for dinner. Though, it was almost 1am, so wouldn’t it have been breakfast? The towel helped a bit more with the ink, which was nice, but I’d resigned myself to having bits of black on my hands for a few days.

Seriously, that food was sooooooo good! I could have eaten a lot more of it, but it was surprisingly very filling. So, I asked the flight attendant for a pair of pajamas and went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Yup, airlines provide free pajamas for business class passengers. I thought that was pretty cool, especially since this was a 13.5 hour flight. I definitely wanted to be comfy.

And, yes, I sent Tim pictures of the bathroom cuz it’s so much better than the economy bathrooms.

I wish I’d gotten a picture of the bed laid all the way down, but I didn’t. Instead, I took a picture of myself laying down in the bed. I was having fun sending pictures to Tim. Well, taking pictures to send to Tim once I had wifi. Ha. I decided to watch Ant Man before going to sleep and enjoyed being able to lounge while doing so.

I wasn’t able to sleep super long and ended up waking up about an hour and a half later. That was the equivalent of 5am my time. I was a little snacky, so I asked for some ice cream. The flight attendant said the ice cream wasn’t super solid anymore because the dry ice had evaporated, but I was okay with that. I just wanted something cold to eat. My body temp gets really high when I’m sleeping, so I usually have some cold water in the middle of the night to help cool me down and get back to sleep. I decided ice cream would be the way to go this flight and it helped immensely.

Signature vanilla bean sundae with Ghirardelli hot fudge and walnuts

I slept off and on for the next 3 hours before asking for another snack. It was around 9am my time, so I was pretty hungry. I normally have breakfast around 7am. I’d planned on just eating a bag of chips from the a la carte table because everyone was sleeping and I didn’t see any flight attendants, but a flight attendant saw me walking back to my seat with the chips and asked if she could bring me something more filling. So, I asked for a grilled cheese with tomato soup from the snack menu. It wasn’t too bad. A little less flavorful than I’m used to, but still good.

Two hours later, I woke up again and was a bit hungry again. Well, not quite hungry, but snacky. It was about noon my time, so around the time I’d normally be having lunch. I knew they would be serving breakfast soon, so I just asked for another small bowl of ice cream. The flight attendant said it would be pretty soupy because the dry ice was gone and they only had refrigerators to put it in (no freezer space), but I said it was fine as long as it was cold. It was and I enjoyed it.

Signature vanilla bean sundae with Ghirardelli hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream

I was about to go back to bed, but then realized they were going to be serving breakfast relatively soon and that I should probably get ready for landing, which wasn’t for about 3 more hours, but I wanted to try to stay awake. I needed to change back into my regular clothes, brush my hair, and all that fun stuff. It’s weird getting dressed, doing makeup, and doing your hair in an airplane bathroom, but oh well. I guess that’s why they make business class bathrooms a little bigger, so it’s easier to do all that stuff and then head right off to a meeting. Or something.

After I got back to my seat, I folded up the pajamas and set them on the shelf in front of my seat. The flight attendant walked past and asked if I knew I could keep them. Say, what? Sweet! I told him I had no idea and that I’d love to keep them. They were seriously super comfy. Then he asked if I wanted another paid and I said ‘Sure!’ I love pajamas! Even now that I’m home, I still wear them because they really are very comfortable. I was super happy while packing away my two new pairs of pajamas and went back to watching shows while waiting for breakfast.

Breakfast was served about an hour after I woke up and it was pretty good. I wasn’t a huge fan of the omelet, but that’s partly because I don’t really like omelets to begin with. The potatoes, sausage, fruit, yogurt, bread, and orange juice were all really nice, though.

Caprese omelet with parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes, and basil pesto.

I toyed with napping some more once I finished my breakfast, but I decided to just watch some more shows instead. I’m glad I stayed awake and got ready early. We ended up landing about an hour earlier than scheduled and there were quite a few people going in and out of the bathrooms to freshen up before landing. It was nice to just chill and relax while everyone else was getting ready.

When I was gathering my things to get off the flight, I asked the flight attendant if I could snag the complimentary toiletries bag from the unused seat next to mine (as a gift for Tim since I wasn’t sure if I’d get business class on the flight home) and he said it was just fine and thanked me for asking. He said most people just take an extra one without asking and he appreciated that I was considerate enough to check first. I’d felt silly asking, but that made me feel better and I walked off the plane feeling pretty good.

The gangway and hallway into the airport weren’t all that exciting, but they did have some cute pictures of pandas welcoming visitors to Chengdu. So, I took a picture and enjoyed having made it to China in a very comfortable manner.

Overall, I’m very happy with my experience. Even with the last-minute rush out the door, the stress of not knowing until the last minute if I was going to make the first flight, the 8 hour layover, and not knowing for sure if I’d get on the actual flight to China, it was a good experience. Business class was very comfortable, the food was good, I loved being able to have snacks whenever I was hungry, and it was so great to be able to sleep comfortably. I’d definitely say the stress of the unknown was worth the great experience I had.

Have you ever flown business class? Did you like it? What is your favorite thing about business class?

Wait. China?! Coronavirus! Eek! For those of you who are worried, it was before the virus first emerged and in an area roughly 725 miles away, so I’m good.

23 Comments

    • Erin

      I didn’t know, either, until my friend offered to add me to her account. I sign up for Business Class each time I do a standby flight now, but don’t always get it. I’m super glad I did for this flight. It’s so great.

  • NPC

    Wow, what a great experience it must have been and those washrooms, so much better than economy for sure. I’ll have to try it out next time.

    • Erin

      Seriously, the bathrooms were great. It was so nice to not have to squish into a tiny stall and bump into the door while washing my hands.

  • Mama Maggie's Kitchen

    This is such a good read. I really enjoyed hearing about your experience regarding this flight. I am so glad you had a wonderful time.

    • Erin

      It can be really stressful flying standby. I did it over Christmas and ended up having to buy a ticket in LA because all the standby flights out of there were overbooked. It can be nice, but also not so nice when it doesn’t work out. In a way, it’s helping me learn how to manage my anxiety in different ways. haha

    • Erin

      haha. It really was a thoughtful little gift. He does cute stuff like that for me from time to time and it always makes me smile.

  • kathyssavings1

    Looks like you had a pretty good time. It’s nice when flights are wonderful like this. I’ve never flown before. I hope someday to be able to get on a plane and go somewhere.

    • Erin

      I hope you have the opportunity to fly somewhere. It’s such a great experience and being able to see different parts of the world is amazing. There are so many incredible things out there.

  • Anita Fonte

    I would be scared of flying standby because of the chance of not getting on a flight. But everything turned out awesome for you.

    • Erin

      Yes, that’s the only downside. I’ve had to switch flights a few times and don’t always get to fly standby (had to buy a ticket once when I made the first flight, but got bumped from multiple of the second flight), but it’s a fun experience that I really enjoy.

  • Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    Wow. It would be a dream come true for me to fly business class. I would love the extra leg room and the recliner seats. That would really be so comfortable! Oh and the food! So worth the extra expense with service like that.

  • Beth

    I’m glad you were able to get on the first plane! I can imagine how stressful the waiting was. Tim sounds like such an awesome partner, and the plane looks so fancy!

  • GiGi Eats

    OMFG YOU TOTALLY LUCKED OUT with a STAND BY BUSINESS CLASS SEAT!!! Lucky lady!!!! I’ve only done stand by once before because my husband and I missed out previous flight and we NEEDED to get on that stand by flight SO SO SO badly because we were otherwise going to miss our flight to Africa!

  • Tasheena Nicole Johnson

    I’ve never flown business class before. It looks like a wonderful experience. I would love to one day.

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