Here’s Why You Don’t Fly Cross-Country on Standby Tickets With Kids During the Summer When You’re Broke
The Saxton family was stranded at Salt Lake City International Airport for six days.
According to the local ABC affiliate, the Saxtons got there last Wednesday night and didn’t leave until Tuesday.
Weather was great. Flights were going in and out on schedule.
But the Saxtons — Curtis the dad, Nicole the mom with Dominic and Sadee, their 4- and 13-year-old kids — were flying back to Virginia on JetBlue buddy passes. Buddy passes are vouchers that airline employees can share with family and friends, allowing them to fly for next to nothing.
Flying for almost free comes at the cost of convenience. Buddy pass users are not just flying standby, but they’re at the very bottom of the standby list. After all the regular passengers board, and then all the higher-priority standby passengers board, if there any seats left, only then are buddy pass passengers allowed onto the plane.
And because it’s August, when everyone is traveling to or from vacation, there haven’t been any seats, nevermind four, so the Saxtons remained at the bottom of the list.
Unable to afford purchased seats, a hotel or even enough food, the Saxtons slept on airport benches without showering while eating only one meal a day. Dominic, the 4-year-old, had to be checked out by paramedics at one point.
JetBlue did nothing wrong. The rules are the rules.
And speaking of rules, it’s possible the employee who gave the Saxtons their buddy passes will land in hot water over this. There are fairly strict rules about the people who use buddy passes being well behaved. If “crying to the media and making the company look heartless when it did nothing wrong” was not in the rulebook before, it probably will be after this.
United Airlines, which has been battling its own customer service demons as of late, perhaps in hope of generating some positive buzz, stepped in as the savior and hooked up the Saxtons a free flight home on Tuesday. Kudos to them for helping out, but had the Saxtons been flying on United buddy passes, we all know they’d have maintained the same position as JetBlue.
Correction: United Airlines provided a hotel room, and a generous individual donor bought the Saxton’s a flight home.
I do feel for the Saxtons. I’m not sure if they knew what they were getting into, if whoever gave them the buddy passes explained fully how it worked, or if they simply thought that luck would be on their side. Although tempted, I won’t blast them or their parenting skills.
But hopefully this will serve as a lesson to airline employees to be sure to be very clear with their friends lest they end up in a similar predicament.