Blog Archives

Flying standby

Why do we wait to book our flight?

  • The fare might drop.
  • My plans might change.
  • I don’t want to get locked in.
  • What if something better comes along?

Sometimes there’s no avoiding it. We have to travel at the last minute and we’re at the mercy of the airlines to get us on that flight. We are forced to fly standby.

I remember flying standby with my family when I was a kid. We traveled to visit my grandparents in Minnesota for Christmas where there was snow and cold and fun. When it was time to go home, we were shuttled to the airport where we sometimes sat for hours at the gate hoping to get on the next flight. Somehow, we always did, but it could be a very long wait.

I would watch the screen behind the airline clerk with our flight details and wait for her to call our names. There were no other screens back then. Just books and homework were meant to keep a kid occupied. So I learned to wait and to watch while I waited.

I watched the other passengers, happily engaged in their books or their conversations. They had their seat assignments.

I watched the airline personnel behind their desk, shuffling papers and boarding passes and occasionally calling up lucky passengers to offer them a seat.

I watched my dad pace back and forth. He was not a patient waiter. He was a frequent traveler and, I expect, knew how to work this system — which was probably why we were working the system. I waited and I watched, but I didn’t worry. Because my dad would handle this.

Stephanie with coffee is just glad to be aboard.

Now, years later, I am not a good flyer. I count on making a reservation and having an assigned seat. I’d rather book ahead, even if the fare might drop or my plans might change, just to avoid the worry of the watching and waiting. I don’t trust myself to be a smooth operator. I’m not a frequent flyer.

Perhaps this is why I have a seat in the sanctuary on a Sunday. Oh, it’s not reserved. Anyone can sit there. I don’t rush to get on board because there’s plenty of room. But I board this flight because I know it’s going somewhere and I want to go with it. It’s funny to think my Father has settled this for me, too.

As I left 9:15 worship last Sunday I noticed a crowd of people seated in the gathering area, eyes focused on the screens where the 11:00 service will be live-streamed. They were quiet and waiting in anticipation, satisfied to watch worship on the screens overhead. Why not go in and get a seat in the sanctuary? Why are they waiting to book their flight?

Perhaps for some of the same reasons we wait to book our airline trip.

  • The fare might drop.
  • My plans might change.
  • I don’t want to get locked in.
  • What if something better comes along?

For me, the waiting is way worse than the booking. In fact booking allows me to read my book and sit and chat happily with the other passengers in anticipation of lift off.

Isn’t that expensive? Yes, but Someone has forked over the fare.

Isn’t that risky? Only if you’re worried about a crash. We’ve got a Father who is handling the details so I need not worry. He’s not like my earthly dad who paces and works the system. He is the system. In the days without screens, perhaps it was just easier to see this.

Imagine climbing aboard and having the flight attendant usher you to the seat reserved just for you on an all-expenses-paid trip to the destination of your choice. Would you settle for watching on the big screen? Or would you go?

%d bloggers like this: