Adventures in Non-Rev Travel
Not all those who wander are lost. ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
I am a wandering fool! Well not a fool, but as you all know by now I like to wander (and wonder too). So on Saturday 25 August I embarked on an epic journey to Barcelona. The journey should not have been epic. It should have been a simple 3 hour trip to New York City, a few days respite with family and friends and then a 9 hour jaunt across the water, most of which I would spend sleeping. But alas it was not to be. Here’s where non-reving can and did go wrong.
First thing, what does non-rev mean? Non-rev is short for non revenue and it refers to travel tickets where the airline doesn’t collect revenue. All the traveler pays is the taxes and fees associated with that leg of travel. Usually, the further you go the more the taxes and fees, however your total cost is much less than buying a ticket outright even from discount agents. Doesn’t that sound like a great deal?
It can be the best deal ever; however there is a downside to this über inexpensive way to travel. You are at the mercy of the fates. Regular paying passenger will always get a seat before you, even if they purchase a ticket 4 hours before the flight and you planned your travel 4 weeks before. The airline gets money (revenue) from them so you wait, and hope one of them is running late or their connecting flight doesn’t connect in time and you get that seat. Usual, there is research involved in non-rev travel. You’ll look at how many flights are available to your destination, what time of day or day of the week to that destination that it’s most likely to have empty seats and where you would rank with all the other schmucks trying to non-rev as well. The last part is dependent on airline employee who is going to get you this ticket, also known as a buddy pass. The airlines all work their programs differently each with their own restrictions and requirements.
So now that you know a little bit about what a non-rev ticket/buddy pass is onto how it all went to pot for me.
I’ll preface by saying this is not my first time at the rodeo. Last September, I flew from San Diego to NYC and then to Barcelona all on a buddy pass with not one bit of trouble. But it goes to show you how your experience can vary if you are fortunate to lay your hands on one of these tickets.
Onwards with my non rev adventure to Barcelona. On Saturday 25th August, 2012 I had a seat reserved on the 7am flight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Newark, NJ. When my friend, Globetrotter reserved the seat for me there were many seats available on that flight. Of all the trips that day between the two cities this one had the most seats, so I set my alarm for some crazy hour of the morning. But mother nature had other plans. She sent one of her devilish spawns, by the name of hurricane Isaac to creat havoc in the Caribbean. With the waters all stirred up the cruise ships headed back for land, and the airlines suspended fees for all the passengers heading home early. This happened the Friday evening before my flight. Anyone who didn’t make the late flight on Friday was automatically placed on the early flight on Saturday. There went all the empty seats, and thus begun by day long visit with Fort Lauderdale International Airport. I booked an alternate flight with a connection which got me into JFK International at 9pm Saturday night.
My adventures in non rev travel gone bad were just beginning. Monday afternoon saw me Newark airport trying to get onto the flight to Barcelona and the guy ahead of me made it but I didn’t. There is a whole other story in that involving a nasty gate agent at the Portugal gate and all sorts of other scarecrows trying to keep me from the good thing. Tuesday, we were back at the airport, with plenty of time for the flight, only one checked back to make running around easier if needed and before we even got to bag check we got a call about a computer systems crash United Airlines was experiencing. If you didn’t have a printed out boarding pass with tags for your luggage when the crash happened you weren’t making it through security. THe wait on the line was to get your bags checked was almost an hour-long, so many people missed their flights.
We took my bag through the security and I almost lost my three of my knives. Globetrotter did tell me to pack the important things, I thought my chef’s knives were just as important as anything in the bag. She looked at me like I had lost my daggon mind as in the madness I had forgotten I had a 8″ and a 6″ blade as well as a paring knife.
Thank goodness she knew them and they held the knives at an office for her or I would have had to say good buy to my babies. Don’t judge me. After we made it through it was a wait to see which flight was leaving first. Was I getting on the 6:10pm flight, with lots of empty seats to Amsterdam, then connecting to Barcelona or was I getting on the 7:05pm flight with not that many seats Barcelona. Decisions, decisions which we couldn’t make right away as the Amsterdam flight got delayed. So we played the wait and see game. Wait and see what time Amsterdam was rescheduled for, wait and see if all the passengers connecting to Barcelona made it, wait and see if I’d have to go home and try another day. So we waited and waited and waited some more. While we where waiting we joined in prayer giving God glory and praise for working the flight situation out. And he did indeed. I made the flight to Barcelona and concluded my non rev adventures.
I am exhausted just recalling these events. I will have to come back and add more details to this post.
The take away is if you have access to a non rev travel do it, just be flexible and be prepared deal with whatever obstacles comes your way.