If the opportunity presents itself to you to fly to Cabo San Lucas to have 24 hours at a resort on the weekend would you take it? Caveat – you might not make it on the flight you hoped for nor might you make it back exactly when or how you hoped to (heck, you might need to rent a car and drive the entire way home if all else fails).
How might this type of circumstance really come to pass? Well, this is the life of a standby passenger working at an airline. And my wife and I, being comfortable with a certain level of risk, have made the most of it. So far too, knock on wood, we have been lucky enough not to have to pull an emergency trump card yet. Proof: infinity pool at Sheraton in Cabo San Lucas from this past weekend pictured below. So as you guessed, we did take the opportunity to enjoy 24 hours in paradise and I can say I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The airline industry is ripe with risk. Borrowing a phrase from one of my fellow interns, this business is not for the faint of heart. Weather can turn at any minute and, even when everything else seems to be going smoothly, someone might fall ill on your plane causing an emergency landing (no joke, that happened on my flight back from Cabo this past Sunday evening – the passenger directly in front of me fell unconscious – he is okay now). To cope with this uncertainty, airlines have developed incredibly complex optimization models for everything from revenue generation to network planning and even resource (planes and crew) allocation. And at the end of the day, these models simply enable them to compete and to maybe scrape a profit.
Life as a standby passenger, I’ve concluded, mimics airlines to the T. Flying standby requires comfort with uncertainty and a nimble capacity to roll with the punches. You keep on rolling the dice because you believe that you have figured out a way to navigate the complexity and know that there are great rewards if you can make it work. And those that are successful at this game last and thrive. American Airlines is a great example of a company that has rolled with the punches and is now destined for great rewards in the near future. Though in this case I certainly hope it is more than 24 hours in paradise.