Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roman Holiday

One of the least desirable effects of the recent sale of NewCo is that our non-rev benefits are getting decimated on January 1st. Buddy passes are going away, priority passes are going away, our priority is getting lowered, and parents will now have to pay "yield fares" so high that they make non-revving a moot point. Worst of all, our international travel will be limited to one round-trip per year. I don't mind saying that this is a slap in the face to a lot of people who've served WidgetCo's passengers well the last few years, and we're going to lose some of our best flight attendants over the arbitrary removal of a benefit that costs WidgetCo nothing.

That said, it doesn't look like anything we do is going to change the situation, so many of us are taking advantage of the benefits we have while they last. This weekend, I had four days off and Dawn was busy, so I was looking to take a quick trip somewhere. My mom, who has never been overseas, said she'd like to go to Europe before her benefits get cut off. To my mind, if you can only go one place in Europe in your lifetime, it has to be Paris or Rome. I've spent about an equal amount of time in each, but the flight loads favored Rome, so that's where we went.

I got off work at 8pm on Thursday, traded in my crew bag for a pre-stashed backpack, met up with mom, and boarded the 9:50pm flight to London. We got business class on the way over - the lie-flat seats on the B767-400 are great! - and landed in London a few minutes early. Good thing, too, for the later Alitalia flight to Rome had filled up; our early arrival allowed us to just make the earlier connection. We touched down in Rome a mere 10 hours 20 minutes after takeoff from Minneapolis, which has to be close to a non-rev record!

We had a great weekend. Highlights included unexpectedly seeing the Pope say Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and a madcap scooter ride through Rome's crazy traffic. Despite forecasts calling for rain, the weather stayed very pleasant (partly cloudy & 70ยบ F) until Monday morning, when we departed. We got on the first flight out that we tried, although we subsequently made it out of JFK by the skin of our teeth after flights to Minneapolis unexpectedly filled up. And then I got to fly MSP-ORD-DTW-BHM-DTW on Tuesday, just as the largest windstorm in recent memory struck the Midwest. The altimeter in MSP was 28.66 when I took off on Tuesday morning!

I'm going to miss taking little trips like this. It's just added motivation to get out of NewCo ASAP. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the weekend.


Anonymous said...

Awesome pics Sam, the 'Jungle Jet' is becoming pretty popular, I'm sure other employers will appreciate an employee as dedicated as you with some solid PIC time.

Good luck with your hunt and continue your blog, it's always great to see an update from you.

YYC Dispatcher

Anonymous said...

Fantastic pics, what camera do you use? Awesome that mom is willing to do the four day trip across the pond and back! Good luck getting a new gig where your capabilities will be appreciated instead of just consumed.

Anonymous said...

Good post Sam,

It is sad about the non-rev benefits, such a small thing that meant allot to employees. Before September of 2001 ATC could ride in the cockpit for training, to see your side when we messed up. It was an incredibly valuable program that taught me, and other controllers, the other side of the radio. That program is dead for "security" reasons. With the influx of new controllers, that have never been in a cockpit and seen the crew working a checklist because of a master caution, there is and will be a disconnect between the jobs. I try to educate the new controllers in training sessions and in the break room by telling stories about those learning experiences. I hope to see the day when we can get back into that classroom. Keep up the good work, talk to at the "office".


2whls3spds said...

Sorry to hear you are losing the benefits...

I heard a pilot quip the other day that he only gives Buddy Passes to people he hates :-D because they are all but worthless now.

We pass ride on occasion, but for vacations have taken to buying positive space. My bride is a 26 year survivor of the no longer no friendly skies.


Julien said...

And more importantly... did mom enjoy the trip?

Anonymous said...

Nice Pics sam! Reminds me of my high school band trip to Munich, Salzburg, Venice and Rome. I flew home this weekend GFK-MSP, saw the E175s and wondered if you were in one. Walking the terminal tonight before heading back to MSP I saw a NWA painted E170- probably will be the last one I see ever :(
Passed my 323 checkride (commercial- pretty happy about that!) I stayed this past summer to do 222, and I am thinking of staying this summer to do 414 (CFI). Would you recomend that? Is it difficult to flight instruct while still a student?

Aviatrix said...

I got into this racket in the first place because I wanted the non-rev air travel benefits. Honestly, I was off to find some administrative job at an airline, maybe maintenance stores or publications management. That meshed with my previous working experience. Some idiot took me flying and convinced me I could work in the pointy end. I don't believe I've ever taken a non-rev flight for pleasure at all the places I've worked. I was either too busy, not yet eligible, not trusting enough of availability to know I could get back, or they company didn't go anywhere a sane person would want to go.

Sarah said...

What a cruddy thing to do... sorry to hear the non-rev benefits are being "trimmed". I fondly remember family trips back in the early 70's no other family I knew could afford, since we could go on my Dad's passes. It is the King of perks. Great trip with your Mom and great pix!

And: I *wondered* if anyone I knew (of) was flying that day in MSP. That evening I dialed up approach just to listen in on a rare night I don't envy airline pilots. They were stacked 10 deep at EAU waiting for a shot at the only usable runway, 22. And it was not a gimme; I heard 4 in a row miss, 3 due to windshear alarms. 230 @ 39 G 47

Anonymous said...


I was working (atc) when the 747 from Japan came in and tried to land on 30L. He fought the wind all the way down. When he got over the river he caught a gust which upset the approach, then the air show started. He was over the runway when he balked and went around, that was the straw that broke the camels back. After that happened he, and everyone else, wanted runway 22. I'm glad I wasn't in the back on that ride.


Sam said...

Sarah & LT, I got out of Minneapolis early Tuesday morning, before the wind got really crazy. I had several friends that landed (or attempted to!) right after the 747 went missed and they started using 22. Heard it was pretty wild. Over at O'Hare, the wind was 220 @ 32 G 45 when I landed on 27R, that was pretty sporty. Detroit was windy too, but pretty well aligned with the 22s. Overall, a good crosswind technique tuneup for winter....

Sam said...

Dan, what is this 170/175 of which you speak? :D As for the JungleBus, we have a few left in RedCo colors, they're getting repainted pretty steadily and also having the interiors refitted from grey carpet and seats to blue.

As for staying on two summers in a row...I guess you know yourself best, in my case staying on *one* summer was enough to burn me out, which is why I did the TWA internship the next spring. Good weather and aircraft availability makes getting flight courses done in the summer pretty easy. As far as instructing while a full-time student, I did that for my last two semesters. You won't be given a ton of students, but it will keep you current in the absence of taking any flight courses, and will give you a leg up on a full-time instructor slot once you graduate. I say go for it.

Sam said...

Julien-- She did, and is already talking about other places in Europe she'd like to visit. Now she really wants me to get on at WidgetCo!

2whls3spds-- The unofficial WidgetCo term for Buddy Passes is "Screw Your Buddy Passes." My little brother used two of mine to go to Hawaii with his girlfriend, they got hopelessly stuck, then spent $600 each to get out on USAirways (a steal for a same-day one-way, really).

LT-- I absolutely agree about the ATC ridealong program, I think it was valuable and should have been re-instituted once jumpseat security issues were worked through. The last year I've noticed an upswing in incidents of ATC getting vocally frustrated with pilots (and vice-versa, actually) and wonder if the ridealong program wouldn't foster a bit more patience on both ends.

Anonymous 9:54-- Nikon D5000 with the standard 18-55mm VR kit lens. Didn't bring along the longer lens in the interest of weight and space savings.

Valentin said...

Hey Sam !

My name is valentin and I run a website / blog for actual and future pilots. I really enjoy your blog and wanted to know if you wouldn't mind me adding a link to your blog under the section "fly with us"
My website is
You can get in touch with me through the website or by e-mail at
Take care !