Flying Sydney to Los Angeles on a Delta Buddy Pass

Recently my family and I were fortunate enough to be provided with Delta buddy passes through a relative that has been working for Delta for more than 40 Years.

Living in NZ we wanted to travel to Portland, Oregon. What I write here is invaluable to anyone in a similar position so I hope it helps.

First problem is that Delta do not fly out of NZ. In Australia the only flight to the USA is via Sydney and leaves once a day. The codeshare flights are no good, you can’t use a buddy pass for them.

There were five of us travelling. We sent through the required information to our contacts in the USA, we were as far as we knew booked on a flight, although on standby. Headed to Sydney and began what turned out to be both an adventure and an education at the same time.

Issues getting out of Sydney

After staying a night in Sydney, with our flight leaving in the am of the 30th June, 2012 we headed excitedly to Sydney Airport.

The first thing that struck me was the check in ladies professional yet distanced question.

What priority are you? Well as it ends up we were the lowest of the low priority however I didn’t know the terminology back then however I have learned now – they use words like S3. S4 etc, so I explained we were on standby with buddy passes and hoping to fly today.

From what we had understood there were many free seats on this plane, and it was both unexpected and a little disturbing to hear the check in lady tell us that we had little or no hope of getting on the plane, she also pointed out that this was not only a problem today, but they were full up everyday until way later in the week

Our bags and passports were checked in, a process we came to know well over the next few days.

The truth about being on standby

When you are on a standby for the flight from Sydney to LA you are asked to wait to the side, they try to fill the flight with paying passengers, then start loading the standby passengers in order of priority.

As far as buddy passes go you are pretty low down, however it is ordered by the start date of your sponsors date that they started with Delta.

We heard stories on our first day waiting of people that had been there for not only days, but more than a week.

We started to realize that this was not a simple turn up and fly deal, we were going to have to wait along with all the other low priority standby passengers until a place opened up… we may not even be able to fly together and needed to think up how separating was going to work.

We didn’t get on the first day, or the second, or the third.

To be honest I was almost ready to give up on the fourth day when we turned up once more with bags packed.

We had been told that this flight was looking ok, several spare seats and maybe today was the day we would all get on.

Unfortunately the check in lady had other news for us, again there was little or no chance of us getting on the flight.

As it was one of our childrens 15th birthday’s and she was desperate to get to the states to celebrate we tried to keep it cool, we decided to visit the Sydney zoo to try to relax a little and take the pressure off the situation.

We had given up hope of getting on the flight, 3 previous days had drained our enthusiasm along with our hopes however there was surprise waiting for us.

Suddenly we heard our names over the loudspeaker, a connecting flight had not made it and seats had become available.

Because the flight was nearly ready to take off, our luggage was rushed through and we were personally escorted through security to ensure we made the flight on time.

Fortunately for us we managed to fly eventually on day four however many of the other buddy pass passengers were not so lucky and seemed destined to spend more days waiting.

The next flight we were trying to get on was from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, it was time to split up as only four seats became available, however that four then also made the next flight connecting through to Portland Oregon.

Returning from LA back to Sydney

Coming back wasn’t as bad, however there were problems getting on the flight out of Portland so we all ended up getting cheap tickets through to LA on Southwest airlines. We left a day apart with one of us leaving on the Tuesday, the other four on the Wednesday. It was a close call but we all made the first flight back to Sydney, many lower priority buddy pass holders were however left behind, and some mentioned they had been there for several days.

Recommendation

Flying on a buddy pass is a cheap way to fly, however you need to be patient, and flexible with your travel plans and expectations. Not easy with a large family.

Rob StGeorge
Senior SQL Server Database Administrator residing in Auckland, NZ

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