To get to Nairobi, Kenya, there are various ways and airlines you can take. We flew from San Francisco to London (10 hours) and then from London to Nairobi (8.5 hours). It's a lot of flying! Of course, we took United Airlines to London, and then we bought UAL employee discounted tickets on British Airways to Nairobi. That's the basics on how we got there. Check with a travel agent for other options.

Trip From Hell
If only it was this easy! Let me vent.

From years of experience, we have always "buffered" our overseas travel with extra days on the front and on the back of our planned itinerary. This time it really paid off! Before we even left, we were hearing HORROR stories of employees not being able to get to London in the last few weeks. We changed our flight plans four times with us once going directly from San Francisco, then through Washington Dulles, then Chicago, and then back through Washington Dulles. We looked at all the other airlines flying to London, and they were all full, too. To top it off, travel insurance doesn't reimburse a trip if someone is flying on standby/unconfirmed tickets. Talk about stressed!! Ugh.

For some reason, United Airlines was overbooking all of their flights to Europe by over 100 people. What a mess. To this day, we're still not sure why this happened. By chance, the day before we left I happened to see that United had added an extra flight on Thursday out of Washington Dulles to London. There was a glimmer of hope! So we changed gears, and on our first day of travel (Wednesday) we flew to Washington Dulles.

We sat on two flights that evening to London, and of course didn't get on either one. For both flights, they were paying passengers to get off -- giving them $600 cash, free overnight accommodations, free dinner, and a business class ticket on the new flight they had added for the next day. Lots of lucky passengers took this great offer and made out like bandits! For us, our stress level just kept going up!

While waiting around for these two flights, we started to talk to other UAL employees who were flying standby (there were about 50). Most of them had been there almost a WEEK trying to get to London! I'm not kidding. I wanted to throw up. As we looked around, there were a lot of security personnel at this flight. We asked and it seems that the week before, they had to physically remove PAYING passengers from these flights. It was real nasty. We were ready to die by this point!

Our only glimmer of hope was the new flight they had added for the next morning. So we collected our backpacks from baggage claim downstairs (this took almost an hour) and found a hotel room to stay in for five hours.

Bright and early we were there the next morning, and it was the most intense time of the whole trip. We knew we were in the top ten of standbys getting on with Jeff's high seniority date. We were both pacing back and forth down an aisle watching the action at the counter. About 30 minutes before the flight was to depart, they called a standby name. Did we hear them right? Every standby's ears perked up! Oh my gosh, YES, they are calling standbys! I kept trying to form "Dalton, party of two" on their lips! About three minutes later, she said those magic words! I almost collapsed for expectation! Since we had talked to a lot of standbys, they all started clapping when they called our name. It was like winning the lottery or something!

I told Jeff I wouldn't believe that we were really going to London until the plane pulled back. We've been pulled off flights before. But when we got on the flight, we noticed a lot of empty seats. We sat down and soon other standbys started getting on the flight. It was like a club with everyone knowing each other! At this point I knew we were really going, as they would have to pull them off before us. I did my little "we're going to London" dance, kissed Jeff, and finally relaxed. YEA!!!

When we got to London, I kissed the ground. I was so happy to be there! BUT since they got almost all the standbys on this flight, we ended up getting to London two hours late. We arrived exactly when the flight to Nairobi left. Ugh. Oh well, I was so happy to be there at this point that I didn't care. Plus, I had a backup plan.

A friend of mine from high school lives in London with her husband and before we left, I told her that we might need to stay with her if we got stuck. So she was expecting our call. We got our bags and ran to catch one of the last trains into the Paddington Station in London. From there we took a Black Cab to her flat. We were so happy to see her! We slept a good ten hours, went sightseeing with her around London, and took the redeye on British Airways that evening with no standby problems. What a trip from hell!

Return Trip
It wasn't as brutal. With Jeff and I being so sick, we stayed an extra day in Nairobi to sleep and rest. We needed all our energy and strength for the long flights home. We took the redeye on British Airways to London with no problems. We arrived in London, had to collect our bags, and check them on an United flight. We picked the flight that flew directly to San Francisco.

In London, they have a standby alley where we all have to wait. There was about 75 people waiting around. I overheard that some of the standbys had been there for a day. Not too bad! We didn't get on the San Francisco flight, so we put our names on the standby list that rolls to any flight to the United States. Within an hour, they called our name. I was so happy! As we started to walk to the gates, I asked Jeff what airport we were the lucky winners to -- he said ... Newark, New Jersey! Too funny! We've never been there before, but we didn't care at this point because it was on American soil. If we had to, we could get a car and drive home from there! Ha, ha.

That flight ended up being the flight from hell for me. I sat in the very middle seat of five people, and I became very ill. I got a fever with extreme chills. I had to keep getting up to go the bathroom (running to the bathroom, if you know what I mean!). Jeff came and checked on me within a couple of hours, and I told him I wasn't do very good. I asked about his seat, and he had a seat that was easier to get of to go to the bathroom. So we switched. By the time we got to Newark, I wasn't doing very good at all.

There were about 30 standbys who got on this flight to Newark. This airport is a pretty small hub for United, with only a handful of flights. All of the standbys rolled to every flight, but we only sat on the one directly to San Francisco. We didn't get on, and I told Jeff there was no way I was going to be able to do two flights to get home. So we chose our health over convenience and got a hotel room. We slept 12 hours -- we needed it!

We took the first flight home the next day and it paid off because we got first class! I've only had first class one other time on a three class plane. It's soooo nice! A large comfy recliner, wonderful food, and your own tape deck so you can watch any movie you want (stopping and starting it as you want). That was a nice way to end our trip!

So you think travel benefits are wonderful, eh? Ha, ha.


Copyright 2002, Dawn M. Dalton.
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