Monday, February 13, 2006


A reader from Naperville, Ill., was planning a trip, with her son and husband, to visit her mother-in-law in Las Vegas. They had a "standby" buddy pass, and decided to offer it to their 22-year-old nephew.

They made sure that he understood that his flight would be on a standby basis: If he didn't get onto the flight the others were on, he could get onto the next flight that had open seats available. The nephew would stay with them at their hotel in Las Vegas, so he needed money only for gambling and personal expenses.

As anticipated, the nephew wasn't able to get a seat on the same plane to Las Vegas. He got the last seat on the next flight, however, and met his relatives at the hotel.

Things didn't go as smoothly on the trip home. Again the nephew wasn't able to get on the same flight as his relatives, but this time, when they called him after getting off the plane back home, they found that he was about to miss out on a third flight that day.

"We gave him a list of instructions and our standard `be patient and flexible,"' my reader says.

She also gave him the telephone number of her mother-in-law, who had offered to put him up overnight if necessary. The nephew didn't seem put out, and told her that he had no place that he needed to be the following day.

While they were still on their way home from the airport, however, they got an irate telephone call from their nephew's father.

"He tore into us for leaving his son behind and alone in Las Vegas," my reader says. "When we got home we bought a regular ticket for my nephew, picked him up from the airport when he arrived and dropped him off at his parents' empty house."

Others to whom they've given these standby tickets also have experienced "nightmare trips," she concedes, but she's never been chewed out this way before.

Her question: "Did we act in an unethical, immoral, misleading or just plain wrongheaded way in offering our nephew a standby buddy pass while we traveled with a reservation?"

Of course not. A gift is a gift, so long as any drawbacks involved are made clear, and my reader obviously laid out the risks to the nephew well in advance. When all is said and done, the nephew got a free trip to Las Vegas and, whether or not his father feels otherwise, he's got nothing to complain about.

His father's reaction was out of line. Any good father is going to be worried about his son, regardless of age, but a 22-year-old is no child. He's entitled to make decisions for himself, including accepting a free plane ticket with the understanding that doing so might involve considerable inconvenience.

The father can question his son's judgment in accepting the offer, but he's got no right to chastise the person who gave his son the gift, simply because his son's standby didn't go smoothly. That risk is intrinsic in flying standby, and my reader had made clear the conditions of her travel offer, the restrictions of the ticket and the risks involved. That was the extent of her obligation, and even so her gift was a generous one.

When she learned how upset her nephew's father was, my reader even bought her nephew a ticket home out of her own pocket. This was above and beyond any reasonable expectation, and is further evidence of how generous a family member she is.


Anonymous said...

Up in the Air.....This simply proves that people are ungrateful and unappreciative. Next time the family needs to go on vacation and not worry about trying to give someone a free ride!
The father is a fool! What did he do to make the trip smooth? Nothing!

Anonymous said...

Obvious a free ticket to anywhere by relatives would be greatly appreciated. A 22 year old man should be mature enough to make rational decisions, such as receiving a standby ticket, and it's subsequent consequences. Free ticket to Las Vegas would be especially enjoyed by a 22 year old. Being a couple of flights later in arriving back home, is part of the adventure. For the man's father complaining about the situation, and and referring to his son as a child, reveals how a huge majority of parents feel where their adult children are in age. The main moral dilemma that I derived from this story "Up in the Air," was not the problem with the free ticket, but that our society, the parents are not helping develop mature thinking, young adults. --Todd M. Brklacich

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