Standby in Covid
I’ll be honest with you, here in the UK flying doesn’t pay a whole lot. While we are far from the bottom of the pay scale, we are just as far from the top, and once you reach the highest rank the sky is already your limit.
So why do we do it? Is it a long-term career?
Well, if you are young then I guess it is for the adventures, the hope of a long layover once in a while, and the chance to party across the globe with your peers. Perhaps it is for the Insta photo, or for ‘the flex’ as my daughter so ‘cutely’ put it the other day…
So to her… My daughter is 15, she has grown up as the child of a mum that leaves her and her brother two or three times a month, coming back with treats and presents that try and compensate for those lost days. We tell ourselves it is okay, they only ever stay with their Dad or amazing family after all, and when I am home I am home… All. Day.
I made nearly every play, every sports day and parent’s evening. (There was that one time I was tired and enjoying a moment of daytime TV when another mum sent me a pic of my son receiving his Community Award from the Mayor in assembly, but I try to block out that memory as it was a day that I failed as a mother.)
The biggest pay off though, the thing that makes up for my absences, the thing that justifies my grumpiness and forgetfulness on landing day, is the holy grail of STAFF TRAVEL.
Yep, STAFF TRAVEL, that amazing thing where you get to take your loved ones away to the Caribbean for less than the cost of a ferry to France. The ticket that might just be upgraded to First Class at boarding, allowing them fine dining at 39,000 feet and a flat bed to sleep in… and if Mum was working, well they could all just bunk in with me for free… plenty of room, right?!
So… Havana, Orlando, Antigua, Barbados, LA, Las Vegas (three times because they love it there), New York, Jamaica, Dubai, Washington, Tennessee.. You get the idea, these kids are travelled. Some might say spoiled, but I would stop them there. My children are fully aware that travel is something that comes with my job, not something they are gifted ‘just because.’
And then we got Covid… and Mum lost her job.
I tell you, I wanted to teach my kids resilience. I didn’t cry, I declared it was a new beginning, and that I had needed to be pushed in order to brave a new, more rewarding career. I promised them that we would still travel, that instead of the Caribbean we would explore Europe… somewhere so close yet they have so far seen so little of. Were they excited? Not really. I mean, city break versus two weeks all-inclusive in Barbados, what would you choose? They were grateful, but I could see my own sadness reflected in their eyes..
I tried, I really did, booked a cruise out of Rome and an Easter trip to Eurocamp for 2022. We have never been to Eurocamp and I am honestly excited for this! There are upsides to not travelling so far, not losing days just to get there and back, that’s for sure…
THEN MUM GOT HER JOB BACK
And here I am! A month back in the skies and a two-night Antigua on my roster. A year of waking up every day in Southampton and suddenly, with little more than a moments notice I am back in the skies… with staff travel at my fingertips again!
So, shall I take them?
‘Yes,’ I hear you cry, and believe me in 2019 I wouldn’t have hesitated… but staff travel, like all travel is such a minefield right now, so the choice wasn’t as easy as it should have been.
And here is Olivia… swimming with stingrays in Antigua. (Lewis was already committed to the school play and hubby had to work.. the joys of short notice travel!) Yes, we did it 🙌🏻
It wasn’t easy… we had to both do a PCR two days before… (current rules restrict you from leaving the hotel without one). The night we landed we had to do a Lateral Flow Test in order to fly home 48 hours later, and on landing back into the UK Olivia had to do another PCR. It was a huge risk, but I had each angle covered, including people on the island able to montor her if that lateral flow had been positive and me having to fly home without her.
Despite everything, it was amazing to have time in the sun together again, to walk along beaches and swim in a warm ocean. I can’t boast that it was cheap like it used to be, because it wasn‘t with all of the testing, but it was AMAZING nonetheless, and worth every single penny 😁
Would I do it again? No.
So here is my current situation. I am flying on Christmas Day. The flight has plenty of spare seats and any other year I would just take the whole family. We spoke of Six Flags, maybe Universal Studios, but the cost of testing far outweighs the cost of the standby flights, and the repercussions of one of them testing positive out there sends a shiver down my spine. So I shall wish them a Happy Christmas and go alone😢
We hope that one day in the future it will be as easy as it used to be, that I will get a good trip and be able to take them and compensate for my absences once again. For now I just say sorry, and love them all for their understanding.