The first reaction most people have after hearing you work for an airline is "Oh, you get to fly for free, right?" Yes, we do. Mostly. International flights have a nominal fee, and some airports charge taxes for entry, but yes, we do fly for free. Not so fast, however. My standard comment is 1) We can get on flights that nobody else wants to go on and 2) We can go when nobody else wants to go. As we all know after 9/11, bankruptcies, and the price of fuel, seat capacity has gone down and consolidation has made it very hard to get anywhere. In what I like to call the "Highs and Lows of working for an airline" (get it?) one day I can be on a first class flight to Australia, with seats that lay completely flat and be served champagne before the rest of the passengers even board. The next day I can spend hours, which turns into days, trying to get on a plane to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Yesterday I took a short little hop and ended up getting the next to the last seat, and it was even a window exit row seat. Perfect. I noticed the woman next to me did not seem at all happy about me sitting there, but I was there and I wasn't leaving. (Well, sometimes the gate agents do come and take us off if a regular, full fare paying passenger shows up late and wants their seat). That's obviously a "low" of flying free.
Luckily, the flight was relatively short and sweet, because my seat mate sent me evil glances about every 10 or so minutes. I had showered, I had all my body parts in my seat, and I even let her hog the middle armrest. As we taxied into the gate at our destination, she turned to me and said "How did you get that seat? When I checked the seating chart a half hour before the flight, that seat was open." I knew I couldn't tell her the truth, that I was in the seat for FREE, because I worked for the airline. She would have hit me with her very large Gucci bag, that frankly, really didn't fit underneath the seat in front of her, but I was off duty, and not about to tell her that. I smiled widely at her, and said, "Oh, I'm a million miler (well, I clearly am) and I was here early and the gate agents very kindly put me on an earlier flight so I could visit my aging, ill grandfather before he goes into a nursing home tomorrow. Wasn't that kind of them?"
Properly chastised, she turned away. When I saw her again in baggage claim, she walked as far away from me as she could. Imagine if I would've told her the truth. Gucci bags leave big bruises. Believe me, I know.