By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
"I don't think I could maintain a long-distance relationship if I lost these benefits," she frets. "And that kind of puts your relationship on the line. I think it's a common thing in the airline industry, dating people outside of your state. But the downside is, it's all over if you lose your job."
For Jerry, he believes he's already gotten a longer ride out of his current long-distance relationship than he would have if the girlfriend lived in town.
"I think our relationship has lasted as long as it has simply because I've only been seeing her every two weeks," he says, shrugging. "We've been seeing each other for two years, but if you totaled up all the time we've actually spent together, it's probably more like six months."
Still, he thinks about what would happen if his name popped up on the company's next most-expendable list.
"I'm not gonna give up travel, even if I have to leave the airline," he swears. "Granted, I won't be able to have a long-distance relationship like the one I have now. I wouldn't be able to go to L.A. every other weekend to date this girl. But I'll still travel."
Leaving America West certainly hasn't slowed travel for Neil, even though he now works for a solid waste management company in a field with zero chick appeal.
"The key for me was getting out at the right time," he says. "After 9/11, the company was just trying to get people out the door. And I didn't like the way things were going, so I said, Make me a deal.'"
The 10-year-plus employee was granted a package where he now has to pay the taxes on any flight he takes -- "like 40 or 50 bucks to New York" -- but still gets a free grab at any standby seat on an America West flight that isn't already snatched up by paying customers or employees.
"As long as AWA is alive, I can still fly," he says. "And that's a lifetime deal."
Of course, one of the benefits of having a job outside the airline is that Neil now makes enough money doing the same work to buy his own first-class ticket occasionally.
"I've discovered the pleasures of paying regular fare," he chuckles, "where you actually get a real seat and you don't have to be up all night worrying if you're going to get on a flight, or be stranded in Houston for a day because they ran out of space on the connecting flight from Australia."
For every water-cooler story you may hear about an America West bachelor's wild night in Miami or Cancun, Neil reveals, there's at least two or three untold tales about a night spent curled up on a hard seat in some dismal Midwest airport.
"Now I can afford to fly," Neil boasts proudly. "Which is even better!"
New Times writer Jimmy Magahern recently ended five years working at America West, where he made heavy use of his free-flight privileges.