One of the main draws to working or an airline is unlimited travel. Unlimited. All you can fly...as long as you show up to work on time.
Since I started working for my airline, my wife and I have REALLY used my flight benefits. We have flown to:
Washington, D.C - our favorite!
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
St. Louis, Missouri
Las Vegas, Nevada
Los Angeles, California
San Francisco, California
Santa Ana, California
New York, New York
New Orleans, Louisiana
I am sure there is more....too bad we couldn't get airline miles!
Besides my family, I get a few "buddy passes" to share with friends and extended family.
At my airline there is an order to who gets on a plane:
1 - Deadheading crewmembers needed for a flight at the next destination
2 - Paying passengers
3 - Deadheading crewmembers non needed for a flight (deadheading home)
4 - Revenue Passengers standing by
5 - Employee standby passengers
6 - "Buddy Pass" guest
7 - ZED fare guest
8 - Offline (other airline) jumpseaters
It's actually more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.
A friend of mine wanted to visit a friend in Phoenix for the weekend. She wanted to leave Saturday and return Monday. The morning flights to PHX looked great all last week. Even the night before the first two flights of the day were less than 1/2 full. She was going on the second flight leaving at 8:30AM.
Saturday morning I had airport standby. I checked up on the flights and noticed something bad happened to the first flight. None of the 30+ non-rev's got on! Further investigation showed the flight cancelled due to a mechanical problem. Rut row!
I met my friend at the gate. She was standing in line thinking she would get a seat. This wasn't her first time to use a buddy pass and in her mind the plane was nearly empty. I approached and asked if she brought a book. She had two...which was a good thing because it was going to be a long day.
There was a flight to PHX almost every hour. Things were looking 1/2 way good at first, but more and more revenue standby passengers and employee non-revs were being added to the standby list. Each standby pushed my friend down. At one point she was number 60 for standby!
I finished my standby shift at 2PM and went home. She stuck it out but finally tossed in the towel at 4PM. Turns out if she had waited she would have gotten a seat on the last flight of the night at 9:30PM. Not really worth it.
Her husband picked her up and my wife and I met them for dinner. I let her know that the first flight out Sunday morning had over 100 empty seats and that, as long as the plane fired up, she should be good to go.
Sunday morning I was happy to see that, not only did she get a seat, but she gas a seat in First Class.
She is coming back today on the last flight out of PHX. As of now the plane is 1/2 full.
Buddy passes can be very useful for friends with flexible travel plans and patience. I am held responsible for the actions of all who use my buddy passes. Employees have lost their personal travel benefits (for a short time or permanently!) for the actions of guest on buddy passes. I only offered them to a small group of family and friends. Only a handful have taken me up on them. Planes are fairly full these days and most people can't wait till the last minute to plan a trip. For those that can, buddy passes are a very economical way to travel.