Have you ever considered using a buddy pass?
Buddy pass travel is a perk that airline employees can share with those they choose. Almost every employee who works for an airline gets several buddy passes each year, it’s one of the perks of working for an airline (click here for 5 tips on using buddy passes).
Buddy passes (or pass riders) are standby tickets that can be used by family and friends in order to travel at a very reduced rate. You can’t buy a buddy pass from an airline, you can only get them from an airline employee. Buddy passes are not supposed to be sold for profit, you are only supposed to pay the taxes on the flight you want to take and nothing more.
For instance, if the taxes on a buddy pass are $150.00, that is all you should pay. You shouldn’t be asked to give the employee anything more, but there are many employees that do expect to be given cash in order for you to use their pass. People have misconceptions about flying with a buddy pass, and the ones listed below are the ones I hear most often.
1. A Buddy Pass gives you a guaranteed seat
I have seen the look of surprise on people’s faces when they don’t get on the flight they thought they were going to get on.
A buddy pass does not guarantee that you will get on the flight. It is only a guarantee that if there is enough open space, you will be able to fly. When you fly on a buddy pass, you are at the bottom of the priority list. If you are traveling with the employee who gave you the pass, then you get to fly with their priority.
2. You can wear whatever you want
No. There are dress codes for every airline when it comes to pass riders (buddy passes/companion passes). Make sure you know the standards before you try to board. I have been told I couldn’t board a flight if I didn’t change my clothing because I didn’t adhere to the standards of the airline. It wasn’t a big deal, I simply went into my carry-on bag (which had my packing cubes, of course) and got an appropriate outfit. Contrary to popular belief, the standards are set in place and must be followed. If not, you can be denied boarding. It is better to know and follow the rules than not know them and not be able to fly.
3. Buddy passes are great when you are planning a trip in advance
No. This is not true at all. Buddy passes are great for last-minute trips. There is a substantial difference between buying a last minute ticket and paying the taxes with a buddy pass. For instance, if someone lets you have a buddy pass, you only pay for the taxes. The taxes are the same if you buy the pass a year in advance or an hour in advance.
So if you want to go to Europe at the last minute, your taxes can be around $500 (of course taxes will vary from airline to airline) but that price is the same whether you decide to pay for your buddy pass a couple of days in advance or an hour in advance.
Have you ever priced a last minute trip to Europe? It’s several thousand dollars. Isn’t paying around $500 instead of $5,000 worth standing by? However, if you have exact dates you need to stick to, or you are planning your trip months in advance, you are better off buying a ticket because there is always a chance when you fly standby that you won’t get on the flight you want to be on.
4. You don’t have to abide by the same rules as everyone else when it comes to luggage
Yes, yes you do. While we do sometimes get perks like not getting charged for an extra bag, or maybe not having to pay for heavy bags, we still have to follow all the rules just like everyone else. A friend of mine told me that one of his family members asked if they could take a piece of checked luggage as a carry-on. Um no. You cannot. We are still under all the rules and regulations of TSA and we can’t carry anything in our bags that isn’t allowed.
5. Flying standby is hard
No, it is not. I have flown standby for the past 12 years and I can count on one hand the times I wasn’t able to get on the flight I wanted. Flying standby is pretty easy once you understand how to work the system. Trust me, the earliest flight is best because that is the easiest time to get on the plane. Even though I am not a morning person and I hardly want to fly in the early hours of the morning, but I am almost always on.
I don’t mind checking flights when I am on vacation. I realize I may have to leave a day or two earlier than I originally thought because the flight I wanted to go on is getting full. It shouldn’t bother you at all. Instead of focusing on the fact that you have to leave early, realize that without the buddy pass, you may not have been able to travel to the destination at all.
I have literally traveled all over the globe with standby status, it isn’t hard. You sometimes have to have a bit more patience but isn’t the reward of traveling at such a reduced rate worth it?
6. You can fly any time of the day you want to
No, you cannot. I always put buddy pass riders on the earliest flight out. Those are the flights that have the most open seats. I have had buddy pass riders tell me, “I really want to be on the afternoon flight and not the early morning one. That’s so early!” Well yes, that’s true. But if you want to take advantage of a buddy pass, you must do what the airline employee tells you, ok?
It is always better to fly out on the earliest possible flight when you have a buddy pass. Early flights are the best chance to fly out. Many people oversleep and don’t make it to the airport on time. When you get a buddy pass, you give up the right to choose what time is best for you to fly. You have to fly when you have the best chance to get on the plane.
I told this to one of my girlfriends who was flying to Los Angeles. She decided to try for a later flight. Well, she eventually got to her destination but it literally took her all day. Had she listened to me she could have flown direct. Instead, she had to connect in Philadelphia, have a long layover and she didn’t get into Los Angeles until late that night.
7. You can act however you like
Well, you can but you will likely never get another buddy pass from your friend. You see, employees who give buddy passes can get in trouble if the people they give them to behave poorly. I’ve covered the things you MUST NOT do in my posts about how to never get another buddy pass. Just don’t do it.
Have you flown standby? Did you have any trouble?