One of the most common questions people have when considering a career as a flight attendant is if they get to fly for free when they aren’t working.
Most airlines allow flight attendants to fly for free when they are not working with some restrictions.
The details can vary depending on the policies of specific airlines, your seniority, and other factors. To clear this up, in this article we’ll cover some of the specific advantages and disadvantages along with some other key details you want to know.
Most airlines allow flight attendants to fly for free on what’s called “stand-by”. This means that as a flight attendant you get to use those free tickets if there is availability on the flight.
The key thing to remember is that for many airlines these policies are based on availability. So, if you are trying to fly a somewhat unpopular route on a weekday, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Flying into a busy airport the Sunday after Thanksgiving on the other hand? That likely won’t be an option.
Airlines are basically allowing employees to fly for free on unused seats. You can assume that flights that don’t have unused seats will be very difficult to land free seats on.
Each airline has their own specific policy to cover how this works, who can use it, and when. These details will impact your travel plans, so make sure to keep reading.
Is there a catch?
While flight attendants do get to fly for free, there are things you have to keep in mind that can affect you. Here is a list of some of the more important factors to consider:
- Availability: Your ability to fly free often depends on the seat availability on the flight. There are times of the year where it can be very difficult to find open seats on some flights. Some flight attendants have said that at certain airlines flying near the holidays or on weekends seems nearly impossible.
- Fees: Although airfare might be free, some airlines require you to cover other related expenses like taxes, fuel fees, and other charges. Make sure to have a clear understanding from your airline on what you’re responsible for.
- Limited Passes: Some airlines limit the number of passes you get per year. Make sure you know details like this for the airline you work for so you don’t “waste” your passes and run out before the year is over.
- Seniority: How often you get to use these benefits can depend on your seniority and position within the airline
- Other Catches: There can be many other airline specific “catches” to flying for free, so make sure to discuss it with someone at the airlines that can give you a complete picture of the complexities at your airline.
If travelling alone, finding the availability to use your status to fly for free is much easier due to being able to use a jump seats. Jump seats are the seats that crew members typically sit in while working a flight.
There can often times be an empty seat depending on how many flight attendants and pilots are working on that specific flight.
If travelling with your family this is not always an option since you’ll need to have them sit in standard seats.
Friends and Family
Many of the major airlines not only have policies to allow their employees to travel for free, but also have some version of a friends and family plan (commonly referred to as a buddy pass).
This allows flight attendants to bring their children, spouses, and other dependents along on flights for free. Many of the airlines even go so far as to include a certain number of passes for friends!
If you’re planning a trip for yourself and your family as a flight attendant, this can easily save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. You’ll still have to work within the rules of the airlines you work for, but that’s a small price to pay for what you’ll get in return.
Free Travel While Working
It’s also worth mentioning that flight attendants obviously get to fly for free while working. While this seems like it “doesn’t count” towards traveling you might want to do for fun, in many cases it can.
This is because once you have more seniority you’ll have a great opportunity to choose which flights you work and even have say in your schedule. That means that if there’s some place you really want to visit for a couple days, you can potentially set your schedule up to let you fly there for free while working, stay for a couple nights, then work a shift on the way back.
This is a popular strategy for flight attendants, especially when taking shifts for flights abroad. In many cases you’ll also have access to either free or a discounted place to stay, so it makes it even better.
This is definitely something you should keep in mind.
Another common question people have is what happens if you want to fly someone that the airline you work for does not fly to?
Great news on this one as well! Most airlines have agreements with competing airlines to allow their employees to use their flights as needed. This allows many of the large airlines to work together and provide the potential for flight attendants and other crew members to make it to most major airports.
If all of this sounds great to you and you don’t mind working within a few of these rules, then this is a great benefit of being a flight attendant. To learn more on how you can make the jump, make sure to read our free guide on becoming a flight attendant (even if you don’t have any experience).