Flight attendant buddy passes – do you REALLLY want one?

2233750434_635de9d1f5_mHi Heather,

I had an intriguing conversation with my best friend yesterday. His mom is now a retired American Airlines flight attendant. I’ve always been enamored with his ability to just hop on a flight whenever he wants for virtually no money. Just yesterday he was telling me the story how his mom only gets one registered companion (or whatever they call it) and since his sister is her register person, his mom had to find a friend to put him on as that persons registered person. That got me thinking, I wonder if I can find a really cool chick that I can compensate nicely to have her put me on as her registered companion (or whatever). Then I thought of who I know that’s a flight attendant and I remembered your blog! Since I’m running my small company, I’m always forced to pay ridiculous fares for last minute trips, and the inability to be more flexible with my flights. Wanted to hear your thoughts on this. Do you know of this taking place? Or is it too good to be true? Anyway, great blog!….looking fwd to hearing from you.



Dear Jason,

Do you feel me smiling as I simultaneously shake my head slowly back and forth? Do you know this is a HUGE flight attendant pet peeve – asking for passes? You must have no idea how many times people ask flight attendants about their buddy passes, and these are mostly people we rarely even know, like people we just happen to meet in the course of our day! Like the mailman, or a taxi driver, or even a random colleague of the spouse. Just last month my son’s preschool teacher hinted around for a pass. And my mother, who is also a flight attendant, was hit up by a nurse at her doctor’s office.

You mentioned that your friend, the one whose mother is an ex flight attendant, is able to fly back and forth whenever he wants for “virtually no money”, but that little bit of money is actually a lot of money to a flight attendant who is probably making on average 40K a year, and that’s only if he/she works for a major airline and has decent seniority with the airline. Keep in mind that money is automatically docked out of a flight attendants pay check, which, after we pay our bills, could be described as “virtually no money” leftover for anything else. Did you know that flight attendants also get stuck paying the taxes on your trip at the end of the year? We do.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Marry me, fly free?” That has since been changed to “Marry me, fly standby!” Have you flown standby recently? Do you really want to spend your day running from gate to gate, waiting for an agent to call your name, praying each time the agent picks up the phone that they’ll please call your name, please call your name, please call your name, only to feel as if you’ve just won the million dollar lottery when your name is actually called?

When I mentioned on Facebook that someone I didn’t know had asked about compensating a flight attendant for a buddy pass, Tom, a flight attendant, wrote, “I can get you a standby pass, which will allow you to ‘stand’ around all day then drive home mad at me!” Bob, the singing pilot, added, “I only give buddy passes to people I hate. Then I can gleefully relish when they get stranded in Senegal for 10 days.”





  1. Heather,

    I work in the same company as you and I had the same reaction as you when I started reading Jason’s note: shook my head back and forth and smiled. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? People out there have no clue of what flying stand-by entails. I purchase my ticket like everybody else because I want to get to my destination.

    As always, you handled that one very well.


  2. Ha- You do NOT want a buddy pass. I can get you a D3 ticket (Buddy pass) for what 70-100 dollars round trip to florida or you can be posative space on Southwest, Airtran or spirit and pay the same price……you do the math……..

    Even the good passes IE spouses and registered Companions really arent worth it unless you want to go somewhere like Ohio where the loads are always open…..lol.

    Grant Ryan
    author of Dairy Air


      • Become a flight attendant, make friends with a flight attendant, date a flight attendant, marry a flight attendant, be born to a flight attendant (or pilot or agent or ground crew)

    • How can I buy a buddy pass to Houston on 7/6 to 7/13 for a conference 3 tickes 1 for child, & 1 for ederly

    • Hi I’m in need of 6 buddy passes for me my four kids and my grandma. We live in hawaii and can’t afford to live here because the cost of living is so expensive . We wanna move to LAS VEGAS as soon as we can I’m willing to pay cash. If you can help please email me .

      Thank you

  3. Let me tell you guys that Ohio isn’t even a good destination to non rev to. I should know, I commute from Cincinnati to JFK and the loads are hardly ever open. Last time I tried to commute, it took me 24 hours to get home. Not fun, and when i did get on, we left all the buddy passes at the gate…

    Buy tickets, its not worth the hassel. I wont even give mine away anymore.

  4. Lucila – Thank you!

    Grant & Megan – Megan’s right, I had THE HARDEST time trying to non-rev to Ohio and missed a wedding rehearsal dinner because of it.

  5. Yeah, listen to these ladies, they know what they’re talking about. D3 “Buddy Pass” travelers are the LAST standbys on standby to get on the plane if there are actually seats left by the time all the other standbys get on. And there are never any seats left. Also, “Buddy Passes” aren’t free – you must pay a fee (around 80-200 dollars round trip in the US and 250-500 round trip to Europe). With the dramatic downsizing taking place in the industry right now there are fewer and fewer flights to every destination. Even a “Registered Companion” who is pass class D2 is very very lucky to get an open seat.

    Ahh the good old days, when we could actually use our flight benefits!

    Flight Attendant

  6. Haha.. People don’t understand the true pain in the a** flying standby is.. I work for an airline and just yesterday I got stuck in ORD (Chicago) for 8 hours trying to get home when their is a flight almost every hour to hour and a half.. ( I checked in 4 hours prior to the flight and had the highest priority that an employee can get) but you know what.. just when you think the flight looks good and you will get on.
    BAM! some a-hole who paid almost nothing for his ticket because he selected the last flight and it was the cheapest knowing he would come to the airport early in the morning and standby for a flight and probably get on.. knocking you out of your seat that you should have had.. (and on your bigger planes where its a busy destination figure this happens with about 5-30 people per flight).. so you don’t get on the 1st flight, or the 2nd, or the 3rd, or the 4th.. (keep in mind this is now about 4-7 hours later and people just keep bumping you down the list as you start to get more irritated that these people can’t wait until the flight they were scheduled on).
    So the day goes on and you still don’t get on the flight (bare in mind you may still have to connect somewhere else too!) Then you get weather or mechanical problem on a flight or to a destination that can be reach through your city.. Well that plane cancels everyone is then rebooked onto the flight again you thought you would probably get on.. and so goes the standby life..
    But feel free to repeat this cycle as many times in a day as you’d like until you either want to just scream until you pass out, just forget it and go home, or just start doing like many of us other employees do and just buy a ticket to get yourself home for the maybe 2 days you get a week.
    Flight benefits seem to no longer be a perk to the job. So until the companies wise up and care about their employees “benefits” it is just going to be one headache after another for you if you are trying to flight standby..
    But I must admit some days you can make it home no problem, but those days are very rare anymore..
    My last trip overseas to Israel took 3 days just to get out of TLV (Tel Aviv) thats not including the flight back to the states and then finishing my commute home.. (going overseas) you may want to build anywhere from 3-7 days in just for travel time.. But oh.. did I mention.. that maybe all you are allotted at any one point to take a vacation.. Oh well! better not go overseas with those benefits you work so hard for.

    Get the point?
    By a ticket, safe yourself the frustration.

  7. I have flown to Israel w buddy pass three times without a hitch – usually business class..You have to go off season or you could be out of luck. Never happened to me but friends went to airport 3 days before flying – they did know they werent getting on pretty quickly and i waited 15 min and picked them up. Flying on Friday night to Israel helps your chances. If my travel dates were firm I would not use a buddy pass.

  8. My family and I have used D3 Buddy Passes for flights to the Caribbean numerous times during the past few years. Luckily, we never encountered a problem. Once I did have to run like mad to catch a flight on a sister airline on the opposite end of Miami INT’L. Buddy pass users should, 1) travel during off or off-off season, 2) and on the least busy day of departure, 3) at inconvenient times, like red-eye flights, 4) and expect delays upwards of days. Keep money on you in case you are waiting for hours at an airport AND assume you will have to stay in a hotel from 1-3 days. DO NOT travel with these passes if time is an issue or patience for that matter. DO NOT mess up a good thing by screaming at local agents when you have been bumped 5x in a row. You pay the cost to be the boss (a penny pinching one, that is). As a teacher, whose summers are not restricted by time constraints, and now a consultant, I do not mind a wait of a few hours or a day. I just research hotels and hostels near by, make nice with fellow travelers (in case we have to share a cab to a hotel together), and bring my trusty travel on, full of snacks, entertainment, contact cards, and optimism.

  9. Flight attendant buddy passes – do you REALLLY want one? No I just want to marry you to fly standby would be my answer lol, :)… Its appealing to someone like me on a tight budget and wanting to travel, but its not for everyone!
    I fly standby all the time and even have a travel blog called “Life on Standby” its not easy but someone has to do it!
    I’ve had bad days were I’ve slept in HNL airport for 3 days, but good days where I’ve flown from Washington DC (IAD) to Japan (NRT) for $250 R/T with no problems at all…
    There’s Pros and Cons to it, but standby isn’t for everyone and flexibility is a must! I’ve been flying standby for about 4 years (2008 – 2012) on a shoestring budget, flown over 250,000 miles “leisure”, and have NOT paid retail for a flight yet. Heather good article, but flying standby isn’t as bad is you make it out to be.

  10. its either pay 1,250 for international flight or 250???? I mean say you wait 1-2 days big deal, most people dont even make a 100 dollars a day so waiting a day or two on a few weeks of a vacation…big deal, more money for the trip:)

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