What are Airline Buddy Passes?

Buddy Passes

In aviation news, United Airlines may face a potential boycott due to a dispute over leggings. A situation occurred Sunday 26 March 2017 at Denver International Airport when two passengers were turned away at the gate for inappropriate clothing.  The barred passengers were two young girls that were wearing leggings. They had planned on traveling using buddy passes. The incident was posted live on Twitter, quickly turning into a heated debate. The situation is unique because the girls were using a buddy pass, which is subject to different rules than those of paying customers.

What does Buddy Pass or Pass Rider Mean?

Many airlines offer employees buddy passes for friends and family to fly at extremely discounted rates. Buddy pass users may also be referred to as “non-revenue” or “pass rider” passengers because their tickets are procured at cost, the airline does not make a profit from these passes. As such, paying customers are served ahead of those using the buddy pass. The buddy pass is only available for leisure travel, business travel is not permitted.

How does the Buddy Pass Work?

Passengers that are using the buddy pass do not reserve or book flights, they are on standby status. People using the pass can only board a flight that has available space, no guarantee is made for a specific flight. It is possible that the person using the pass may have to return to the airport the next day to find a flight. Non-revenue passengers are always the last to board the aircraft and do not get to select seats, even when traveling in groups. No rewards or miles can be earned while using the pass.

Buddy pass users have no recourse for unplanned flight operations, such as cancelled flights or lost luggage. Many airline employees advise those traveling on the buddy pass to avoid checking a bag, if possible. One common misconception is that the buddy pass is 100% free. Buddy passes are not free, while they are significantly cheaper than buying a ticket, there are still associated costs. The employee or traveler must pay to use the pass.

Buddy Pass Dress & Behavioral Code

Passengers using the buddy pass are instructed that they must conduct themselves in a polite manner and ensure that clothing is acceptable. Airlines consider the employees, friends, and family using the buddy pass to be representatives of the company. If a non-revenue passenger breaks any rules, they can be denied boarding or removed from the aircraft.

Common Buddy Pass Rules

Passengers using the buddy pass are subject to many rules that do not apply to paid passengers. Industry professionals advise passengers that the buddy pass is not the best option for every scenario. For passengers that need to check multiple bags, must travel during peak times, or have an event that can not be missed, it is advisable to purchase a ticket. A paid ticket gives passengers the ability to reserve flight times, choose seats, and entitlement for reimbursement or assistance with cancelled flights.