11 Reasons Why You May Not Want to Use a Buddy Pass When Traveling
O ne of the least-expensive ways to travel by airplane is on a buddy pass, which is basically an airline ticket whose nominal cost is typically little more than the taxes and fees for an airline ticket. Buddy passes are meant to be used by the relatives or friends — or buddies — of the airline employee who has an limited allotment of them as part of their perks and benefits of employment by the airline.
If you are fortunate enough to have a friend or relative who is an employee of an airline, chances are that you could have access to a buddy pass; but there are some disadvantages to using one despite the low cost, according to the 11 reasons why you may not want to use a buddy pass when traveling listed below:
1. A Buddy Pass is Only Good When Space is Available
There is no guarantee that you will actually board the airplane which is being used for the flight; but you must arrive at the airport anyway — and as early as possible — to at least have a chance of becoming a passenger on that flight.
I have known people who arrived at the airport — only to find that nothing was available. A friend of mine attempted to use a buddy pass to travel to New York on one particular day to have lunch with friends. Unsuccessful, he had no other choice but to leave the airport and return home.
If you do not like the uncertainty associated with using a buddy pass, then do not consider using one.
2. You are Not Guaranteed a Seat for the Desired Flight
You cannot reserve a seat for the flight on which you want to take to your destination. In fact, there is no guarantee that you will even be a passenger on the flight, as already mentioned. You are usually assigned a seat at the very last minute.
I once traveled on a buddy pass and was assigned a middle seat in the very last row of the airplane. I was actually thankful because I did not know until literally the last minute whether or not I would even be a passenger on the flight in question. Fortunately, it was a short flight.
If the possibility of sitting in a middle seat towards the rear of the aircraft does not appeal to you — despite the low cost — then you might want to reconsider using a buddy pass.
3. There is No Guarantee That You Will Sit With a Companion Traveling With You
Because seats for holders of buddy passes are assigned at the last minute before the doors close for the flight to depart, it is not uncommon for companions to not sit together for the duration of the flight — and if the airplane is fairly full, expect you and your companion to sit separately in middle seats…
…and depending on the rules and policies of the airline, asking a passenger to trade seats with you may not be a good idea — not that anyone would want your middle seat in the rear of the aircraft anyway.
There is also the possibility that only one available seat remains aboard the aircraft for the two of you. What will you do if that happens?
Keep in mind that traveling with a companion using buddy passes can significantly reduce the odds of you traveling on a flight when airplanes are full.
If you intend to travel with companions, you are probably better off purchasing tickets or redeeming frequent flier loyalty program miles than using buddy passes.
4. You Have the Least Priority of Stand-by Status
As the holder of a buddy pass, you are at the absolute lowest priority — that is, unless your buddy pass comes from a senior employee or executive of the airline; and even then, there are no guarantees. Paying customers come first in their typical order: generally, premium cabin passengers board first; followed by passengers with elite level status; and then economy class passengers.
That order is not taking into account passengers who require special assistance; passengers with small children; passengers who have experienced irregular operations from another flight; other non-revenue passengers; “deadheading” airline employees who are traveling for logistical reasons of the airline; or any other passengers — most of whom will have priority over you in terms of being selected to board the airplane…
…that is, if there are any seats left over.
If your name is indeed called on the stand-by list and you are not present or do not claim your seat within a certain period of time, your seat will be allocated to the next person on the stand-by list — and you will be out of luck.
Speaking of irregular operations…
5. You are Not Entitled to Compensation as a Result of Irregular Operations
…if your flight experiences irregular operations — regardless of whether the cause is mechanical, weather or otherwise — you are not entitled to any compensation or benefits when traveling using a buddy pass.
This typically means that you must arrange such things as hotel reservations, alternate transportation options, meals and telephone calls wherever applicable — and also incur all of the costs thereof.
6. You are Not Eligible for Elite Level Status Amenities or Benefits
Forget about such perks as upgrades and priority boarding: even if you currently hold the highest level of elite status in the frequent flier loyalty program of the airline on which you are traveling with your buddy pass, you are not eligible to enjoy any amenities or benefits provided with your elite level status.
If you have not already earned elite level status, you are most likely not missing anything; but some people would rather pay for a ticket for a chance to enjoy the amenities and benefits which they have already earned than save money traveling on a buddy pass.
7. Buddy Passes Can Only Be Used for Leisure Purposes and Not for Business Activities
Buddy passes are intended to be a perk for airline employees for leisure travel; and just as management of an airline would frown upon their employees using their benefits for business purposes outside of the scope of the interests of the airline, so are the use of buddy passes for business purposes highly discouraged, as you can only use them for leisure travel.
Imagine how you would feel if you owned a business and offered a deep discount to your employees — only to have them abuse that privilege and save money when operating their side businesses…
8. No Earning of Frequent Travel Loyalty Program Miles or Points
Traveling on an airplane using a buddy pass cannot earn you any frequent travel loyalty program miles or points. I know of no exceptions to this policy.
I have known people who have turned down the offer of using a buddy pass for this reason, believe it or not. If earning frequent travel loyalty program miles or points is that important to you, perhaps you should not consider using a buddy pass.
9. No Earning Credit Towards Elite Level Status
Traveling on an airplane using a buddy pass cannot earn you any credit towards elite level status in the frequent flier loyalty program of the airline on which you are a passenger. I know of no exceptions to this policy either.
I have known people who have turned down the offer of using a buddy pass for this reason because they are concentrating on earning elite level status for the next year and are willing to pay for the benefits and amenities associated with said elite status. If you are one of those people, perhaps you should not consider using a buddy pass.
10. Behave in an Appropriate Manner
You must be on your best behavior when traveling using a buddy pass. This includes — but is not limited to — not losing your temper when a situation irritates you; not being inebriated in any way, shape or form; and not harassing fellow passengers.
Because employees of airlines are ultimately responsible for how buddy passes are used, any inappropriate behavior on your part while using a buddy pass could result in disciplinary action by the airline against the employee who gave it to you to use — including termination of employment.
As an example, here is a document offered by Delta Air Lines which details the proper business etiquette when traveling while using a buddy pass.
If you tend to easily lose your temper or happen to be a DYKWIA — a person with an over-entitled attitude of self-importance who asks others “Do You Know Who I Am?” — then buddy passes are not for you.
11. You Must Dress at the Appropriate Minimum Standard as Set Forth by Airline Policy
Do not even think about wearing clothing which is considered ratty, filthy, unkempt, sexually provocative or sports profane messages. Wearing comfortable casual clothing in a neat manner is acceptable — although some airlines might require business casual as a minimum dress code when traveling using a buddy pass.
Ensure that your personally hygiene is minimally acceptable as well. Do not look like a slob or emit offensive odors, for example.
If the dress code does not appeal to you — or if you feel that it interferes with your appearance, which reflects your personality — then do not consider traveling using a buddy pass.
Traveling using a buddy pass can be an excellent way to see the world while saving a significant amount of money — as long as you are willing to abide by the strict rules and policies of the airline which issued the buddy pass; and as long as you are extremely flexible about the entire process.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.