Should Airline Employees Be Able To Fly First Class For “Free?”

Filed Under: Advice

Different airlines have different policies when it comes to the flight benefits that employees receive.

At many airlines in Europe, employees can fly up to business class on a space available basis, but never first class.


At other airlines it depends on your rank, and only select employees can fly first class. For example, at Emirates only captains can fly in first class on a space available basis, while first officers and pursers can fly business class, and all other employees can only fly economy.


Meanwhile at American and United, all employees can fly any cabin, including international first class, on a space available basis.


In the above examples I’m of course excluding select management employees, who may get first class benefits regardless of what the airline’s policy is otherwise.

So, which system is right? I don’t know the answer, though I’m curious to hear what you guys think.

I’m writing this post live from American’s 777-300ER first class on a London to Los Angeles flight. This is what the seatmap looked like this morning, when there was both award and upgrade seats available (in other words, no one was waitlisted for anything):


Not surprisingly, by the time the door closed every seat was taken, which I find to consistently be the case in American’s first class. I’ve never seen an empty first class seat on an American 777-300ER flight I’ve been on.

This reminded me of my Sydney to Los Angeles flight I took on American in January, where I had incredible service. American has a nicely enhanced product on this route, which actually made me feel like I was on a different airline. It was great to see what American could be like with some effort on a good day.

American-First-Class-Sydney - 3

American is considering expanding this improved service to first class on all international routes, which would be fantastic. Of course that still doesn’t guarantee you a great crew, like I had on that Sydney to Los Angeles flight.

From Doug Parker’s recent presentation #humblebrag 😉

With award prices increasing and the number of systemwide upgrades which Executive Platinum members receive decreasing, I suspect first class cabins will have even fewer confirmed passengers in the future, including on the A321s between New York and LA/SF.


So does it make sense for American to invest in improving these products if they’re going to be filled with employees to an even larger extent?

More generally, should airline employees be able to fly first class for “free” (or minimal fees)?

Some people might be surprised to hear that I actually don’t have a problem with non-revs in first class in general. Space available seats in any cabin is part of their contract, so they’re paying for that perk indirectly — it’s not “free.” Airline employees put up with a lot and many are paid quite poorly, so it’s a nice treat for them.

But does consistently having full cabins diminish the experience and take away the exclusivity? I try not to be too quick to judge on that front, since many people make similar arguments about people redeeming miles, saying that shouldn’t be possible because it takes away from the exclusivity of a product. They prefer the systems which Air France and Swiss have, where non-elites can’t redeem for first class.

So I really don’t know where I stand.

On one hand I think employees are paying for those seats, just in a different way. And I’m not a person who derives pleasure from having access to a good which other people don’t have access to.

At the same, I think that if American wants to truly improve their international first class soft product, not having full cabins on every single flight would help with the service execution. And it would also make the investment more justifiable, since they wouldn’t always have to provision catering and amenities for all eight seats.

Where do you stand — what kind of travel perks should airline employees receive? Does having consistently full cabins diminish the experience in any way?

I figured it would be an interesting topic to discuss, though I suspect it may be as controversial as seat recline, who owns the rights to the window shades, etc.

Let’s hear what you guys think!

  1. Obviously they would need to be quiet and well behaved (the same as any passenger), and their employers might not want them indulging in especially dear champagnes for free, but I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to use an empty seat. Filling the cabin does nothing to diminish the experience if the product is good to begin with.

  2. A great perk of the job. I’m assuming airline employees know how to “behave” in first class and shouldn’t detract from other passengers experiences. I’m all for it as long as it doesn’t affect my upgrade or award space.

  3. On Qantas I have flown where staff were in the F cabin. I was unhappy when it came to meals I was not able to get one as they had “run out”. When I looked in the cabin the staff were happily eating.
    Not a good look when paying customers miss out for dead heading staff.

  4. I don’t mind employees getting upgraded, as long as they are behind the elites. The main reason I gave up medallion status with Delta was that they were taking upgrades away from elites, which then went to the employees. So, I’d see my friend the Delta employee get upgraded in transcon while my platinum status no longer had that benefit.

    Airline employees do work hard and deserve to get treated, but not at expense of elites.

  5. @Dr George, it sounds like Qantas had already failed before those employees took their seats. It should not be possible for an F cabin to “run out” of food. It’s preposterous! The food is one of the main reasons to fly F!

  6. No, they shouldn’t be able to do it for free and the benefits (some sort of reasonable discount limited to a few flights a year) should be restricted to the employees only and their close family. Some AA flights are a joke. JFK and ORD to DUB in particular. Loads of non revenue as J load is generally quite weak. Non revenue on these routes are a very noisy and demanding bunch specially in small cabins. Loud, eating and drinking all the time, taking to the FAs when the paying flying business customer just want to grab a quick bite and go to sleep in this very short flight.

    Also, as they are on stand-by. they fill the cabin with their cabin bags. They also first in the plane as they don’t normally have lounge access.

    I know it sounds selfish and snobbish but trust me, it is not. I need to be rested to be back at work in less than 2 hours after landing so resting and a quite cabin are a necessity, not a luxury.

  7. @Rob, I agree with this. Paid fares, award fares, *and* elite upgrades should take precedence over freebies.

  8. My wife and I flew delta one to Europe for our anniversary. The cabin was nearly empty and then filled with non- revs last minute. Probably 6 paying passengers and the rest employees. I couldn’t have cared less, except for the fact that they allowed the non-rev flyers to select a meal choice when they walked on the plane, and the paying passengers were left with whatever they didn’t take. Same thing with drink service, as the non-rev passengers were constantly catered to before paying passengers. They were FA’s, so the working crew went way out of their way to cater to them. On the flight home it was roughly the same mix of paying and non-rev. The service was better, but the teenage kids of employees were crazy obnoxious and loud, sitting with each other in one seat and making it nearly impossible to sleep. Big picture it was frustrating that the non-rev flyers were obnoxious and entitled. In my opinion they should get what is left over for meal choices and the FA’s should police their actions to keep them from negatively affecting the experience of paying passengers. I remember when non-revs dressed nicely, were very gracious, and grateful. Seems that isn’t exactly the case anymore. I get it that they aren’t always paid well, but in the end it’s a career they chose…

  9. @Palermo I highly doubt that. More likely than not (MUCH more even), an airline employee will be nicer and more courteous than regular revenue passengers regardless of the class they are sitting in. Of course there are some bad eggs and I’m sure there are certain flights where they did not act respectfully. However, this is a very select few. They can lose their non-rev privileges and be fired for acting like you say.

    In case you were wondering, yes I am a former airline employee that has been upgraded before. Now I travel for business, Y for a majority of short hauls and J/F long haul on multiple airlines. Never encountered a problem with a non-rev employee and enjoyed speaking with them. You’re exactly what you said you aren’t -selfish and snobbish.

  10. @Rob, I’ve non-rev’d on and off for the past ~25 years (DL), and I have never seen a non-rev jump an elite for an upgrade. There’s been a couple of times where a paid passenger had checked in and not actually shown up for the flight, and after the final (paging passenger) boarding call has been made, they’ve cleared one person for the C/F seat. My mom, as the employee, has non-rev’d 40-50 times a year on average, and she RARELY clears biz elite. In fact, her only cleared seg on biz elite was CVG-CDG the past two years.

  11. Yes, if the seat is empty they should take it.

    Also, they’re always behind elites getting upgrades. Some routes, like transcons, don’t have CPUs for obvious reasons. If no one is willing to use an instrument or pay for an upgrade, of course it’s okay to go to a non-rev.

  12. I work
    for a major US airline and all we have to do is pay our activation fee for the year, and after that we can fly free in any cabin only if space is available. international we have to pay whatever the countries fee may be

  13. A captain with the airline for thirty years? Why, seat 1A; doesn”t he or she deserve it?

    A flight attendant who has been loyal to his or her airline for years? Sure! You sure should get a seat up front, as long as you don’t misbehave, and as long as you are catered for.

    A newbie? Well, no problem, if there’s room,

  14. However many seats there are determines how many people can sit in that cabin. It should not matter how they get there either cash, miles, comps, or employee benefits. The crew should be able the service the cabin they’re assigned to even when it’s at capacity.

  15. At DL (and presumably all others as well) revenue/certificate upgrades are taken care of long before any employees get those seats. In the Delta One and First Class cabins, meal orders are taken for all revenue customers first to ensure they get their choice before any non-rev pax can select their meal. I believe the same is true in economy although they generally have enough of every item in economy.

  16. So what the process for these employees getting to go in first or any cabin for that matter? When are they free to pick a seat if it’s available (24 hours, 72 hours, 355 days?). Some context here would be nice.

  17. I have a close friend who is a FA with AA (started in 1973, so she has seen a lot). She says it’s very hard for them to get international upgrades. And recently I sat next to a First Officer in MCE (he had the center seat) who was flying on a pass to Venice to meet his family (on other flights) for holiday.
    I say give them the upgrades if they are available after the elites clear. The flight crews have lost a lot in benefits over the years, they deserve a few perks.

  18. Well, my attitude was strongly shaped in F on a UA LHR-IAD flight a few years ago when I had hit the call button to request some water, but it took the dragon FA 5 minutes to finish her conversation with the NRSA to serve me.

    The topic of the discussion which they ventilated in front passengers? UA labor issues.

    Is is as if the union protected FA’s just cannot resist yucking it up, at the expense of other pax’s comfort, with their NRSA sisters in arms.

  19. Here’s a slightly different but related question: how about infants in international first class?

    These are of course human beings and the parents are often doing there best but if you spent 20k or hundreds of thousands of miles how would you feel about a baby screaming for 12 hours 3 feet from you?

    These are inter-related because it is about possibly diluting the quality of the experience for your most valued customers. It’s not about depriving someone as much as it is about ensuring even and high levels of quality.

    My issue with employees being in first has nothing to do with them per se and everything to do with the fact that there are likely paying customers elsewhere in the plane who could be upgraded into that space. To me ANY paid customer deserves that seat over an employee. I don’t want to torture employees but I think rewarding good customers (even if they did not request it) is paramount to success.

  20. I don’t have an issue as along as paying passengers ALWAYS get upgraded before non-revs. On several occasions I have been number one or two on the upgrade list to walk by a pilot or FA in uniform sitting in first class. Maddening to say the least. These were all domestic products, but frustrating none-the-less.

  21. I think Lufthansa has a good way of handling this. LH employees get to fly for very cheap, but costs increase for higher classes of travel with F commanding a very high premium. To give an example, a one way Germany to US ticket will cost around $200 in economy, $450 in business, $2500 in first. That keeps first class pretty exclusive but if still allow employees to fly it for a nice discount if they choose to, for example on a special occasion.

  22. If their contract allows it, yes, they are permitted to fly up front. I would prefer clearing all customer upgrades before putting employees in those seats…but if they’re vacant after that’s done and their contract allows it, sure.

    Though when a flight needs to op-up someone to the front I’d rather have a customer receive it.

  23. Daniel, as a DL employee, we never pick a seat. We are given a seat assignment, if available around the time boarding begins.
    We only get in first if space available, and after everyone has been upgraded. Domestic flights we usually end up in the back middle seats.
    I think it’s a nice perk, as we do pay the yearly fee, work hard, and also deal with having to miss flights or get stuck when flights get full last minute. 🙂
    We also are always taken care of last in the cabin in my experience thus far. If asked about meals before others, I tell them to bring me whatever they have the most of after all orders are placed.
    I appreciate the benefit, and hope that it isn’t too much of annoyance for others.

  24. My dad worked for Western/Delta for 35 years. I remember always flying non-rev in F as a kid (I’m 48) because there were no elites. I also had to wear a sports coat and a tie. Very good non-rev benefits, but very strict dress and behavior standards (I remember telling a friend who was going to fly rev F to be sure to wear a tie – I didn’t know any different). The most ludicrous part of Ben’s post is questioning whether F cabins should have empty seats. That question is a slippery slope – mileage redemption seats add to make a full cabin too! Why not just disallow redemptions for partner foreign flagged carriers (EK, SQ, etc.)? Hell, for most airlines, miles are used (ahem, wasted) for non-aspirational boring domestic routes anyway. Employees work for airlines for the aspirational shot at nice travel occasionally, just like mileage collectors.

    As others have said, non-revs should have last choice for meals, and behave themselves, not interrupting service for other pax (though this is the fault of the FAs, imo). Having been there myself, having waited full days for an empty Y or F seat, I am happy they get that opportunity. Kind of sucks when they don’t (for INTL airlines, for example)

  25. Lucky’s post is fairly on point, but lots of misinformation and misconceptions in the comments:
    (1) Deadheading crew members very much are on duty and are traveling on a positive space pass classification for company business. If they are in uniform they are most likely going to protect/recover the operation. Deadheading crews are being paid at least what they would if they were working the flights (in some situations at a premium) and they are on duty, subject to drug testing, and need to comply with company policy.

    (2) Pass travel is non-contractual at all US carriers for management, union, and non-Union represented employees. It’s a perk provided at the company’s discretion and they can modify the terms, suspend and grant access as they see fit. In a few months AA is eliminating service charges for all employees and their family/registered guest-this was done at the sole discretion of management, just like the changes to the retiree boarding priority.

    (3) For a group of people so dead set to load up on freebies, manufacturered spend, promos, etc give the employees a break for once. Yes some non-revs misbehave and there are proper channels for that to be rectified and in most cases it’s promptly dealt with.

    Amazing so many people who have never worked for an airline think they have it all figured out.

  26. @Teevtee, IMO, infants don’t belong in either J or F. For better or for worse, though, we live in a world where money talks. While you would get arrested for imbibing a little too much and mouthing off, an infant who screams for the entire 16 hour flight is tolerated or even doted on. C’est la vie?

  27. Let me tell you what I got last week for a job perk. A hospital bed which is worth a lot more than a first class flight somewhere when you need it. It is part of my contract. It isn’t any of your business, but it is why I work where I do. I do think they should give that perk to elites first as they are the bread and butter, but beyond that it isn’t my business. I assume they are told to act accordingly or their privileges could be revoked. Furthermore, those positions are already staffed and a lot of the food probably goes to waste if not consumed so it costs little and could keep employees happy. That is worth a lot to the company.

  28. On both LHR-LAX flights, only 2 employees cleared into F, so anyone else up there is paying $ or points.

    Don’t be so quick to call employees out for sitting in F. With the -200s losing F, and the -300s serving premium yield routes with tiny F cabins, non-revs in F are becoming increasingly uncommon.

  29. Nope. This is a perk that employees don’t value, since they’re always complaining about how little they’re paid. If they want to fly F, they should pay for it.

  30. Just flew nrt to dfw on first class as a non rev. We as non rev will always let our revenue passangers get what they want first. For example from dfw to nrt i was seating on business class. The passanger next to me is full revenue passangers, he wanted steak for his meal while i want steak too but flight attandent told us they only have one more steak, so me as a non rev automatically gave that last steak to him and i ate the chicken meal which was available. Once i was on the flight from clt to fra on business class. Flight was full and i was the only non rev seating on business. One of our revenue passanger IFE system didn’t work. I gladly exchanged seat with him. Fly for free is not just a benefit but also a privilege. It’s probably the best perks out there. Even though it’s on standby and you don’t get the seat till maybe boarding time or worst when the door about to close lol. But it’s still the best perks out there. Very grateful to have it.

  31. Most of my experiences with non-revs in premium cabins have been good – most of the time they make excellent seatmates. I’ve written in a few times to compliment non-revs, since some were particularly friendly or helpful or did something above and beyond. However, I’ve had instances when I’ve absolutely loathed non-revs.

    Obviously, I’d prefer an empty cabin over one with employees, 😛 but it’s fine for me when non-revs are up front. The problem is that you never know what to expect. Will the employees get preferential treatment? Will the crew be too busy gossiping? Will the crew provide good service to both revenue pax and employees? Will they provide any service at all? I’ve seen all of these happen.

    If this were say, the hotel industry, a paid guest would have no way of knowing how an employee gets treated. Or retail, where employee discounts have no bearing on a shopper’s experience. Or theme parks, where an employee is just another face in the crowd. But since employees are so visible on airplanes, IMHO it’s important that there are policies governing their behavior AND that they are enforced. Yes, most have dress codes for traveling up front, but I think there should be guidelines for the working crew as well.

    We’ve probably all seen that it doesn’t take much effort for crew to acknowledge elites without alienating other travelers. So there should be a way to welcome family & friends onboard while still making the experience positive for revenue passengers. JMHO.

  32. I think if you’re going to put 8 seats in First class, 12, 16 or however many… then you should have it staffed in a way that provides a consistent experience no matter if there are 8 passengers or 1 passenger. I have never had a problem when flying with a full cabin. First Class is already exclusive on its own, it doesn’t need to be uber exclusive by having empty seats. If an airline would rather have its employees sitting there than have them go empty, no problems here.

  33. Funny that you just posted this! The other morning on AA JFK to SJU 6 empty seats in 1st and they didn’t want to give them to us. They said change of aircraft and no meal we said fine no meal. They had a small fit and then we saw it was CREW them at wanted the seats and so annoying as they stood in the tally the whole flight yammering!
    So I got the 4 seats for us thank you but I had to push it.

  34. Yes they should be able to sit an any available seat (if you ask me). And, as a 3 year in a row EXP on AA….. I can count on 1 hand how many open seats I have seen in Biz or F….. if they are open seats- let them enjoy it for the few deadhead few hours or so.
    (Its very VERY difficult to get the flight you want with ANY upgrade on AA… and its only going to get worse.)

  35. If they can’t give good service to eight passengers, I don’t see any reason to expect it to be good with four passengers and four empty seats. Giving good service to eight people is not that hard, especially when there are usually two flight attendants

  36. I worked for both AA and Delta and my wife is an AA retiree with limited privileges.

    There’s a lot of misinformation about this type of travel. Here are some facts:

    1. It’s space available, which means it comes after ALL revenue passengers. If a revenue passenger is on the upgrade list, he gets in F before the D1T (the highest NRSA priority on AA. If Y is full, and op ups are necessary, then that’ll bump a D1T out of first and off the plane. But, they’re not going to op up a revenue passenger (even a platinum not on the upgrade list) out of Y into F if there is space in Y. That space will go to the non-rev who listed for first.
    2. Sometimes employees are traveling for business and can take priority over a revenue passenger. For example, a pilot scheduled to deadhead to meet a flight that he’ll pilot is an A1, the highest priority. The theory is that they’ll have to cancel the flight if he doesn’t make it to the departure city. (Note, this isn’t the same thing as a pilot voluntarily commuting, where he would be NRSA). Most employees traveling for business, however, are STILL space available. It was a pain sometimes.
    3. Nonrevs are required to follow a code of conduct and a dress code. They’re not entitled to a choice of meal or any meal at all. Revenue passengers get priority. On rare occasions some Flight Attendants don’t follow the rules with non-revs but they usually do. Flight Attendants and Agents can and do report Nonrevs who misbehave and you can lose your privileges for it. And yes there are age minimums for nonrev kids in premium cabins.
    4. Employees highly value the benefit, perhaps overvalue it. It’s been increasingly hard to use them as essentially you can go anywhere you want so long as nobody else wants to go there.

  37. I think you found a goldmine. Write about open ended, somewhat controversial topic and get everyone passionate and wanting to write something and keep them coming back. Have seen a few of these now. On the other hand Gary has resorted, unsuccessfully, to politics to generate the controversy.

    You are a smart dude and there is a lot to learn from you.

  38. I absolutely think airline employees should have the ability to fly in what cabin seats are available. AA charges its employees that choose to fly in first or business. Although the policy will soon change it is one of the great benefits for the employees that work tirelessly to provide a great experience. Giving them the ability also enables them to really discuss the perks of first or business class. I think it is sad when an airline does not allow its own employees to experience the first class cabin. I have traveled the world and have see people left behind because there were no seats available in coach but the front cabins were virtually empty. I am surprised that you of all people would even put this topic on your blog. Having full first class cabins does not always mean its employees. I recently traveled to london and the flight was oversold in coach and business. The airline upgraded a few coach passengers to business and then business to first. You may not have all the facts on your current flight. I applaude the employees of every major airline and hope they too have the same opportunities to sit wherever seats are open and hopefully those are available in the front. Further trying to non rev in domestic first class is nearly impossible with all the upgrades. Upgrades that you fully enjoy. I love your blog until tonight. I hope every airline employee that reads your blog will continue to provide you with the absolute best service.

  39. It really pisses me off when I’m paying $3k+ and I hear an employee brag about how they just got upgraded. One time I was a J rev ticket on DL from SEA-CDG, and a FA was bragging about how she had her husband, and two daughters in J with her. Employees, and their families should not be allowed to fly in premium cabins. It totally dilutes the service and product. As you said an empty cabin ended up going out full. Guess where the efforts of the FA’s end up going now? Not to paying customers, but to non-revs who got lucky and the people keeping the lights on are robbed of good service.

  40. I say no upgrades for employees. Just like healthcare workers don’t get free healthcare… we pay for it exactly like everyone else.

  41. i’ve worked at several airlines, and in general staff space available travel is by seniority (and sometimes by level in the company), seated by eligible class AFTER all revenue passengers have been seated and cleared into their ELIGIBLE seating. So all ELIGIBLE (through instruments/ status/ whatever) upgrades etc are taken care of PRIOR to seating any employees in a premium cabin. Flight attendants in the cabin are SUPPOSED to ensure that all revenue customers (and that includes upgrades, etc) get first selection of the food prior to any non-rev employees. To be honest, that’s been spotty. At all the US carriers I’ve worked at that’s been enforced, but apparently according to the commentary above that hasn’t always been the case (and i have NOT worked at that carrier). I’ve worked internationally too. I have friends at Emirates and most staff who work at HDQ can get business class in addition to Economy. For headquarters staff, only VPs and above can get F.
    Employees at certain airlines (and i’ve only seen this internationally) are also eligible to buy supremely discounted CONFIRMED, not standby travel, in any class they want to. I made EXTENSIVE use of this at the carrier I worked at. While I was a confirmed traveler, I was not eligible for mileage accrual, but I was treated exactly the same as revenue passengers except in the event of an oversell I could be asked to give up my seat in exchange for compensation. Again, as in all cases, discretion was expected and a dress code was enforced.
    As far as those who say non – revs should not get those cabins, that’s none of their business and they have absolutely no say in the matter. It’s part of the employee negotiation process and benefits package for both union and non-union employees. If there are free seats after all eligible revenue passengers have them that’s the end of the story. Period. I do agree, however, in discretion, and do believe that any employee in first class / business class should be discrete, yield to revenue customers for food/ service, and should not openly brag about their good luck. Some airlines are better than others at enforcing those good behaviors, and they all should do a better job at it.

  42. How is this even a question? It’s a bargained-for benefit between employer and employee. Airlines (like any company) want to attract and retain talent. This is part of how they do it.

  43. I do think employees filling the cabin dilutes the service. I was in global first on United recently, and everyone else in the cabin wa employees. They were fairly loud and obnoxious, and when it’s obvious that employees are getting the same service for a trivial amount, it eliminates any perception that first class is exclusive or luxurious. That $20,000 ticket is really only worth $300 or whatever the employee had to pay in fees and taxes to get it. I would never fly international first again on an airline that routinely stuffs the cabin with employees. Makes me feel like a chump. I suspect many other revenue customers feel the same way.

    All that said, I think U.S. airlines like United don’t care about first class and want to get rid of it. They’ve basically given up on trying to sell that value proposition. They’re often selling international first for $200 more each way than business (even discounted business fares). If you don’t care about the cabin, why not put employees in there as a perk. It will not make your customers want to fork over $20,000, though, for those seats. (Frankly, on United, few people buy first even when it’s just $200 more.)

  44. Looking at your seating chart – is 2J your preferred seat on the 777-300ER? I’ll be taking my first International first class flight (LAX > SYD) later this year, and wanted your thoughts on best seat.

  45. My biggest complain is when some elites are waitlisted for Y-J upgrade, at same time F is empty they don’t do Op-Up for elites who paid J, and letting NRSA cleared to F, then elite still sits in Y!

  46. @ Jason: AA goes by FCFS and then different classification: D1=vacation pass; D2=employee/family/registered guest ; D2P=parent; and D3=buddy pass.

    T=Through passenger who gets priority within classification
    R=Retiree who goes after active employees, family members, registered guest [this caused and has caused a lot of outrage, but they did eliminate the TWR classification for TWAA retirees]. Also removed service charges for YC, before required 5 years for domestic 25 years for international. In a few months even premium cabin will have no service charge, so y’all will have more nonrevs accompanying you.

    And at AA you can buy a discounted confirmed fare and earn full AAdv benefits, mileage accrual, etc.

  47. @ Alan: it is NOT a bargained for benefit, it’s a non-contractual perk in a CBA or employee handbook for non-Union or management personnel. The airlines can and do without the privilege from people who misuse it.

  48. @Josh G:
    I know. AA was one of the US carriers I worked at. I know their system very well.
    I used the fare you mentioned every once in awhile. These were XX% (fixed percentage) off of the available fare.

    When I worked for a foreign carrier, we had a confirmed scheme, but these were at rates FAR below what was available for sale and were fixed fares based on distance/ zone, not at all tethered as a % off the given fare. It was a tremendous deal, but there was no mileage accrual, lounge usage, or transportation to/ from airport provided. As mentioned, I used this extensively and VERY rarely used the standby option, which would have been cheaper but space available and much more unreliable.

  49. It is disgusting to see not only employees but family of employees flying for free on premium class and have preference over passengers paying for the tickets. I’ve seen many times employees and their families take over the business class on Delta international flights and they chose meals first and spend time chatting with FAs and other crew members like they are having a party there.

  50. I have family that work for major American based carries. They rhyme with, “Schmelta” and “Hamerican”. The way it works is they fly on standby. IF there is room on Business class or First, they can get those seats. They also must be dressed properly, business casual. Now, I do believe that paying customers and award customers should be served first. Other than that, it is a very nice perk for these employees. They have to deal with nasty and rude customers all of the time. The pay is ok but I know that employees on “Hamerican” are treated very poorly by management to be honest. As long as the employees behave themselves, letting them up in Business Class or First. They shouldn’t be treated like serfs.

  51. One of my biggest pet peeves is flying on a PAID First Class ticket on United transatlantic. We were the only 2 paid pax in the cabin – all other seats were taken up by employee non-ref family. When it came time for meals, the FA indicated that my choice was not available as they had run out of that selection. I was steaming mad – shouldn’t they serve the employees/non-refs last??? I mentioned this to the FA and she shrugged and apologized. – damn Continental crews !

  52. Wow, some of the comments in here are mind-numbingly stupid. From both sides.

    To customers: What the person seated next to you is doing or how they got there is none of your business. That’s between the airline and that individual.

    To employees: If you behave and keep your business to yourselves, why on earth would any of the other PAX know you’re a nonrev in the first place?

  53. For an airline to have say 8 F class seats, it should be able to deliver good service to 8 pax when it is completely full.

    Else, they should just have a cabin for 4 seats.

    So arguing for a 4 seats filled in 8 seats F cabin to deliver a better product sounds like really bad cost management, and justifying poor execution.

    So no, it is just that the airline is poor in service. Simple.

    As for non-revs sitting in F cabin, no issue at all, but meal selection priority should obviously be given to rev passengers.

  54. @Chris_iow
    Looks like her twitter gets in the way of doing her job. Sending tweets from a plane when on the clock. The airline should fire @heatherpoole

  55. Definitely not, just like the staff at downtown abbey they should be downstairs while high society swan around upstairs. The two should never mix. You become exposed to disease and course language were one is forced to reach for a lavender scented hanky chief.
    The two classes should never mix.

  56. As an AA FA, I would just like to clarify that even when crew members are deadheading, they are not entitled to a J or F seat. Deadheading crew members are placed on the upgrade list (if they chose to be) and processed after all revenue upgrades. A deadheading crew member is only entitled to a seat in coach, and even that can be subject to change if they’re deadheading back to base (otherwise, no longer traveling to cover the operation, but that’s a whole other conversation).

    It’s our policy to take preferences as stated in our manual (East fwd-aft, West aft-fwd) and treat non-rev passengers as if they were regular passengers, as to not draw attention to them. HOWEVER, in the end, a revenue passenger is to be accommodated and we should quietly inform the non-rev that they’ll be receiving what’s left.

    In all my years of flying, I’ve only ever encountered meal preference problems on flights with only revenue passengers in the premium cabin. I have to think these bad examples are few and far between, as I would have a problem coming up with them on one hand, and I generally work only premium cabins.

    And as someone said before, how the person next to you or across from you is really none of your business. As a FA, I don’t care how you got there (paid, upgrade, non-rev), I’m just as polite and nice to everyone, all the same. It would be truly awful if I were to treat a nonrev less than, say an upgrade, and an upgrade, less than a full fare. If you’re FA is doing that (or as some of you say, treating nonrevs better), you just have a terrible FA. They don’t speak for all of us, just as some bad apple nonrevs don’t speak for all nonrevs.

    On a lighter note, and sorry to say this Ben, but it’s pretty common that if a passenger orders champagne in first or business, it’s more often then not, a nonrev, a woman, or an upgrade. 😀 I don’t know why, just a very common theme in my experience.

  57. @Jon you are absolutely right.

    I’m a FA based in the UK and my airline boasts having the ‘best’ staff travel perks.
    Do I fly for free? YES ish
    Can I fly in the J cabin? YES
    We have VERY strict rules that include
    Dress code
    Rules of behaviour
    Having absolute discretion
    Just to name a few.
    For me, travelling non-Rev on my airline is extremely stressful. We only fly long haul and generally our passenger yeilds are high, meaning you have no idea if you will get on the flight. Most people are happy to be on a flight, regardless of cabin. Of course, we all ‘pray for J’ who wouldn’t want more room transatlantic or Asia bound.
    But let me make it clear with regards to my airline.
    We get upgraded at the last minute, after anyone wishing to upgrade with miles/money has been processed. We can not tell anyone we are staff, and have to act like a full revenue passenger. So if you are an ‘Elite’ member on my airline you SHOULD never know that I’m non rev.
    To say that employees should not be in premium cabins to me is crazy. 99.9% of airlines offer travel privileges of some kind, that is reciprocal across other airlines known as ZED agreement, that is the industry and that is the perks – simple
    Every airline, wants there premium cabins full of revenue passengers, it’s good for business, but if your not prepared to book that cabin p, as long as service isn’t diluted, then ANY employee or any airline should be able to experience a higher class of travel

  58. I don’t have a problem with non-revs, but believe they should be prioritized after those waitlisted for an upgrade, and in the cabin paying passengers (that includes upgrades and award tickets) should get their meal choices ahead of non-revs.

    More broadly, if an airline is regularly flying flights where the F or J cabin is mostly or only nonrevs, it needs to re-think the economics of those routes – and the quality of its service, if no passengers are willing to pay.

  59. As with many commentators, my only objection is the sometimes rowdy behaviour. I was on a BA flight to Singapore over Christmas, and 20 FA’s came on board, had a fight over seating (some were in economy and some in Club World), saying senior FA’s should get better seats etc etc. Was unseemly to say the least. The ones in Club then proceeded to have a very loud drinks party (albeit seated) until they passed out all the way to Singapore (thank goodness). Was awful.

  60. The two classes should never mix
    A little like downton abbey.
    The servants are downstairs paddling away meanwhile the finest of finest are swanning around sipping krug vintage upstairs.

  61. Can we stop this idea of employee perks / benefits being that they get something for free? It’s just a part of the compensation, like how someone else might get 4 weeks paid vacation, or they might get $200,000 in life insurance that their company pays the premiums, or they get coffee at the office covered by the company. I used to work for a company that provided us with all the popcorn you could eat while at the office. It wasn’t “free” popcorn, it was an employee benefit.

  62. @ Mark H:

    Once again non-revenue travel is NON-CONTRACTUAL. It is a company perk, not a formal benefit. The company can administer it as they see fit, impose new terms at anytime and the employees and their collective bargaining agents have zero recourse. You are told on the first day that non-rev travel is a privilege. There are whole departments within major carriers who administer and follow-up on pass abuse, misbehavior, and infractions with personnel and passengers. Not sure why this basic concept keeps falling on so many of you here.

  63. @JH 100% agree. We are contributing to the airline’s bottom line, and heavily I might add, through thousands of dollars in fares. Meanwhile US carriers pack the premium cabins with employees who sit there talking with the FA’s, and brag about how they just got first class for a few hundred bucks. Meanwhile the paying customers in-flight service suffers as a result. And the US3 wonder why they can’t compete with the ME3. It’s called “customer service” stupid. Until they realized this I refuse to fly US carriers international.

  64. I’ve been on both sides of this debate. There’s nothing worse than thinking I have a middle seat open on a B6 flight from JFK to SLC in Y only to have 20 non-revs come on board and increase my discomfort. Interestingly, B6 doesn’t let its employees ride in Mint and will operationally upgrade a Mosaic to Mint in order to accommodate non-revs in Y. So, if you really care passionately about this, you should fly B6. (you’re welcome Marty).

    That being said, my dad was an airline pilot and I’ve traveled non-rev for the better part of my life, both as an employee and a dependent, so I understand where almost everyone on this thread is coming from. Personally, I obviously prefer playing the miles game and using cards and confirmed tickets, online shopping, etc so that I don’t have to fly standby.

    Honestly, even as an employee, I was irritated to no end the preferential treatment the pilots and FAs get. I understand the seniority list. I understand when I’m on the list in front of them. I understand better than most employees. What I don’t understand is why I’m not treated the same. It still infuriates me to see a flight attendant come up to a pilot in uniform (same airline, BUT especially crew from another airline) on a long haul flight and say ‘the pilot would like to speak with you; please bring your bags’ and see them plop down in a J seat.

    I don’t think a paying passenger should get that seat. You have the option to buy up or use miles. So, if you’re not willing to do that, don’t complain. And on the one hand, I don’t even deserve that seat. I could have paid $100 to force their hand and get it, but obviously, it wasn’t worth that much to me, either; I was hoping for the leniency of the flight attendants (I brought chocolates). What bugs me is the preferential treatment. I’m on the seniority list before that guy. Mind you, I’ve seen this happen both as an employee of the airline, and a dependent of a different airline. There have been times when I was flying OAL long-haul (again with chocolates) and I see pilots of other airlines get upgraded and I’m stuck in the back because I’m not a pilot.

    So I guess my point is, we all feel entitled to something. We’re stuck in a narrow (if Boeing) or slightly less narrow (if Airbus) tube for 5 or 10 or 15 hours and we want to be as comfortable as possible. We all play the game, but we play it differently. Y passengers are inconvenienced by non-revs in the middle seat. J/F passengers are inconvenienced by not getting the meal they really want. Other non-revs are inconvenienced by preferential treatment. However, unless you’re willing to shell out, you’re in J or F by the grace of the pilot. So just sit there, be grateful, and act like you’ve been there before.

  65. It’s all very nice and well that employees are entitled to travel in F and J as part of their working compensation. The problem becomes when it starts to AFFECT PAYING customers that keep the airline afloat. As someone mentioned above, they were the only paying pax on UA in an empty cabin, that ended up going out full with employees, and when the FA got to the paying pax to take their meal orders, they had run out of the pax’s choice because staff that got op-uped got served first. Not only that, the FA did not rectify the situation and only shrugged. That is absolutely absurd, and beyond sane, and the epitome of the problem at hand.

    The problem has nothing to do with whether or not the two types of people should mix, and anyone seeing it that way is absolutely missing the point. The point is that is ruins, and dilutes the premium product. First of all, the FAs lots of times end up socializing with the upgraded employees/family members, and it takes their attention away from paying customers who lose out on service. An empty cabin allows the FA’s to do their jobs more efficiently. So now that a bunch of employees got free first class (or a few hundred bucks whatever), paying customers again are robbed of service. It also adds more unnecessary stress and energy to the FA’s job working the premium cabins, who again takes their attention away from paying customers. It also adds other problems, aside from service like the meals, seats etc..

    Let me give you an example, a friend and I were traveling F revenue for business from JFK-EZE on AA. the cabin was completely empty going and coming, and of course like Ben’s flight, the F cabin went out full both ways. My friend’s F seat ended up being broken about 4 hours into the flight, and the FA said “Sorry, as you can see the cabin is full and there is no where to move you.” We were outraged. So we paid $6,000 and got screwed out of a seat because a couple of employees got upgraded at the last minute to have a good time. Good for them, bad for us who are keeping the company alive- paying customers.

    It all comes down to the experience the paying customers ends up having, and it ends up being a bad one when you just give your entire premium cabins away to employees because FA’s have to work harder, the service is diluted, and it takes attention and effort away from paying customers. This is absolutely unacceptable, and until US carriers realize this, they can keep wondering why the ME3 keep beating them so badly. It’s not because of government subsidies, it’s because the M3 offer a better product, keep to better standards, and people are choosing the better product. I think some of the US3 need to read Adam Smith’s Book.

  66. 16 years ago I worked at Worldspan. We had flight privileges on Delta, TWA, and Northwest airlines, which was great. I worked, my wife didn’t. We lived in ATL but flew often to SLC. She could fly anytime, I had very limited times to fly. We were one step above DL buddy passes, we missed a lot of flights but since we were flying to see family it really didn’t matter if/when we made it. If we missed a weekend trip and had to stay home then we were fine. Since my wife could fly anytime most of the flights she’d be in F. I was usually in a middle seat in the back of the plane. And we had biz casual or better dress restrictions, and gate agents weren’t nervous to turn us away if not dressed appropriately. We also had a rule to not talk about being nonrev no matter the cabin of travel. And we had to pay for the seats still, our RT costs were about $120 AI (Y was cheaper). DL was the tough ticket since it was non-stop hub to hub. TWA was next on my list but required a stop in STL and were bad flight times back then. After being bumped from my expected DL flight (lots of DL employees showed up just as the flight was boarding so I was bumped) I got a spot on a TWA redeye, spent a few hours on a bench at STL, made it to ATL and drove straight to the office. And those days I had more flexibility, no kids. Today I’d not even chance most trips as a nonrev.

    And don’t even bring up buddy passes (do those even still exist?). We took a chance on a very full ATL-SLC flight one night, went to the airport to wait at the gate and hope we made it. We didn’t. Which meant that buddy pass fliers didn’t either. A poor girl had her infant with her, she’d been in the airport a full day trying to make a flight, was out of diapers and baby food with no options. We left the airport, hit a crappy grocery store just up the freeway (security guard at the door), to buy her some things so she could have another night on the floor. Apparently whoever gave her the buddy passes didn’t tell her the risks.

    I think it’s great to offer nonrevs even F on flights. Maybe airlines need to do a little more, like charging small amounts to fly F and restricting how much you can brag about your seats…

  67. Well, here’s an example:

    In a few weeks, I’m travelling DFW-ICN on AA coach. I’m Lifetime Gold with about 1.5 million EQMs. To upgrade to Business Class, I have to pay $350 and 15,000 miles. So, should an employee get it for free, or should I have to pay for the seat?

    I could argue both sides…

  68. AA is decreasing the number of F seats on its new 77Ws or eliminating it completely on 787s and refurbs so your complaint (or whatever) is getting less and less concerning. From a business point of view, these are space available, and if all upgrades and awards have cleared in F, then it is better to put employees in that cabin than leave the seats empty, since there is a possibility that seats in other cabins can be filled, either by upgrades (to business) or overbooked or standby customers in coach. It should be realized that with the introduction of FF programs, and downsizing of capacity, employees have greater difficulty getting the pass seats when on vacation. If there’s an F seat open, give it to them if they meet the dress code (which often makes them better set out than may F fliers who buy or use awards and upgrades to sit in that cabin (more of the latter than the former).

    Should AA — or any other airline permitting employees to travel in F on their pass — opup elites from the back cabins to open up coach (or business) seats for these employees? That’s a rather complicated process for gate gents who are often over stressed by other demands to get flights out on time.

    The US is supposed to be an egalitarian society, so why not let the staff fly up front from time to time? They really aren’t hurting anyone and need to get home too.

  69. @DavidB,

    “The US is supposed to be an egalitarian society…”

    Do you live in the same United States as I do?

  70. I am going to preface this with saying that I grew up as an ‘Airline Brat’ in that my parents worked for UA, as did my grandfather and great-grandfather, so my views my be one-sided.

    I see nothing wrong with airline employees being able to ride in F or J for that matter, and they don’t always ride for for free many airlines charge for F and J unless you have 25+ years of senority. It is one of the few perks left to airline employees in the U.S. after the employees lost their pensions, took pay cuts, deal with evermore full flights and having to deal with rude paying passengers. If airline employees would loose their passes there would be little incentive to work for an airline for a career as you can make more money in many other jobs (UA starting pay for a CSR is about $10/hr).

    Now I am only 100% sure about this for UA but I believe that DL and AA are the same. Employees are the last to get a ticket on the plane, the order of which is determined by senority (with some more nuances), so they basically never get to fly F domestically and often we don’t get tickets until 10 min prior to departure when someone misses the flight. Flying internationally it is easier to get F or J as they don’t have complementary upgrades but if someone wants to use a GPU or miles to upgrade they are the first accomindated. An employee is never accommodated before a paying passenger for a seat or an upgrade, once in a blue moon if they are running late and everyone is boarded they will not process on plane upgrades and give the seat to a non-rev but usually they walk you down and upgrade the person and give you his/her coach seat when they move up. With the computer system now it is impossible to put an employee in F if others are on the upgrade list, just like they can’t put a Silver in F in front of a Gold, Platinum or 1K.

    When flying in F and J employees get the last choice for meals (often I have been told I need a second and third choice) and I have found that employees are the most respectful on an airplane (especially the kids compared to kids who are on a full fare paid ticket), now this isn’t always the case but I have seen F/As give a parent a lecture about an employee’s child being a disruption.

    Back 10-15 years ago the benefit was much better as the loads were not as full, now it is very hard to get on domestic routes, just look at the standby list between hubs and often you will see 20+ people on the list with no seats, and in the summer it can be almost 100 (the most I have ever seen was 220 people on a list). My parents now if traveling during peak travel times (summer, spring break, and holidays) often just buy tickets domestically as they are extremely cheap compared to 10-15 years ago.

    I am glad that Lucky agrees that employees can fly ‘upfront’ as it is one of the few perks left for airline employees.

  71. Anyone that says no and receives any kind of discount or perk of some sort from their employer is a hypocrite

  72. I’ve never seen a non rev getting a seat before a paying passenger and once you are in your seat the paying passenger get’s to order the food first.if the seat is empty is for a reason so why not let the airline employees take advantage of their perks

  73. Everyone is missing the point completely. It is disruptive, and ruins PAYING passengers time in premium cabins. There is a reason the ME3 have the system they do, because they cherish their high value customers. I don’t understand why this is so hard for people to understand that you’re annoying, and pissing off your most valuable customers. In addition you’re ruining and diluting your most important product.

    Would anyone buy a bottle of $30,000 scotch to find out it’s just a bottle of water?

    This is very irritating to me because of the many times I’ve had bad cabin experiences because they packed F to the gills with employees. Either there was no food, a problem with seats, or the flight attendants were too busy to help a revenue pax. Any way you cut it, it’s bad for business.

  74. Mr lucky you never pay for your first class tickets.
    If you were onboard my flight i would be pissed off.
    Airlines should make non rev and upgrades wear indentifying clothing such as orange overalls to set them apart from the high society.

  75. Or how about this for a thought: “Although most, if not all, business traveler do not pay for First Class, should they be treated to it with upgrades or forced to sit in coach in which they paid for?

    Flying in FC is earned by employees and should not be governed by the traveling public.

  76. I loved it on a ex Beijing flight to the USA when one of the Air China captains took 1A and proceeded to snore loudly for 6 hours.

  77. There is a delicious irony to seeing people on a site dedicated to using miles and points to get free flights in premium cabins whining about employees getting free flights in premium cabins

  78. Airline employees do pay a small premium to fly first on 2 out of the 3 legacy carriers and they must be on their best behavior or their travel privileges may be revoked (or employment termination if their behavior was that bad), that is why many employees are reluctant or downright refuse to hand out buddy passes for fear of disciplinary action if the buddy pass user acts out. Airline employees EARN their benefits by dealing with the cold, snow, heat, rain, hazardous environments, holding vital safety and security responsibilities, handling heavy bags or dealing with passengers so rude that it would make scrooge blush, etc, it is an industry perk just like how other industries hold their related perks and it is a perk held dear to them after making so many concessions in terms of pay, losing their pensions, rising health care insurance premiums, etc.

  79. If employee is in civilian clothing, how would one tell if they are employees. Sounds like a lot of sour grapes. Most companies have dress standard for flying.

  80. WOW. All I can say is wow…

    Since this blogger was on his soapbox, allow me to step up there and share a few things, many of which have already been stated in the comment thread.

    1/Airline pass travel is a benefit and not a right. This means there is a decorum and often guidelines and rules to follow by those who use the benefit, set by each airline at their discretion and also subject to change. Failure to follow a few rules by anyone travelling on passes could land the employee or retiree in trouble and without flight benefits. This could include engaging other people in conversations specific to the company (ie talking about heated Union issues or company politics) and it often also includes a dress code (which has been relaxed in recent years to allow airport agents to focus their jobs on serving revenue customers and not playing fashion police and also to help reduce the ability to stick out and quickly identify nonrevs but rather let them blend in to the passenger mix).

    2/Meals. This is an airline specific issue again and there are different schools of thought on it — a/everyone gets treated equally for meal service and meal choices and normal procedure is followed (ie FEBO for AA, rank by elite status, or some other process) so it creates the impression that the service level is consistent across the cabin even if the passenger mix is split between revenue and nonrevenue. If someone gets their second or last choice for a meal, it would irrespective of who they are but rather a factor of the airline policy in which the orders were taken. B/nonrevs get last choice per policy. This is a popular policy and some airlines believe or it not won’t board a nonrev up front if they’re isn’t a sufficient number of meals (but not choices) in that premium cabin. In some cases in my past life, I’ve accepted that fact and an agent allowed me into a premium cabin (with my agreement) knowing I would be asleep during the meal and will give up my meal — boarding pass had “ADV NO MEAL” written on it as confirmation that I agreed to sit in F or J knowing I could not get a meal. Now, whether a Purser or crew follow the airline procedure and policy for taking meal orders is a different story. Yes some follow it and yes there are some that do not and opt to favour the nonrevs instead. But to make generalizations and say they all do that is wrong. Some nonrevs will discretely identify themselves when meals are being taken by saying “my first choice is this, my second choice is this and my third choice is that” — signalling to the F/A that I’m flexible with choice and to serve revenue customers their choices ahead of me.

    3/Boarding prioritization. Each airline sets their own hierarchy for the order in which nonrevs are accommodated onto a flight. Two methods are used for sorting within a classification group or rank — seniority date/date of hire or check in time. The most known airline to sort all active employees on regular personal travel based on check in time is American while United sorts this group by seniority date. Each airline determines the hierarchy and is subject to change — and we see retiree priority moving around lately within the ranks as a hot button issue. Clearly the airline’s operational needs are critical so in order to get you, Lucky, on your mileage run to Timbuktu on time even if the entire system has a disruption, you might need a pilot and cabin crew to deadhead in from Anchorage — and based on Union terms and agreements, yes, the crew might be given seats you might feel entitled to. If they’ve been flying for 10 hours that day and need to do one more leg, one that you’ll be guzzling champagne on and racking up extra miles because of a loophole you found in someone’s pricing error, would you prefer the deadheading Captain to sit in 37E squeezed in uncomfortably next to two difficult passengers or would you prefer they sit somewhere more comfortable where they’ll sleep for 3 hours and be well rested for that last leg of the day. There are reasons behind everything that unfortunately aren’t understood, known or accepted by many people. Unions have very detailed negotiations to look after their members well being. This is one area and where a deadheading employee falls on the boarding and upgrade priority list is always factored in to the big picture of where revenue upgrades are in relation. And during irregular operations, everything is in a state of organized chaos so the airline puts its operating needs first — usually ahead of bloggers and mileage runners needs.

    4/Salary and Pay. I’ve saved the best for last. I would like our well-(mis?)informed blogger to secure pay scales and salary bands from the major airlines to see exactly how much airline staff make — I’m talking about management staff here as Unionized workforce wages are usually publicly accessible. So once you can get your hands on this information, why don’t you make some comparisons for airline corporate jobs vs the same jobs in OTHER industries. I can tell you the airline jobs don’t pay well and are NOT competitive. That is, on pure salary alone. And for many US carriers, the time off policies aren’t too liberal either (again, for corporate employees, not for front liners who have a bit more flexibility). There is a reason why an HR Manager might take an airline job paying $10,000 less per year than the same role at a pharmaceutical company. It’s called flight benefits. And it’s called a trade off. The whole compensation package — salary, time off, health insurance, flight benefits — is what an employee needs to look at to see if an airline job paying less money is worth it. And to many, the flight benefits are viewed as high value so jobs are filled with people willing to make less money in this industry than in another. Oh, and let’s pick one corporate job as a quick example — Sales Manager. This person goes out and gets big Fortune 500 companies to commit to making all of their staff fly on airline A as part of their company business travel policy. Does the sales manager get a commission? Nope. Sure there may be incentive programs but sales managers for other industries get commissions and drive their motivation and performance. An airline sales manager gets NO commission. Ready for this…? One of the ME3 airlines you’ve gushed over does not pay their senior sales managers over 100k per year here in the US. Sure the actual salary might seem good for that role (70s-90s) but compare it outside the industry in a comparable role and without those commissions, it’s NOT competitive. So, to make up for it, flight benefits are added in to the overall compensation package. Some employers give you tuition reimbursement and some colleges give you a free education and some coffee places give you free coffee, some clothing stores give you a hefty discount on their clothes. Airlines are NO different.

    5/Credibility. I’m sorry to go down this path, Lucky, but you’ve just lost credibility with me. I’ve followed your blogging and you’re a self-made blogger since your days of college, jet setting around the world on mistake fares and mileage runs. You’ve taught readers how to exploit the system and manipulate web browsers to trick pricing algorithms, and earned yourself a lifetime ban on one of the largest US based airlines (yes, I’m a bit more connected than you and no, I don’t work for that airline). You haven’t worked a day in your life for an airline yet you live out of a suitcase and critique airlines on their luxury products and services without knowing some of the difficult factors and complexities that go into the planning, building, execution and delivery of such products and services. While I’m sure you can charm your way into exploiting loopholes here and there, you really should take a lesson in journalism and credibility sometime. Perhaps even you should work the front lines somewhere — start at the bottom, no special entitlement millennial treatment for you — and see what it’s really like to be an airline employee out there dealing with the masses during major irregular operations during odd-hour shifts…and don’t just do this for a day for a publicity stunt. Do it for a few months or a year. I guarantee you that your outlook would change quite a bit.

    Someone who has been there before and done it all — front lines, corporate and consulting.

    Disclaimer: I do NOT work for an airline at present but have worked for several in my lifetime.

  81. I prefer the European rules and that’s one reason I fly them over UA and AA every single opportunity…….a more exclusive product…………

  82. I work for an airline and non rev are flying on standby.
    Wages are generally low and it is a great perk.
    We have to abide by a dress code and a behaviour code. And this is strict.
    Crew know who you are and normally you are skipped for food till the rest of the cabin has their choice. I have no issues with that. Paying passengers must always have priority.
    Most of us work as we get these benefits. We are the people who want to see the world, to appreciate what is around us and to offer a great experience to our own customers.
    Entitlement comes with seniority. I am a long standing employee and rarely get the full upgrade, but I don’t complain, I am grateful and I appreciate the paying passengers who keep us in our jobs.

  83. @Dr George~ Qantas will not run out of meals in the F cabin! Your choice may not be available if you are one of the last to be served, but you will definitely be offered an adequate F meal. Pre-ordering on-line may be the way to go. I was told by my QF F FA just this week that there are not a lot of ‘spare’ mains loaded in any cabin, and they just go by experience which dishes will be very popular, as well as pre-ordered dishes. Requested variations to menu dishes are poorly tolerated, but the on-board chef can take items from the J menu to shuzz it up into an F meal or side. It’s all about cost cutting which Qantas is heavily into.

  84. All I’m hearing is waa waa waa from all the over entitled ppl I have to serve. Get over yourself and be happy that you earned enough miles to sit there. And if you’re part of the 10% that can actually afford to purchase these tickets try some humility, it goes a long way.

  85. First and for most many of the people on here bitching for the most part don’t even pay for business or first class, companies they work for pay for the seats, so elite your not, someone who rides on someone else’s coat tails your are. There is absolutely nothing wrong with employees who help build up an airline company, have the privilege to fly where they please at a reduced price or even for free. For those of you so against these privileges if you don’t like it, drive, take a train, or boat to your next destination.. There will always be many more waiting to take your places with an even better attitude..

  86. Opinions are like assholes, we all have our own. You are entitled to your view. So bump me off next time! Don’t like it? Too bad, I will continue to sit in FC.

  87. If that nasty airplane meal is so important, then pre-order it! Don’t bitch because the flight attendant followed policy and didn’t skip non-revs.

  88. As a former “stewardess” and the spouse of a retired airline employee, I would say employees serve their airline well and work hard on trips to serve their clients. They represent the company as long as they are “on duty” and that means from the time they walk into their transport to the airport and till they return home to walk into their own front door. There are rules they live by on the job. As retired employees with 32+years of service, we represent the company the moment we check-in and as long as we are traveling around on a pass. So, part of the benefit, as such, for all that “representing the company”, is being able to fly anywhere the airline goes and other airlines in agreement at a discount (nothing is totally free). As long as all paying passengers are accommodated when the last one who showed up is seated and there are empty seats, then they should go to employees by hiring date (that’s active or retired), unless the active employee is deadheading to another flight (but they would have a different pass code). Today it seems employees, active or retired aren’t respected enough. Yes, it’s a privilege, but one deserved by the employees. If on board and during flights they are disruptive or annoying to passengers, one can complain. And believe me, they will be reprimanded and even that privilege will be revoked if necessary. Also, the plan to leave empty seats because of freight load needs to be addressed when a flight leaves a foreign station with 32 empty seats and leaves 4 families at the gate. They have to return the next day to TRY again, and get left again or pay $1000 or more to get home, besides already paid extra hotel lodging. So, as you can tell, I think the privilege is a grateful,one on my part, but needs to be given with the same riiciprocal gratitude on the employer’s side.
    Thank you.

  89. I don’t see this as an issue of “Should employees be able to non-rev in F?” but rather “How many F seats should there be?” and “Should airlines release unsold F seats for low-cost awards?” I don’t see a service dilution problem (unless the FAs are not capable of serving a full cabin, which is a different problem.) I also think hotel employees should be able to use the hotel’s facilities (gym, pool, etc.) which they are usually not permitted to do.

    In my view, AA needs more F seats, but they have been cutting them way back. Likewise, AA needs to have more SAAver award inventory. Maybe only on undesirable days or something, but it needs to be there.

  90. Airline employees make 40% less than they did a decade ago to help subsidize the falling fares brought on by the rise of discount airlines. Now outsiders are judging whether or not employees should be in first class? If you’re that entitled you need to charter your own flight. Or at the very least pay full fare for a first class ticket. I only see about three full fares a year. I know who has the beef. Everyone else is a wannabe who has no business picking who should and shouldn’t be in the cabin.

  91. Unfortunately airline employees find ways to deny upgrades to elites and fill those seats with employees or even their friends. UA is notorious for this. With unlimited upgrades for elites on domestic flights, it is virtually impossible to upgrade all elites on any given flight. If an employee is up front, some elite flyer has been scammed. On an Internatioal flight no employee should be upgraded until all elites eligible for upgrade but sitting in Y have been upgraded, even if that requires a double upgrade from Y to F.

  92. I’m reading these comments by the elites and some of you either don’t know how your programs work or you know and you’re just complaining anyway.
    Non-revs do not get assigned seating until after all revenue pax have boarded/checked in and the revenue pax have been upgraded. Non-revs get assigned whatever is leftover, sometimes it includes first class, most of the time it is in economy.
    Just a reminder elites, if you’re on the upgrade list, but decide to board before you see if you get that upgrade, you forfeit that chance for the upgrade and it goes to the next person in line. Sometimes you guys don’t want to wait until the end and just go on and get overthetop upset when you see others on the list behind you got the upgrade. FAs kindly remind you of the fact you forfeited your upgrade when you boarded first.
    Non-revs have a code of conduct and dress code. They do NOT get first choice of meals. They even offer two options in case their first option is not available. They are held to a higher standard of travel because it is a privilege. Sure there are a few bad eggs that come on, but not all the elites are super wonderful either (some of you all need to check to see if you still have manners, FAs are people too- who are primarily there for YOUR safety and they are not maids). And occasionally you’ll get some of the crew that don’t follow service standards to a T, but that happens on EVERY airline, not just US based ones. You’ll always run into good and bad. Comes with the nature of the business.
    An Elite member

  93. In addition to allowing employees a nice perk, due to weight and balance issues you can not leave the FC And Bus sections with only a few pax in there.

  94. Who the hell cares! Mind your own business! Tell you what, those employees probably act a hell of a lot better than some of the passangers.

  95. How about the compromise of only filling up F to a certain percentage of the seats in F to make it seem more exclusive and less crowded? That’s what Pan Am did up until 1991 when they went out of business. Employees who paid for a F pass would get F after revenue F passengers boarded but only to a certain percent of F being filled such as 75%, 80%, whatever. When F reached that limit all non-rev passengers, including those who paid for an F pass, went to the back.

  96. Aren’t all of those elite upgrades also freebies? A very big bunch of people get waitlisted for upgrades, just as employees get waitlisted for a non-rev seat. My carrier doesn’t allow non-revs on business class and I have only seen a few captains deadheading confirmed there, but I have seen a lot of people left behind because economy was full, all revenue elites were already upgraded and there were empty seats in business, they just couldn’t get them.

    I have flied non-rev to Europe with my airline and some other major carriers, I have had a very good experience. I was treated just like the rest of the passengers because the crew can’t usually tell who’s a non-rev passenger! I mean, unless you’re friends with the crew, they won’t know you’re an employee. Since I was travelling in economy, I took the seat the gate agent assigned me, I got to choose my meal like everyone else (it is very disrespectful to refuse meals to non-rev passengers or to give them the leftover meals, how can people even suggest that?) and behaved better than many other passengers who were loud, had no manners and were changing their baby’s diaper on the tray. You won’t see us misbehaving because we can really get reported, loose our benefits or get fired.

    Of course, I would love to get upgraded to business if it was possible but I understand that’s not what non-rev tickets are made for. Anyway, it would be nice to be able to help people (who can wait for days for a seat to be available) by using those empty seats in first and business class.

    Unless you’re a captain deadheading and you’re expected to protect the operation somewhere else, employees never get first or business class seats cleared before revenue passengers.

    But again, miles redemption tickets and elite upgrades are also freebies. Airlines try to get customer’s loyalty by giving them upgrades and miles redemption. Well, they also try to get employee’s loyalty by giving them this kind of perks.

  97. I see some of passengers on here have a really bitter view of this. Your bitterness is purely out of your jealousness. How would u expect paying 3k and getting a first class seat? If u want first class seat, pay more or suck it up! Bear in mind the upgrade perks out there are a privilege not a right! It can be revoked at anytime as well! For airlines employees, despite of some bad apples, they worked hard for this airline! Your flight will go nowhere regardless u are sitting in First class or business class without their professionalism. Most of them if u see in uniform are going to work, probably your connecting flight. Shouldn’t they be well rested to save your sorry ass in case of any emergency which can directly matter to your life? If u want the same privileged travel as they do, u have an option to do that by working for airlines as well! Leave the angles who are out there to save your sorry ass alone!

  98. Yes they should! Most airlines employees seek out airline jobs for the “perks” not because of the high pay. Not!

    I have been a flight attendant for almost 25 years and have worked many holidays, birthdays , wedding etc. because that is the nature of the job. Also have had to get to and from airport in blizzards. snow storms, rain, wind storms etc. in all hours of the day and night 24/7.

    Travel privileges are one of the one perks we have left.

    Actually 99% of the time the premium cabins fills up and the frequent flyer upgrade list is a mile long. There are rare exceptions. I have not seen a first class seat when traveling on my own time for quite awhile.

    Sooooo……as long as the employees behave well, let them enjoy.

  99. In 2006, my airline was repositioning myself and another crew member from Istanbul to Madrid, on Iberia. Our 1 way tickets were first class and cost more than $1,600. Once on board, their lead FA took our tickets and redirected us to coach. They gave away our FC seats to others and wee not very ice about it. .

  100. CORRECT last sentence ++They gave away our FC seats to others and were not very nice about it. .

  101. Some of these comments are pretty quick to jump at Lucky and I don’t think this article is meant to offend employees. I have personally had him as a passenger on my flight, and for the record he is very nice and pleasant to have onboard.

    Should employees be able to travel in first class?
    In my opinion, yes. This is one of the last remaining benefits we have left and just like working at any company there are benefits. Also, generally speaking elite passengers and revenue passengers do get priority over us when it comes to upgrades so technically we are not taking seats away from anyone. Also our space is not confirmed, so if you choose to purchase the seat you will have a confronted seat therefore still priority over a stand by traveler.

    Growing up, my family and I would often travel in premium cabins and I have seen employees traveling and never once have I felt like it hindered my air travel experience. Just because we purchased full fare ticket doesn’t mean the employee next to us is any less deserving. If anything, I would figure they would be more well traveled than I was and I never saw anything wrong with it.

    When I applied to work for an airline the main reason why I wanted to do so was because of this “perk” and this was a major selling point for me as a potential employee (obviously I didn’t choose to work for the pay). Working for an airline requires a lot of sacrifice on our families as well, we miss birthdays, holidays, weekends and moments we can never get back. I think it’s a justified reward to be able to have a nice vacation with your family to maybe compensate for some of those missed moments.

    As for someone who said as long as they “behave”. Personally I have served many passengers traveling on an employee pass and generally speaking most of them are very savvy air travels and are the least of my worries. Usually they are my perfect passengers because they know how the service goes and what is to be expected.

    We make less now than what we did 10 years ago and in order for a company to have and retain quality employees there has to be benefits and compensation. Personally I feel like if airlines continue to cut away at employee benefits and pay soon you will see those who choose to work/stay in the airline industry more like “Walmart employees” (not saying all are bad, but generally there isn’t a great reputation). It’s not possible to expect better service or a better flight experience if employees are not treated with value by the company.

  102. It’s really no ones business where employees sit. You pay for a single seat not an entire cabin. Most people traveling in first are there through points, miles and paid by their employers yet they are the first to complain and get their underwear all right up their behinds to try and look down on others. Best advice is to mind your business. You’re there to get from point A to point B.

  103. No, employees don’t deserve SA access to J, nor 50% of hotels, car rentals, 75% off major shipping carriers, 90% off other airlines

    They also don’t deserve to have to miss three flights because flights are full. Half the family on one flight, half on the other. Always plan their vacations outside of high season to ensure actually getting on a flight.

    I work for a company and get perks. You hawk airline credit cards and get perks. We all win.

  104. @ontheplane, I made the comment about behaving. It was mostly to try to shut down (probably questionable) sob stories about rowsy crews. Personally, I imagine that off-duty crews are much better and friendlier travelers than a lot of the entitled cunts in this thread.

  105. This is a pretty interesting thread, I flown every which way except as a stowaway. I’ve pretty much seen it all, much of what’s described in the above thread where NRSA are getting better service, better seats, meal selection etc. over revenue customers, genuine bad service to revenue customers (usually on AA), and louder and abnoxious employees. Other times I’ve seen really well dressed employees who are perfect and play the part upfront as any revenue passenger would be better. I think the carrier has to put in place strict policy and dress code such that employees value the benefit or if not they get written up and lose it

    All that said, a full cabin definitely does not get the same service as a half-full cabin. Also in a half-full cabin you can have your first class bed made up While you sit and eat dinner and another chair.

    Watch out for seat 1A, the cushions are the most used and sometimes worn out. If you weigh more than 160 pounds you’ll feel the structure of the seat underneath you

    Lufthansa never allows employees upfront, he creates an interesting dynamic between the cabin crew versus passenger experience

  106. This bothers me on so many levels. I started in the airline business to be able to travel to europe to see my grandparents. There are times ive had to ride the jumpseat and times i got lucky and got to sit in 1st. Once a year my mother and I take a trip to europe so mom can visit her familym i try and get 1st for her…i want to spoil her. Its why i work in the airline industry. While i love what i do im not here for the money. Please dont ruin it for us. With corporate greed we are being striped of everything from profit sharing to decent hotels. Mind your business and enjoy your ride. I look forward to my little vacation with my mother who one day wont be here to spoil. Its a small thing in a big world of problems. Please find something relevant to ruffle your panties.

  107. In the United States, company’s have taken so much from front line employees that perks such as this is a very big deal. I’ve been a Flight Attendant for 8 years and have seen things that most won’t believe.
    When dealing with the flying public, situations happen in all cabins and 9 time out of 10 paying customers are the biggest offenders.

    More specifically members in an airline frequent flyer program who are not fully aware of their travel perks or have lost status.
    I take pride in working the lead position and interacting with my First Class guest. But revenue upgrades have been some of my worst passengers and in my opinion the real reason that class is service is being devalued.
    The attitude of someone that purchases a first class seat in advance versus someone who’s upgraded are so different especially when traveling with a group or family.
    Overall flying has changed, and at the end of the day airlines #1 focus is revenue first, then passenger comfort, and somewhere on the bottom of that list you’ll find employees perks. And for many employees this is that last big perk that hasn’t been taken away from us.

  108. Lucky, at Emirates , its not just first officers and pursers that fly J. All staff at the airline are on a “grade” hierarchy, with different grades having different eligibility for staff travel.

    So it’s normal to see employees in management level and above flying F and J depending on their seniority.

  109. Its an interesting thought. At first I say “Well of course they should be able to”. Its part of their contract and their employer (the airline) gives that benefit. I guess if they want to attract “better” employees they have to offer better benefits. airline employees salary is quite miserable for some positions, so free or low fee travel is a great perk. Every profession has some inside perks.

    On the other hand you bring up a good point about exclusivity. When every Tom, Dick, and Harry are being upgraded due to their elite status, there really isn’t anything special to the flight. Especially on domestic legs where 9/10 seats are usually upgrades. I benefited a lot from it in the past so I can’t complain, but I also paid my dues with the airline and was loyal. Now with the frequent flyer programs breaking down to only award those who spend the most (which is understandable, its a business…) its not as easy to upgrade, but business class fares have dropped, still a little high, but if it makes sense and I have the money, I will pay the extra money to go to first for example LAX-IAH-PTY say its $750 in coach and then $1200-1300 in business. If I got some extra cash its definitely worth paying extra.

    Anyways back to the employees, I think each airline has a right to set their benefits for employees, I mean heck, they are the backbone of the company so they should get some kind of privilege. a little upgrade isn’t a big deal, but yea going first class from DFW-HKG or something, thats HUGE. After flying ANA first (my review is at I LOVED and valued immensely the exclusivity of the cabin and I think it would take away a bit of the prestige feel if you had some rowdy employee (or a family member who’s never been on a plane lol).

    I don’t know, I don’t really have a problem with it, but they should think of their customers. Why not upgrade an employee to get a coach standby person on. Or upgrade an employee before you upgrade some bare minimum fare person with no status.

  110. How dare the common airline employee spoil your first class experience just by their presence! Sheesh, you whiny, entitled brats need some perspective!

  111. I don’t know why this is an issue, at all. Someone, above, brought the situation into perspective. How many of you, who are premium passenger, actually pay for your tickets? I would say almost none. Even if you own the company you are traveling for, the “company” pays for your tickets and you writing off the costs for tax purposes. You accumulate miles and depending on your status, receive upgrades. My travel is no one’s business. We have a saying, ” stay in your lane”! When did it become ok to opine over something that shouldn’t concern them? Just remember, we (airline employees) are no different than you. We travel for business and receive perks because of that. Just like you. And as for “behaving”? I’d put an airline employee’s behavior above quite a few frequent fliers, any day! When you stop behaving entitled and rude, then, perhaps, you can toss that stone. Enjoy your flight and allow us to as well!

  112. For all of you that say employees should not be able to sit in premium cabins…. what perks/ benefits do YOU have with your company that you’d like to share with all of us so that we can rip you to pieces? Sounds like a bunch of selfish , entitled , whining babies. Come on, tell us YOUR benefits that are NONE of our business, because the benefits of airline people are NONE of your business. Now go get your ba-ba or paci and suck on that for a while, maybe you’ll feel better

  113. Maybe we should question other companies who “perk” their employees. Disney, hotel chains etc. Arent you the same guy who questioned about employees eating 1st class meals? Which are either left over or provisioned. What a jerk!! Why dont you blog about important issues going like greedy airline ceos or the toxic fumes causing crews to become sick. These fumes cause neurological disorders or worse and the companies either denies or minimilizes it!! Make a difference instead of messing with our benefits. I would think human lives would be more important than if a non rev sits in 1st.

  114. What ridiculous statements that revenue passengers, who are elites, and contribute a large sum of money to the airline, get upgraded aren’t “paying” for first class. Becoming elite, and contributing tons of money to an airline is “paying” for it. That’s why we get upgraded!

    Why do employees have to sit in F? What’s wrong with getting free travel in Y? Many employees have talked about how hard the job is so they are entitled to F. Nobody is forcing you to be a flight attendant.

    I’m willing to bet all these FA’s banding together and saying they should be entitled to flying F all work for US carriers. You guys are only shooting yourselves, and the companies you work for in the foot. You’re losing business from premium revenue passengers. And US airlines wonder why they can’t make any money.

  115. And Ted. You have no idea what your talking about. We certainly do appreciate our benefit. I gave a friend of a friend a buddy pass and he acted like a complete imbecile. I ripped him a new one…more than benefits had beed compromised and i was livid. So if ur speaking for airline crew go take a seat and shut it. Cause you are wrong. Dont mess with our benefits.

  116. Giving (selling) a Buddy pass to a friend of a friend is exactly why these perks need to be curtailed.

  117. Melanie: You prove the point why so many of us prefer foreign carriers whenever possible……you can keep your second class premium seats…..I don’t want to be on the same plane with you and your sense of entitlement………..

  118. Yournotentitled. First if all we dont expect 1st. Its hardly available and if we can have it thats freat nice. The only time i try to get it is when i travel with my 70 year old mother to france so ahe can visit her family. We dontt take away from anything. The seat was unoccupied. The most we get is a free drink. (The meal which fyi is not as fancy as u might think. I can make better gourmet meals at home buyng walmart groceries…but whatever makes you all feel fancy.) and a meal that would go in the garbage anyway. We appreciate the benefit. So please you all dont ruin it for us. Maybe i should become a travel blogger and be someone important. #Maybenotentitled(cough)butdefinatelyanarcissist#scottdisicksyndrome#toxicfumeshurtingcrews#writeaboutthat

  119. Ken its was my husbands friend. I knew the guy and he didn’t sit in 1st. But acted a fool non the less. Ive seen worse behavior in 1st. missing the point. Most of us wouldnt be working for an airline if it werent for the benfits.

  120. Don’t know what it is about air travel that makes us customers so entitled.

    If airlines are allowed to reward us for loyal patronage, they should be allowed to reward their employees for their service. Lots of companies’ employee perks include significantly easier access to whatever product the company sells. Retail workers get huge discounts (often combinable with other sales). Investment bankers get to have their money managed by the bank with a much lower net worth than is demanded of clients. Gym instructors get free gym membership. It’s an endless list. Teachers at private schools can have their kids attend for free at a lot of schools. Let the airlines give their employees whatever perks they like. If it bothers you that much, vote with your wallet.

  121. What a completely insane topic to debate. Employees are the ones who make the airline thrive and should be entitled to enjoy the perks. A true good argument I heard was an airline the size of the Big Three , that if they only used frequent flier miles exclusively for proper measure only and nothing else, it would take them roughly 6 years to burn all those frequent miles off. How about Super Bowl seats and suites…? I’ve never heard that having empty stadiums would make the experience at a game appear to be more exclusive, think about it, less of a line for beer and urinals. Is it an apple and oranges comparisons? The arguments will never end.

  122. I say it’s none of your business how employees/retirees travel…..whether they pay or not. next question? lol

  123. Money and Class are not sunnoemous. Isn’t this the age old agreement of the 1%, versus the rest. You purchase a seat not the whole cabin. Gratitude goes a lond way.

  124. It’s interesting that you say you’re flying in first class for business. I assume that your company is paying for it and not you personally? So that is one of your perks. Flying up front is an airline employee’s perk. I do wish you had investigated a few major airlines’s policies before writing this post. I would have also appreciated a solid opinion from you, after you analyzed all of the facts. Partial opinions are weak and lead to having your readers think for you. I continually purchase (myself), luxury goods and services, such as nice shoes, dinners, and hotels. I do not ask that no employees or other people are in the shoe store, having a nice steak dinner, or staying at the hotel I’m staying at, I mind my own business. I work weekly in Delta One JFK>LHR>JFK. We always give our customers first choice. We have a continuous service. Continuous (meaning, even when you’re sleeping, we are continuously walking through the cabin). I would be shocked to hear that a passenger in Delta One was not catered to. Also, if you notice any disturbance, in any cabin, notify a flight attendant. They might not be aware of the disturbance. Also, I wish we had a list of who our customer’s worked for so we could report bad behavior. We’d be really busy then. I am also a writer and I’ve worked for a major US airlines as flight attendant for 25 years.

  125. How do you know the people in first were non-revs rather than upgrades? The passenger list for the flight usually has a large list for passengers that qualify for an upgrade. You can’t assume someone who sits in First Class, when you saw you were the only passenger, is non-rev. The gate agent is to give First to upgrades and if there is anything left, maybe a non-rev. You don’t have access to that upgrade list, and most likely if someone was inconsiderate, they were not non-rev, as there are ‘rules’ for this perk. You would never know I am a non-rev. I am dressed well, reading a book, being quiet, and taking whatever is left after the paying customers are fed. And very grateful.

  126. Wow, this is ridiculous. Why do you think any airline employee takes this job?? Because it isn’t for the dismal pay, terrible hours, and being away from their friends and family all the time to wait on you, it’s for the flying benefits. And trust me, it is nearly impossible to get a first class seat nowadays on space available status. For every domestic flight with maybe 2 or 3 empty first class seats there is a list of 10 passanger upgrade requests and those always get those 1st class seats first. And if you think an airline would be wise to keep most of it’s seats in premium cabins empty then I’d say that airline would probably laugh in your face. The airline absolutely wants all of those seats FILLED and by paying passangers, that is kind of the whole point. So if you think not letting employees non-rev in those seats is going to keep them empty and that somehow you will get a better service that way think again. The service is meant to be provided to a full cabin, no matter what the cabin, if that can’t or isn’t being done it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the person sitting next to you happens to work for the airline or if they work for anywhere else. People are people and this post wreaks of elitism. How many times have you gotten your premium seat based on an upgrade request or miles or bc you were on paid company business?? Give me a break. If you want flight attendants to serve you with a smile I suggest you not suggest they are too lowly to sit next to you on an airplane when they are off work.

  127. And to the commenter who said “obviously they would need to be quiet and well behaved.” Umm…you do know we are people just like you, right? Not Children or wild animals? Or second class citizens for that matter? I’m fairly certain we know exactly how to “behave” on an airplane, it’s kind of our job.

  128. Airline employees are the last ones on and they are not guarenteed anything! They can spend DAYS in an airport waiting for a flight because there are not any seats available on flights while you are at home they are sleeping on the airport floors. Often times they get the crappy seats no one else wants like those awesome middle seats between 2 overweight people.

    If they are lucky enough to get a first/business class seat they are a well deserved extra perk for the underpaid workers. Flight crews know who the non revs are and if there are any troublemakers they can pull perks from non revs.

    They are completely well deserved for them

  129. @pointster,

    “The US is supposed to be an egalitarian society…”
    Do you live in the same United States as I do?

    Read your Constitution and Bill of Rights, the 14th Amendment, etc. “We the people….All men are created equal…” Fortunately I don’t live in the United States, I live in a more equalitarian country. As for the ME3, their rules are the same as their countries/societies, all run by unelected despots, petty monarchs.

    re: broken seat of revenue passenger…if indeed these were employees, then one of them should have been asked by the in-charge to change seats. I-C should have been reported.

  130. ok first off speaking as a ACTIVE employee of American Airlines the upgrades to business of first are not free. They are payroll deduct at the moment. Soon it will be completely free. Now as far as people not wanting us to be in the cabins its a perk of our employment. We dont b*tch when you exes in first class get your 100k bonus. so how can you really be mad that we are in first class? Also as a non rev on american we almost never get business or first class on domestic flights because people always upgrade. To the writer of this article we only get first class on international flights because american does now allow you to upgrade to first only business. So if you people out there really feel so strongly then buy the seats and we won’t be in first class on these international flights. I could careless I am perfectly content paying 37.48 to go Sydney Australia in coach and still get the same perks as business or first because I work for the company. Also we have a strict code of conduct when we fly. So you regular paying passengers will never know we work there unless we told you. 9/10 non revs conduct themselves professionally on all flights. We look and dress the part very well. So basically in closing stop hating on us having a great perk of the job because at the end of the day the person or persons you have a issue with being in the cabin is more than likely someone who has helped you get to your destination as smoothly as possible one time or another

  131. The reason F isn’t open to economy passengers and “discounted rates” is because airlines are a business….there to make profit….as much as the flyer thinks they are their to take them across the world for pennies. First class used to be a huge percentage of the revenue for airlines. Now everyone’s elite (usually on their employer’s dime, not their own which makes this complaint even more hilarious) and use miles, upgrades and whatever else they can which leaves them paying little for first class, causing a shift in revenue for airlines (why you economy fliers are paying so much to check bags maybe?). And leaves them entitled. Those are all of the people in F class. Then you have the open seats. Paying passengers deserve them more than non-revs? Seriously? That discounted-so-low-your-trailer park-cousin-can-fly ticket deserves an upgrade? We’ll see how entitled EVERYONE on the plane becomes once they get a taste of that! The airlines offset costs letting employees fly for free, because most airline employees get paid so little that the only reason they work for an airline is this benefit. It’s basically part of their salary. Take away the benefits from airline employees, strikes for huge pay increases occur, your tickets….if you can get on a flight with everyone on strike….skyrocket. If you got shitty service in first, it’s because of shitty flight attendants, not because of non revs on your flight. Be happy that this is what you have in life to complain about….obviously it can’t be that bad…

  132. Why would airline employees be restricted from flying first class? This isn’t fair as I and as my husband put in many years working for American Airlines and we earned those seats just as much as anyone else. We travel standby and many times have to wait for hours even days to get on a flight.
    I traveled standby to Florida in February and couldn’t get first class because there were 4 children under the age of 10 siting in the first class seats! The flight attendant joked about working in a preschool! So I miss out on a first class seat because a mileage passenger obviously takes 4 Seats in first class for his kids? Really is this fair?
    Also as airline employees we are required to dress business casual so we always look nice and are required to act a certain way. Yet I see passengers sitting in first class in Sweat pants and even pajamas from time to time and look like they just rolled out of bed. Don’t get me wrong if they are entitled because of paying for a seat or mileage, let’s just make it open for all including airline employees who put in long days of sometimes rude treatment to get these benefits. Whether we pay or not we are entitled like everyone else. Anyone who works for a company always has some sort of perks so let’s not pick on the airlines employees guys! We all work hard and deserve special treatment. Jan

  133. “And Ted. You have no idea what your talking about. We certainly do appreciate our benefit. I gave a friend of a friend a buddy pass and he acted like a complete imbecile. I ripped him a new one…more than benefits had beed compromised and i was livid. So if ur speaking for airline crew go take a seat and shut it. Cause you are wrong. Dont mess with our benefits.”

    And some people think that Jennifer Aniston doing ads for an outside carrier is the problem these days?

    I was had a career in sales and customer service. All of our product was allotted to us due to our CSI score which to make a long story short, if we didn’t provide excellent “CUSTOMER” service, there was nothing for us to sell ( No sales, no income)

    And yet I have to literally sit here and read this out of the keyboard of an employee? Sure I could write it off as “it’s the internet, maybe it’s just a troll or maybe somebody just had a bad day” , but if I didn’t have first hand experience I wouldn’t know this.

    Hate to say this, but an employee whose primary job description involves any form of “customer” service should be severely disciplined for stating something along these lines in any forum, public or private.

    The person typing these comments is most definitely an ACTUAL employee.

    And you wonder what’s wrong in this situation?

    Statements like this make me not want to EVER patronize your business. ( And we are 99% sure, which airline(s) employ you)

    Go take a seat and “shut” it you stated?

    And you’re afraid of #TheDonald? #TheDonald needs to say “You’re Fired” many many hundreds if not Thousands of times.

  134. Oh and for Jill, that’s funny when I , ( and the millions of other paying customers of your employer by the way) purchased your product, I don’t remember it being appropriate for me to then come to your place of business and have a discussion over your salary level or how much you had paid for your shoes or the watch you were wearing.

    I don’t remember it ever being appropriate for me to analytically state that your cheap ‘walmart’ loving tush shouldn’t be allowed to service customers with that scowl of disapproval.

    I’m so sick and tired of hearing employees for businesses tell me at every juncture about how much they hate their jobs. It’s none of our business in case you hadn’t noticed.

  135. More elite and exclusive?Leave seats empty so you feel important? Is that what people need to feel above others? What is happening? Are we that selfish thatbyoud rather see empty seats than see me and my mother enjoy our vacation? We are just hired help and should sit in the back with he lower class people? Do you hear yourselves? Lucky is a jerk. Get over yourselves.

  136. Justsaying, um , me entitled? You don’t have any idea what I do for a living . I’m just trying to figure out why perks and benefits of anyone’s company is anyone else’s business. Wether it’s GM , Starbucks, Princess Cruises, etc. My point is that benefits are between the company and employee and what you, me or Kermit the Frog thinks, it’s None of our business. I’m trying to defend the airline people that get lower wages, more expensive health care and less perks. BTW, you don’t even know me , so I find it hard to believe you can make any assumptions about me. When I do fly and take the airline staff Starbucks cards, Chick -fil-a sandwiches or treats, they sure seem to like having me on their plane. Have a nice day

  137. This discussion is pointless. There is hardly any international first class anymore, and I suspect American will soon reconfigure it’s 777-300ER to a biz only cabin for the very reasons that no one buys these tickets. If you want an “exclusive experience” call NetJets.

  138. And this from a guy who uses points to access a class of travel he would never be able to get to otherwise… I would also assume (yes, I know what they say about assuming) that those points are collected for free by traveling for business. Maybe those points should go to your company’s travel pot instead to avoid all these “entitled” feeling people traveling for leisure and getting upgrades on their employers dime…

    In my experience the “upgrades” (and more specifically then those using points and those moved because of over-bookings) are the worst when it comes to hogging the crew (i.e. service) and meals both in business and first class. So maybe we should stop any and all upgrades and keep everyone in the class of travel they’ve actually paid for. On the other hand non-rev passengers are generally the most well behaved people on the airplane.

    Ridiculous subject and an embarrassing article!

  139. That is a very expensive “perk” any other profession would have to pay taxes on such perks. The airline personel shoudl pay taxes on this compensation

  140. LOL, to the numb-nuts who stated “You’re losing business from premium revenue passengers. And US airlines wonder why they can’t make any money.” Are you kidding? The US airlines have never made more money in their entire history than this last year. They are literally making money hand over foot despite what some consider a sub-par high-end product. But you know what? most of the money they make these days come from the first-time or occasional flyer, not the premier status flyers~ and better yet, the US has an endless supply of them.

    I love it when you whiny little bitches complain and then threaten you’ll take your business elsewhere.. great! Do it! Teach the airlines a lesson. Believe me, they will get along just fine, and better yet, means more available premier seats for the employees. XOXO


  141. @Dave h

    Lets not forget to place a tax on miles and points collected when traveling on company business. After all the ability to use those points for private travel for yourself and your family is quite “an expensive perk” as well isn’t it!? I know a lot of people would hate to loose that possibility or having to pay for it.

    And before you say something ****** like “when you use miles you still pay the tax for the ticket”, well so do non-revs or “airline personel” as you call them. In addition to whatever ticket fare the airlines charge the tax on the ticket must always be paid for. So whats the difference again?

    An uninformed article by an uniformed author followed by uninformed comments by mostly uninformed people.

  142. In case you employees didn’t notice, we redeemed travel using miles we EARNED with cold hard cash that keeps the airline afloat, and your salaries paid for. You act as though the miles were gifted to us for free and it cost us nothing, I have news for you it costs thousands of dollars, so please don’t tell us that we used miles so we aren’t really paying for first class. We did pay for it by contributing thousands of dollars to your company and earning the miles. These attitudes coming from obvious FA’s on this topic is absolutely disgraceful that you talk to customers that way, and act that since we got upgraded we don’t really deserve to be sitting in first class. Ok fine, then I’ll take back the $20,000 a year I contribute to your company of my own money, and fly an airline that actually values my business. I have to pay for my own travel- not my company- it comes out of my pocket!

    Nobody is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to be FA’s, so please don’t tell us about how hard your job is and that you deserve to fly F or J international. You chose to be FA’s and you knew the pay scales going into it. If you don’t like it, then you can quit. Oh and you don’t get to fly domestic F cause it’s always full. The horror… you poor things.

    When you fly international premium products, you’re only diluting the product, alienating your most highly valued customers, and shooting yourselves and your company in the foot. The issues of why employees shouldn’t sit in premium cabins has been highlighted again and again. Paying customers aren’t given the best service, they lose out on meals, they lose out on seats if they break, they lose out on space, they lose out period. So your most valued customers lose, good job. You want free travel as a perk? That’s fine, but there’s no reason why you can’t do it in Y.

    The attitudes, and comments being stated by US carriers FA’s just epitomizes why everyone hates flying US carriers these days, and wants to take their business to airlines like Emirates and Singapore. Keep up the good work!

  143. Hey You’renotentitled,

    You still don’t get it! Catch up and pay attention! Unless the price for oil quadruples, the airlines can’t do anything BUT make tons of money, literally record profits 3-4 quarters in a row. AA made more money last year than any airline in the history of the world, and had Delta not paid out profit sharing they would have been #1.

    Also you credit card warriors aren’t even the number 1 priority for the bottom line anymore, believe it or not the vast numbers of first-time and infrequent fliers are, and guess what, there’s an endless amount of them. Why do you think they are getting rid of First class seats for more Business and economy?

    I’m so tired of empty threats how “everyone hates flying US carriers these days, and wants to take their business to airlines like Emirates and Singapore.” Key word here is want.. you may want to leave, but you don’t and you can’t. We know it, you know it, let’s stop pretending. empty threats. even if you never flew US carriers again (laughable to say the least) there’s in infinite amount of replacements ready to step in. So do us a favor, stop wasting your time with the empty threats, take your ‘business’ elsewhere if you think you can. 90% of you don’t pay for these tickets: your credit card points and companies do and they aren’t going to switch these contracts because you’re pissed off employees are riding in first class more than you. I don’t care if you hate US carriers, you are stuck with us, and until you actually shut your mouth and move your ass, we are stuck with you.

    See you in First Class XOXO

    (getting my pre-departures and meal preferences before you… so enjoy your pasta)

  144. THIS IS FUNNY!!! Boils down to jealousy, people resorting to almost illegal activity to get miles and status jealous because of an employee perk. Ben here can’t find love because he’s always up in the air, now gets invited to review cabins so he’s also getting a perk because of his “job”. Trust me some employees aren’t paid crumbs, traveling upfront with say an engineer employee of the airline is a classier experience than traveling with some of these thirsty almost criminal miles and points collectors…these people doing manufactured spend just to sit up front, sitting beside them is no different from being beside a drug dealer…they think they are elite but they really are scum.

  145. Ben, please contact me… I agree with you completely! I even wrote a long letter to a flight attendant on flyertalk chastising her for her criticism of your post! we have a lot in common and a lot to talk about… I’m a delta diamond and can relate…

  146. Lot of hate from the employees, who are missing the point entirely.

    If all airline employees conducted themselves well, then revenue passengers and elites wouldn’t know what a non-rev was, or who they were on their particular flight.

    There would be no examples of obvious preferential treatment. There wouldn’t be examples of revenue pax not having a catering choice because non-revs who were buddy-buddy with the FA on the flight got their pick first (and refused to let revs pick). There would be no argument.

    But the fact remains: It’s not elites who would be “ruining” the perk by complaining – it would be employees who brought negative attention to themselves for being inconsiderate to/around revenue pax.

    And yes, some of us DO pay for our OWN F/J seats out of our OWN pockets.

  147. @Delta+AA+United- good job! Way to tell off a customer and really stick it to him. I bet your in-flight service is just as good! It is employees like you that give real FA’s who care about their jobs, their companies, and their customers a bad record. It’s really a shame to see you in this business, and spoiling the class act of your co-workers.

  148. What I’d like to ask, and this is a serious question, why there is so much hostility coming from the US3 carriers FAs on this topic? International carriers (and smaller US carriers to a certain degree) do not have staff that talk about their customers this way with such mean hostility, and contempt. It just surprises me, and I think it is beyond disgusting. But why do American carrier’s flight attendants view their customers in such a hostile light vs international carriers who value their passengers?

  149. @Ted good job putting this into perspective. I just don’t think these US3 FA’s will ever understand because they are so caught up with us “annoying” passengers, and their right to fly F on their vacations. Free flights can be a perk of FA’s, but it can be done in Y without ruining their premium customers experience and their products.

  150. The hostility comes from the fact that nowhere else in the world but America do “elite” passengers concern themselves with who is sitting in the same cabin as them…only Americans feel so entitled to buy 1 seat and control the rest of the cabin. In Europe or the Middle East and people with real money if they are unhappy they book private or go to another carrier not police who is in the cabin with them. Shame on Ben for this post.

  151. @Abe you seem to be the one with the most to say, sorry you had a bad experience but as an employee who is not a flight attendant or pilot, when I fly in J, I’ve seen only the best behavior from non-revs for AA, I fly international J/F every week and the same for domestic. Once again sorry for your bad experience but for someone who averages more miles than Ben, I can say I’ve never seen bad non-rev behavior

  152. A delta airline staff didn’t shan’t to sell 3 first class tickets to JFK and said ” Employees have reserved this seats and I will not sell them.” How rude is that then instead he said he changed the cabin we where in but we still got seated in the coach cabin.

  153. @David thanks for being sorry, but again the issue has nothing to do with behavior and everything to do with inconveniencing your most loyal customers. As I said before with my example with a business partner and I flying JFK-EZE round trip. The cabin was an empty F, and went out full. We paid for our tickets. His seat broke mid-flight, and there was no where for him to get reseated as a result of airline nepotism and employees hoarding first class.

    This is just one example. I’m not gonna continue to go over this because we’re going in circles. You guys should be entitled to free travel, but it should be free travel in Y. There’s absolutely no reason why employees should be sitting in premium cabins. Their behavior has nothing to do with anything. And if there behavior was so stellar we wouldn’t even be able to pick out non-revs.

    As someone noted above they did not get their meal preference because non-revs were served first. This would have been a perfect opportunity for a non-rev to get up and say I’m so sorry I’m more than happy to switch choices with you. Or in my case, one of the non-revs to get up to switch seats so my business partner didn’t have to sit in a broken seat all the way to Buenos Aires after paying $6,000, but they didn’t. The fact that these episodes happen proves the point that non-revs have no place in F or J. Paying customers should always come first.

    Furthermore I am so disturbed by the attitudes of the US3 flight attendants comments I have read. I’m so happy I don’t fly you guys, and I’m not stuck with you. I’m happy to fly a smaller airline that offers travel around the country with flight attendants who actually care about their customers. I have no idea why there is so much hostility and disdain for customers coming from flight attendants who work for the big US3. It’s quite alarming, and really sad.

  154. I’m a former airline employee. and have flown over a million miles as a non rev. I have never seen a flight attendant offer service to a NRSA passenger prior to a full fare. Every FA can read, which is a pre requisite to employment, and they have a list of every passenger on the plane revenue and non. They will ask you by name if you would care for a drink,and will also give you a menu. When they ask a Non Rev they will always mention what might not be available. I would not be surprised if the person being ignored was already an asshole. These Flight attendants put up with the biggest. I have never seen a non rev act up in any way. if they have they would be harshly handled by their employer. This elite idiot thinks just because he paid for one seat he owns the whole cabin. These self centered jerks don’t deserve first or business class. I’ve seen them setting back with their shirt unbuttoned down the front of their beer belly and their gold chains. I’ve seen them all, they lower the standards for being elite. I think the jerk who started this in that category!

  155. @Gary

    Glad to hear that you’re sticking up for the union line. Who cares what your customers are actually TELLING YOU happened?
    Just like the police/teachers/military/whatever, there are no bad apples, right? Gotta stick together regardless of what the realities for others might be, huh? Union strong!

    Seriously buddy, there’s a problem with some nonrevs tarnishing the image for the rest of you, and your reaction is to stone the messenger? How about you focus on the bad nonrevs giving you guys a bad name instead?

  156. Tom, I agree with you on the bad apple thought. Though I have not seen a non rev act up, or be privileged by the flight attendants, I have heard of it. I have also seen the person who had caused the problem lose his pass privileges. Also I can see that your a union hater, the airline I worked for was non union, and still is although they have some liberal Hillery thinking people who are trying to change that. I know that if I was a passenger, and witnessed an infraction of the rules by a non rev or a flight attendant I would turn them in.I travel to Germany several times a year, and love my pass privileges. Sometimes I actually sit in Business class. If the union people are successful, the company will make some changes to offset the extra cost of going union. The pass privileges might change.

  157. I’m perfectly fine with the concept of unions and support the ones that actually look to meet their duties to employees. Unfortunately, the unions I specified are fantastic examples of unions that fail to see the forest for the trees.

    If Police aren’t trusted because their unions protect bad apples, then the unions are culpable for the negative perception of police as a whole. The union is supposed to protect unfair/unjust practices against good employees, not protect the least deserving from having to face the reality of their misdeeds.

    If Teachers aren’t respected because the unions focus on job security at the expense of performance-based metrics, then the unions are culpable for negative perceptions of teachers as a group.

    And if Flight Attendants aren’t respected because reports of their bad apples are being dismissed en masse by a Union which would rather protect their benefits at the expense of paying customers, then yeah, people will have a bad perception of FA’s.

    Being a flight attendant isn’t an easy job – I certainly don’t have the heart or patience to do it. And having good benefits unique to the job can keep good FAs in a good mood and happy with their jobs, delighting their customers. I don’t intend to begrudge them that.

    But just read the comments here from the FAs. A vast majority of them viciously denounce even the possibility that bad apples exist – similar to how police unions respond when their own are “targeted” for their bad actions.

    The hostility is unbecoming, and it certainly doesn’t help me (and presumably other passengers reading these comments) want to sympathize with the FA’s position now, or going forward.

  158. I have no hostility towards anyone.
    The word that keeps coming up is “perk”
    It’s a perk of Airline employees to fly in whatever cabin they are entitled to. They should follow rules as per dress code and behaviour.
    It’s also a perk of most business class passengers to be flying business class. A perk given to them by their employers who pay for the tickets.
    My question is, why should their perk override the perk of the airline employee?
    Mostly it is being paid for or supplied by their relevant employer?
    Surely anyone who is against that as a hanger value to their own status?
    To be honest, I am a little bored of the whole argue,ent.
    And yes, I work for an airline.

  159. “My question is, why should their perk override the perk of the airline employee?”
    You have got to be kidding, right?

    Let me put it this way. If the plane fills up with only their own employees on every flight, do you think the airline will make money? How about if the plane fills up with only paid passengers (regardless of who paid)? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the employees won’t have that perk for very long if the airline gives preference to their employees over paying customers – again, regardless of who pays.

    Oh, and some of us pay out of our own pockets for Business class, just to have an enjoyable, comfortable flight to our destinations. And paying $6000 for a seat on a flying bus doesn’t exactly qualify as a “perk” if it’s coming out of your own pocket, hm?
    If the airline sells me a Business class seat on the expectation that I have a choice of meal, drink, and a working IFE – you bet your ass I’d expect to get what I paid for. Is it really that much to ask for? I mean, is it really????

    If the airline’s employees are using up for free something I paid for – again – you’d bet your ass I’d be bitter, expect a refund, and likely never give my hard earned cash to an airline that enables such entitled behavior.

  160. Some of my most memorable (and enjoyable) flights have been when seated next to an airline employee. I have zero issue with an airline allowing it’s hard working staff to sit up front. I am quite certain there are rules in place and as long as they follow them then I am A – OK.

  161. On another note, On my last flight from London/Heathrow to San Francisco I was seated in Club World (Business) and seated next to me was a BA employee. She could tell that I wasn’t feeling for the meal selection. She left her seat and brought me a menu from the First Class cabin and asked if any of the lunch selections appealed. How nice is that?? And I got to sample some of the champagne from First, which by the way was much better than the offerings in Business.

  162. It is an obvious assumption that staff get upgraded all the time, and your first class is full of them. If you are a gold card holder you may be upgraded from business to first and the gold card holder from economy to business. Another factor is when economy is overbooked, passengers get upgraded all the time. If you have a flexible ticket for first class you just show up at airport and you can choose your seat at anytime. But there are cases when staff, mainly flight deck, gets to fly first with their family or even directors or managers from airlines even some companies, not related to airlines, but the same want to impress them provide them and family to fly first class all the time at anytime. And if I am flying first class with my family which we have paid in full why not drink and talk (politely) whenever we want, or just because as someone mentioned here she/he needs to sleep and arrive fresh at destination? There are private jet services or just simply book the whole cabin for yourself, but as the person said “I may sound selfish…” Well though! By the way if royalty, presidents or anybody above you needs those seats you will be downgraded when needed!

  163. I’m reading a lot of comments concerning how the airlines should run their company, and people questioning if it’s fair. The question is in poor taste in my opinion; it’s the equivalent of me poking my nose into how much your company pays you in 401k matching every year. Is it my business? No. Talk about the fact we get benefits, and it’s fine to chat…but if you want to try it, work at the airlines. We fly a million miles a year or more, it’s our benefit and leave it at that.

    – Airline Employee

  164. I don’t have a problem after all the platinum and gold members. I was on a AA where there was 13 platinum members waiting for first class. Then I get on the plane to find a pilot sitting in first class.

  165. Lets look at it on a different perspective. Some airlines reward their employees with perks. Which the employees will work hard to obtain and retain. The perks keeps the employees happy in return they provide great service which is felt by the paying passengers. I have flown countless times with different airlines and the difference between an airline company who looks after their employees vs one who doesnt is apparent. Less lost/damaged bags, less delays, less bad customer service, and more improvements that benefit the paying customer when it comes to airlines that value both employees and customers.

  166. Bunch of entitled A holes here thinking they are better than Airlines employees because they make more money. Do us a favor and get yourself a private jet if you are worth so much.

  167. I grew up in an airline family and have been on both side of this issue.

    As someone who occasionally, though not frequently, does pay for an F product, may I provide an observation?

    I traveled a couple of years ago from LAX-HKG-LAX in first class. Both flights were on B747-400 equipment. My outbound was on United, with all 14 first class seats full. The return was on Cathay Pacific, and I was the only passenger in the 9-seat cabin. (CX does not upgrade employees to F, yet the carrier seems to have a positive and upbeat staff.)

    Which flight was the better value?

  168. Non-revs should get whatever seats are available…as long as they adhere to dress and behavior requirements. It’s so hard to non-rev nowadays with pilot shortages and increase demand…customers do come first but employees need to be treated respectfully by their company in order to retain GOOD people. Trust me non-reving is not glamorous and we rarely get FC. My husband is an FO for an airline and we have a two year old. Often times my daughter and I non-rev alone because we meet him wherever he currently is and he usually only gets 2-3 FULL days with us at home per week IF we’re lucky. He’s in a different hotel every night on what are usually four day trips based out of a city we cannot afford to live in so he has to commute on standby…which means he takes even MORE time away from his family (he is not paid to commute…he is also not paid when flights are delayed). I have never sat in FC as a non-rev (domestic) it’s near impossible with upgrades, overbookings,etc. Plus with my 2 year old, they usually don’t allow it. I have paid for first class tickets a few times before and had the opportunity to sit next to an extremely smelly woman who drank like a fish….but she was a paying customer so I couldn’t really complain. If my husband couldn’t get on a flight because there were only empty seats in FC and the company didn’t allow non-revs in FC, he would have to delay his trip back home to his family even further, sucky dilemma that would be. I grew up in a military family where my dad was gone a lot for work, we had perks…like free healthcare, cheap groceries. Should we not have been allowed those because they are paid for with American taxes (and don’t say “serving your country is different than flying an airplane”. he was never in harms way…he was a mechanic alright)? My dad missed out on A LOT of family time. So does my husband. He works during holidays, all hours of the day, he is not home every night and gets sick a lot because well traveling does that to you (also don’t say “well that’s the career he chose” yes, yes it is, but it is not the schedules he chose). When your flights are delayed, trust me the crew is just as pissed off as you because THEY ARE NOT GETTING PAID for that time, only in flight hours. So if some FC passengers get persnickety about non-revs being disruptive in the FC cabins, speak to a manager, FA, etc. Non-revs are usually the respectful passengers, they are a much better bet than smelly obnoxious alcoholics. Also if you complain about shelling out thousands for a ticket just to be rewarded with a bunch of disruptive passengers (who may or may not be non-revs) fly corporate…then you can actually act like you own the airplane. Honestly no matter how much you pay for your ticket, where and who you sit next to or around is a bit of a crap-shoot so suck it up buttercup.

  169. I work for Delta and almost always fly FC flatbed seat on International flights (who cares about FC on domestics?). I love it that American carriers respect their employees enough to list them on premium cabins first and limit the upgrades available for medallion members on international routes, I don’t think the same is true for the gulf carriers. Anyway, life is good as an airline employee no matter what other people say. Off to NRT tomorrow!

  170. I agree that non-rev passengers are often the most well-behaved people in the cabin. When problems occur with non-revs they often involve scenarios where a group of non-rev passengers know each other, and either stand around each others’ seats talking shop, or hanging out in the galley visiting with the flight attendants.

    When I was in college I worked for Western Airlines (now folded into Delta). WA had a sane policy on employees in first class that worked well. I have not heard of anything similar with any other carrier. At Western, employees could stand by for 2/3 of the seats in a first class cabin, but never more. Thus, in a 24-seat F cabin with one revenue passenger booked, the load would never be more than 17. This policy proactively addressed valid complaints from revenue passengers about being “the only paying customer in the cabin” while also allowing employees to experience the first class product from time to time.

    Airline employees in today’s marketplace may tend to become “entitled,” as several of the posts on this thread demonstrate. I suspect I was no different during my airline days. Looking back in time, I don’t believe any passengers paying $10K for an international F seat should ever be made to feel that they are stuck at a party to which they were not invited.

  171. My my. Talk about entitlement. There was a time when there was no such thing as frequent flyers. Now passengers feel entitled. Loyal customers that buy the same brand of car time after time will get no discount on their next one. Why do airline passengers feel so entitled? Most of the time they didn’t pay for the seat. Their employers did. The employee gets the free mileage to cash in.

  172. Most domestic airlines offer seats to employees based on seniority. A captain might sit in back if a mechanic,flight attendant or baggage handler might sit in front if they have worked at the company longer. Perks attract better employees and more loyalty. Treat you employees as well as possible. The policy is to offer meal selections to paying passengers first and they usually get the best seats in the cabin.

  173. I am for one so happy that they are making it harder to get diamond medallion status for delta customers. We don’t need the Market be saturated with all these so called elites taking away seats from employees with their complimentary upgrades. Premium cabin should be for paid customers and employees only. And before you say you are taking your business elsewhere, feel free to do so, Delta has been having record profit for years now. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

  174. So that’s why business and first class are so expensive – they are mainly filled with employees. If employees had to travel economy, presumably business and first would be a little more affordable for everybody else.

  175. There are a few comments I’ve read that sounds pretty far fetched. One comment said something about as long as the employees behave themselves as if the employee’s are “mutts” As an airline employee, former school teacher, I can tell you most employees come from another career such as nurses, teachers, real estate agents, even lawyers. It’s an amazing, sought out career with the MAIN benefit of travel. It is extremely rare for any employee to act out, be annoying, etc while being sat in first class or coach. I will not say the same for fare paying passengers as they have not been screened, background checked, gone through all of the interview process and training, they have very little to loose as well if they are hard to deal with. Where as an employee or their travel buddy can have the pass benefit revoked. It is not taken lightly when a report come’s in. As far as employees being chosen before other passenger’s this is not true, they may have their order taken along with everyone else so they do not feel like garbage, but when it come’s to what they actually get it may be something completely different due to their preference was no available and went to a payin passenger. Honestly, it is rare as employee I get first class due to all the upgrades, it has become much easier for an upgraded passenger then it used to be. As far as taking away any benefit from a full fare passenger it does not. It may be more full in first, but this still does not mean the flight attendant would be at your feet every time you look their direction if the flight was empty. The experience depends on the crew, and yes sometime’s who you sit next to. The other day I was on a flight in coach, and I know the person behind me was a paying passenger, and her nasty red colored toe nails were between the seats and on my daughters arm rest, she also had her nasty coat hanging over my headrest. Personal spaced apparently did not exist to this person. And on another flight a gassy passenger who would break wind about every 15 minutes!!! REALLY! As anyone who travels frequently as the airline employees they are well aware of these annoying things people do and it is very rare it is us! An article like this… what do I think? I think it sounds like once you retire you should try and get a job in the airline industry, many of us did exactly that. We left our other career’s early, and thought it would be fun and exciting. I’m not going to complain one bit! If you do try to become a flight attendant, warning they only hand select the very few. Out of 22,000 applicants only 1,000 chosen. Yes, you heard that correctly!! So curious if you have also made articles about movie theater employees sitting in the extra seats putting their heads in the way of your viewing experience, or hotel employees taking up rooms that made you pay more the last minute. You sound like someone who travels way to much.

  176. Airline employees have earned the right to be seated in an available seat whether it’s in business or coach, its part of their benefit package. In fact the only reason you as a customer are paying a lower fare for your confirmed ticket is because airlines offset the cost of their labor by offering employees flight privileges in exchange for lower wages. So unless you’re willing to have the cost of your plane ticket go up then you’ll have to get used to sitting next to an airline employee in business class, if you’re lucky enough to be a premium passenger with enough miles.

  177. JP,
    Your reply makes the erroneous conclusion that all passengers in business class are “lucky” and are using miles. I have actually had a flight attendant tell me how lucky I was once, but I was on a paid first class ticket.

  178. Well said JP! It’s no one’s business whether we as employees sit in the premium cabin or not, we work for the benefit! Now excuse me while I take my business class seat to HND.

  179. So believe it or not, United pays its employees well. And it’s a matter of having work place perks. I’m sorry but open business/first seats doesn’t ensure a better experience. Some people might prefer that but then again- that’s not creating any profit for the airline. So I think for you to say “ oh they’re poor people they should have the experience” trust me when we’re stuck and stranded places we have to buy confirmed tickets the day off. Airline employees however do put up with a bunch of really irrational and rude customers and if anything, it’s a nice perk to be able to get on a plane and take a break.

  180. Dear S and MJ,

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a former airline employee, and I would like to think I see both sides of this issue.

    While you state that it’s nobody’s business whether employees are seated in F/J, and that empty seats do not create a better experience for revenue customers, only the opinions of paying customers really matter. These (few) passengers are the bread and butter of any airline, and taking actions and setting policies that push them away is bad business. There would be no premium cabins at all if not for them.

    I travel fairly frequently for business now, sometimes in paid F/J. In my case, I would ALWAYS choose a carrier like Cathay Pacific that doesn’t upgrade anyone over a carrier like United where every F/J seat will be full on every flight. Again, just my opinion.

  181. #1 – Any Good Company Knows when you invest in your employees/clients your business will thrive. First class is a perk and a more than deserved benefit for employees if available, after Upgrades are done for those eligible.

    #2 – Everyone should behave whether in the front or back of the plane.

    #3 – Everyone in First class is Not rich. Most frequent travelers expenses are paid for by the company “They” work for . So just like your company gives you undeserved miles as a benefit ; employees who work 8-16 hr shifts at the airport (some getting minimum wage) or flying across the world serving passengers Everyday for years and years, they Deserve more benefits than Anyone.

    #4 – Ties are not enforced anymore because Airlines realized ”White Men” aren’t the only consumers.

    #5 – Flight attendance should treat everyone equally. Especially if they are serving their own coworkers who they see everyday.

    #6 – Imagine working in a High Stress environment when the only real benefit is to fly cheap. But also getting close to minimum wage . To help people travel everyday allday for decades. To one day have a few days off. To fly standby travel meaning you have to buy the hotel same day if you make the flight at the highest hotel rate. (And that is a big If , with this generation of OVErsold , Cheapticket Flights that leave the Employee stranded and forced to go home. )To work and see the stress that your coworkers deal with just to hold on to the perks. To see multiple coworkers have strokes and also even die on the job because of the stress and being overworked. I say with out the perks the airlines would go out of business because they would be forced to pay the employees their actual worth for the amount of work they do. First is an incentive for Employees as well as Passengers wanting to Upgrade or pay for it. But for all the harassment, physical/ verbal/threats by passengers including phone recording done to the employees, for all the jetlag with a smile by flight attendants flying across the world, for all the bags and cargo lifted causing permanent injuries and recently death. Let the Employees enjoy their benefits. =)

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