Tips for flying on a buddy pass

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“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the [Delta] of times.”

My uncle is a pilot for Delta airlines, and this fact bestows upon me a glorious privilege. That being said, if you thrive on predictability, the buddy pass system probably isn’t for you. Here are a few tips for riding the buddy pass.

Have No Expectations

This is the most important tip of them all, so if you’re gonna keep one in our pocket, let it be this one.
The worst mistake you can make is to let yourself get your hopes up. You’re either gonna get on or you’re not. If you do get on the flight, you’re either getting business (or first) class or economy. And if you don’t, you’re either trying for later in the day or coming back tomorrow. Whatever your fate, it is what is it.

Arrive Early

Whoever is enabling you to fly on a buddy pass has to put in a bit of work. Don’t fuck it up by missing your flight. If you’re flying internationally, under no conditions should you arrive later than one hour before departure. I’ve made this mistake one too many times and it only creates stress for everyone involved.
I recommend arriving two hours before departure, or if you must, an hour before boarding. Arrive even earlier if you aren’t yet booked on the flight.

Be Kind to All Staff

Be kind to everyone in life in general, but for the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on airline staff for a minute. It’s basically a fact that no one wants to help a bitch.
The person at the gate is literally your gatekeeper. They will not always admit it, but they actually do have the power to keep you from boarding, specially if you aren’t flying with the staff member who hooked you up with buddy pass privileges.
Just smile, give love, and respect everyone.

Dress to Impress

The dress code for flying on a buddy pass has changed a lot over the years. The old rules basically required business attire, such as slacks, suits, dresses and other bullshit no one wants to wear while traveling.
Nowadays, the dress code is pretty loose. However, on a layover in Detroit on a flight to France, the hubs changed out of a button-up into a tank top as not to soil the shirt in sweat stains. A French Delta employee at the gate spotted him as I was asking a question realized he was flying on a buddy pass and basically scolded him for his tank top, and then transferred her wrath to me for cleavage issues. I won’t make this mistake again.
The rules are as follows:

  • Don’t wear ripped jeans.
  • Wear clean clothes.
  • Don’t show too much skin.

Try Not to Get Wasted In-Flight

The keyword here is “try”. Just kidding Uncle M.
But really… if you get white-girl-wasted while using your buddy pass, the reprocussions go beyond a slap on the wrist from whoever gave you the buddy pass. The staff member in question will be reprimanded as well.

Carry On Only

If you can help it, do not check your bags. In my opinions, the best thing a frequent traveler can do it learn to pack a carry-on for all trips. There was a time I thought this to be impossible, but now it’s a way of life. Plus, it’s extremely liberating.
When you’re flying standby, you can’t completely guarantee your seat on the plane. Even if there are 30 seats open, and only 15 people on the standby list, although your chances are good, you still shouldn’t assume you’re getting on that flight.
There are a number of other factors that can come into play when trying to fly standby. You may be flying out of an airport that also takes cargo, which leads me to my next tip:

Try to Avoid Airports with High Cargo Traffic for Stopovers

Cargo traffic is the freight loaded and unloaded onto airplanes. If an airline has high levels of cargo traffic, it means that once all the people who have paid for their tickets have boarded, regardless of how many open seats there are, the plane may be loaded with cargo up to its weight limit.
Before you schedule a flight with a stopover or a return flight, it’s a good idea to check if the airline is regularly used for cargo. Wikipedia lists the top 30 of the world’s busiest airports for cargo traffic.

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