The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris
Home ]

Essential Rules of Non-Revenue Travel

1.  Never do anything that might jeopardize your pass benefits.  Avoid loud, boisterous behavior in the gate area or on the plane.  DO NOT identify yourself as a non-revenue passenger to the paying customers.  If you need to identify yourself as to the flight attendant or gate agent, be discreet.  DO NOT ask a paying customer to swap seats with you.  If you have been given a seat on a full aircraft and you hear an announcement that the airline is offering denied boarding compensation to paying customers, make sure you discreetly identify yourself as a non-revenue passenger.  Do not argue with the gate agent.  If you have a problem that needs to be resolved, find a supervisor and discuss the issue discretely.

2.   A non-rev always eats and drinks complimentary items.  When traveling stand-by, one never knows when one might get stuck somewhere without access to amenities.  Also, airlines have really cut back on their meal service, so be sure to eat or drink whenever food or drink is offered!  However, if it looks like a flight is running short on meals, be sure to let the staff know that you are a non-revenue passenger so that they can serve the paying customers first.  When offered a choice of meals, we usually state our preference followed by, "if you have enough".   It is an easy way to endear yourself to the flight attendant.  Sometimes when they run out of meals, you may be offered a special meal that has not been claimed.   Take it!  These are usually very good!

3.   It is better to be in the air than on the ground.  Even if you have to travel in the wrong direction, sometimes it is best to just get out of a city where the flights are full.

4.   Never check a bag unless you can get by without what is in it.  Government regulations require that airlines ensure that checked bags travel on the same aircraft as the passenger.  Checking a bag can prevent you from being able to change to another flight at the last minute.  Learn to pack light.  Try to find some comfortable waterproof shoes that can be worn with business casual clothing for the plane, but are also comfortable for walking so that you will only need one pair.  Learn to like synthetic fabrics.  Microfiber clothing can be washed and dried quickly in your hotel room.  (Sometimes it is necessary to check a bag if you have such items as guns, skis or golf clubs, but checking bags should be avoided if at all possible.)  Use our Packing Lists when packing for a trip.

5.   Be flexible.  Be willing to change your destination at the last minute.  To be able to do this, you need to pack for any eventuality.  When purchasing your travel wardrobe, always choose function over fashion.  A lightweight raincoat, a fleece jacket, nylon pants with zip-off legs, a swimsuit, and long underwear will allow you to change your destination to any climate.

6.   Plan carefully, but only at the last minute.  Checking for flight availability more than a week ahead of a trip is wasted effort.  If you know several months out that you absolutely have to be in a particular place at a particular time, and you cannot travel several days early, buy a ticket.

7.   Charm (and an airline ID card) will get you everywhere.  Be polite.  When you are stranded, find an airline employee who is not busy and ask for assistance, but whatever you do, DO NOT BOTHER THE GATE AGENT who is busy trying to get a full aircraft out.  If you have an airline ID, you can sometimes get access to a restricted area to use a computer terminal where you can look at flight availability.  Avoid using a computer terminal behind a gate or ticket counter.  Passengers will assume you are an agent and will ask for help.

8.   When told to take any available seat, assume that includes first or business class.   Just make sure that the empty seat is not occupied by a passenger in the lavatory.   This situation can be like playing musical chairs.  When the staff is trying to make an ontime departure, they don't always have time to follow the rules, so hurry to find an available seat and don't be the last one standing.

9.   Decide before you are asked whether you will split from your party.   When being assigned seats on an aircraft, the gate agent may say there is only one seat in first class and ask if you want to split your party between first class and coach.   (Splitting in this situation is recommended.  Chances are that you may not get to sit together in coach either, and if you split, at least one of you will be comfortable.)  You may instead be told that there is one seat left on the plane and asked if your party wants to split, meaning someone gets left behind.  (Splitting in this situation is sometimes necessary, but never leave a minor child behind alone.)   Discuss these possibilities ahead of time and have your answer ready so as not to delay the boarding process.  Never do anything that might delay the departure of an aircraft.

10.   Never leave the gate until the plane has pushed back.   Even when it looks hopeless, after the gate agent has taken the paperwork down the jetway, stay put until you see the aircraft push away from the gate.  There is always the possibility that the agent might open the door and say there are open seats.  Even if you are not next in line, if you are the only one remaining, you might get on.

11.   Dress for first class.  Its nice to be comfortable, but if you are dressed in jeans and there are only first class seats available on an airline whose dress code does not allow jeans in first class, you WILL NOT be traveling on that airplane.  Research the standby dress code for all classes of service for the airline on which you will be traveling and be sure your attire is acceptable for any seat.  If you are dressed for first class and you get seated in coach, it is acceptable to change into more comfortable clothes as long as you adhere to the dress code for the cabin in which you are seated.  It is NOT acceptable to change into coach attire if you are boarded in first class.

12.   Keep your essentials packed and ready to go at a moment's notice.   Buy extras of all of your toiletries so your overnight bag will always have what you need in it.  You might even want to keep a bag packed in your car.  Use our Packing List when you pack to make sure you have everything you need.

13.   Learn (and follow) the Rules.  In addition to these rules, each airline may have specific rules for standby travel.   Be sure to study and learn the rules before you go.  Delta has an "Employee and Guest Travel Guide" which has information for Delta Employees and Retirees, eligible dependents and Family & Friends Guests.  Please visit for more information.

14.   Be Patient.  No matter how well you plan as a standby traveler, chances are that you will at some point have to spend some time waiting in an airport.  Bring a book, a gameboy, cards or crossword puzzles for these occasions.   Here's a link to some card and dice games we enjoy playing while we wait.   Games

15.   Meal List for Flights.  Most airlines require that you have a PNR (Passenger Name Record) before you arrive at the airport for standby travel.  This is also known as "Meal Listing".   This can either be done online, via a VRU (Voice Response Unit) or by speaking with a Reservations Agent.  With a login and password, Delta Employees can use the TravelNet site at   For Austrian Airlines, Blue1, Braathens, Condor, Finnair, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, Thai International and Wideroe, visit   Contact your airline to find out how to meal list.

Home ]

BJ and Tony Morris