Galley Gossip: Flight attendant revokes travel privileges from husband

Dear Heather,

Someone I know was requested by his wife to meet him in another state due to a medical emergency on her part. She had been working out of the country. As a retired airline employee, she had flight benefits, which she used to book her husband a flight. As soon as he landed, instead of finding his ailing wife, he was served with notice she was filing for divorce. Once he flew back home, she yanked the flight benefit, leaving him unable to afford to fly back to the far away state to defend his property rights in the divorce. Just wondered if you thought the airlines would frown upon using flight benefits to lure someone into a state under false pretense.


Dear K,

Now that is some evil shhh….you-know-what! Wow. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something like this happens. I feel for your friend, I really do. I can’t believe his soon to be ex lied about being sick in order to get him where she wanted him. Unfortunately for your friend, the retired flight attendant had every right to revoke his travel benefits. I know I would! I’ll get to that in a moment.
While the airline, I’m sure, would frown upon an ex employee using their travel privileges to do such a thing, it’s highly doubtful the airline will take action right away – if even at all. Only because there are two sides to every story and this is a marriage dispute, not a work related issue, involving an EX employee who can’t be reprimanded or fired. Anyway, it’s all he said-she said at this point. What right does the airline have getting involved? What right do we even have judging? (Yet judge we will!) Remember there’s a reason they’re getting a divorce in the first place. Not that it’s any of our business, but it probably has something to do with the fact they weren’t even living together in the same country when the papers were served, which explains why this question about her traveling benefits came to be.

The flight attendant lied. That wasn’t nice. In fact, it was pretty evil. But people do lie, especially those involved in nasty divorce battles. It sounds to me like your friend isn’t angry that his wife lied, but that he lost his right to travel. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t understand how divorces work so I can’t comment on his right to defend himself in another country. What I can tell you is flight attendants are responsible for the behavior of those traveling on their buddy passes. This is why flight attendants don’t just hand them over to anyone! If her soon to be ex husband were to misbehave on a flight and get written up by another airline employee, the retired flight attendant could very well lose her travel benefits forever! I wouldn’t chance it. Those are her passes. She earned them. She has every right to decide who gets to use them regardless of what’s going on in the marriage.

Do you believe in karma? I do. So if this retired flight attendant is as bad as you believe her to be, I’m sure she’ll get hers in the end. Until then, let the divorce judge decide. Just my two cents…

Thanks for writing


Photo courtesy of DCMaster

Galley Gossip: How flying standby can make you religious

Dear Heather,
I read your post about flight attendant buddy passes and I think you forgot the best part about flying standby. You become a much more religious person. Why? Because when you fly standby you tend to pray a lot…
It all starts when your alarm goes off at 2 AM. “Please God let the loads on the aircraft be light and let me be the first on the stand by list.”
Then when you get to the airport and see your name on the list, you start the second round of prayers. “Please Lord let me make this flight, please!” Most likely you won’t make the flight, but you will get rolled over to the next flight, and so on and so on until you FINALLY hear what you’ve been wanting to hear all day…your name called! YES!
By this time it’s usually late in the afternoon. You’re given a boarding card and immediately start praying again, “Thank you Lord Jesus for this boarding pass.” You make a mental note to go to church more often!
While opening and shutting several full overhead bins, the flight attendant makes the PA that everyone must take a seat so the flight can depart on time. You begin to panic and pray for an empty bin, because as a non-rev you were the very last person to board and the flight is full, full, full. After you find a bin, and thank God, you take your seat, a middle seat located in the last row, and though you should be happy and jumping for joy, you’re not out of the woods just yet! In fact, as an experienced non-rev standby passenger you will not stop praying until that cabin door is closed!

Oh no! Now the gate agent is walking down the aircraft aisle. The praying and sweating are going into overdrive. You try not to make eye contact with the agent as he/she walks down the aisle. The praying continues at a furious pace, “Please don’t let the gate agent come to me, please God, please!”

Your heart is racing faster and faster as the agent gets closer and closer and that’s when it happens. He/she stops, looks you square in the eye, and says, “we have a revenue passenger that needs your seat. Please collect your belongings and follow me.”

Then it’s on to the next gate where the praying and waiting start all over again!

Mark, an optometrist / wannabe flight attendant

Dear Mark,

Holy Moley, Mark, I will pray that you never have to non-rev travel again! But you’re right, non-reving is a stressful experience, one I dread each and every month, which is why I almost always buy a seat whenever I travel with my three-year-old son.

Whenever people find out I’m a flight attendant and start hinting around for a buddy pass, I just shake my head and think to myself, are you crazy! Because seriously, it’s just crazy to non-rev when you can buy a ticket for cheap on-line for cheap these days. Especially if you prefer to actually arrive at your destination, not spend the entire day rolling from gate to gate.

And now a question for you, Mister Wannabe Flight Attendant, why, oh why, would you want to be a flight attendant? I know you’re crazy because you’ve been non-reving – by choice, but just how crazy are you? Please tell me this flight attendant thing is just a fantasy and not something you’d actually do, not when you’ve got a fantastic job already. I mean do you really want to wear the pin striped apron and serve chocolate chip cookies at 30,000 feet? Because honestly, I wouldn’t mind wearing the white robe with the thesescope while asking people to read the last line.

Hmmm…are you thinking what I’m thinking? Maybe, just maybe, we should get together (during Halloween of course!) and swap uniforms. Call me.

Thanks for the letter. I couldn’t have explained non-rev travel better.

Happy Travels,

Heather, a wannabe doctor who will be praying to get on a flight next week

Photo courtesy of (meditation) Joe Shlabotnik, (doctor) Curt

Galley Gossip: A question about flight attendant buddy passes

Hi Heather,

I had an intriguing conversation with my best friend yesterday. His mom is now a retired American Airlines flight attendant. I’ve always been enamored with his ability to just hop on a flight whenever he wants for virtually no money. Just yesterday he was telling me the story how his mom only gets one registered companion (or whatever they call it) and since his sister is her register person, his mom had to find a friend to put him on as that persons registered person. That got me thinking, I wonder if I can find a really cool chick that I can compensate nicely to have her put me on as her registered companion (or whatever). Then I thought of who I know that’s a flight attendant and I remembered your blog! Since I’m running my small company, I’m always forced to pay ridiculous fares for last minute trips, and the inability to be more flexible with my flights. Wanted to hear your thoughts on this. Do you know of this taking place? Or is it too good to be true? Anyway, great blog!….looking fwd to hearing from you.



Dear Jason,

Do you feel me smiling as I simultaneously shake my head slowly back and forth? Do you know this is a HUGE flight attendant pet peeve – asking for passes? You must have no idea how many times people ask flight attendants about their buddy passes, and these are mostly people we rarely even know, like people we just happen to meet in the course of our day! Like the mailman, or a taxi driver, or even a random colleague of the spouse. Just last month my son’s preschool teacher hinted around for a pass. And my mother, who is also a flight attendant, was hit up by a nurse at her doctor’s office.

You mentioned that your friend, the one whose mother is an ex flight attendant, is able to fly back and forth whenever he wants for “virtually no money”, but that little bit of money is actually a lot of money to a flight attendant who is probably making on average 40K a year, and that’s only if he/she works for a major airline and has decent seniority with the airline. Keep in mind that money is automatically docked out of a flight attendants pay check, which, after we pay our bills, could be described as “virtually no money” leftover for anything else. Did you know that flight attendants also get stuck paying the taxes on your trip at the end of the year? We do.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Marry me, fly free?” That has since been changed to “Marry me, fly standby!” Have you flown standby recently? Do you really want to spend your day running from gate to gate, waiting for an agent to call your name, praying each time the agent picks up the phone that they’ll please call your name, please call your name, please call your name, only to feel as if you’ve just won the million dollar lottery when your name is actually called?

When I mentioned on Facebook that someone I didn’t know had asked about compensating a flight attendant for a buddy pass, Tom, a flight attendant, wrote, “I can get you a standby pass, which will allow you to ‘stand’ around all day then drive home mad at me!” Bob, the singing pilot, added, “I only give buddy passes to people I hate. Then I can gleefully relish when they get stranded in Senegal for 10 days.”

Every airline is different when it comes to how their buddy pass system works. Flight attendants, spouses, and immediate family members are able to travel for next to nothing. Whereas it costs a flight attendant almost as much to give a friend a pass as it would if that same friend had just bought the ticket outright. Now it’s a totally different story if the friend traveling on a pass gets upgraded to a first or business class seat, because then the pass becomes quite a steal, but our VIP travelers can’t always get those premium seats and they’re on the standby list way ahead of you!

As far as compensating a flight attendant for a travel pass, I do not know any flight attendants who’d be willing to put their jobs at risk like that. Most airlines state that it’s against company policy to use travel benefits for work related reasons.

Jason, have you seen how cheap airfares are today? They’re so cheap that whenever I fly with my son I almost always buy a ticket, just so I can get where I need to go without any stress. In order to save money these days, airlines are cutting back routes, which means most flights are going out full, which means if you want to fly standby, you better be prepared to do just that – stand by – All. Day. Long. Now if you have a business to run, or someplace you really need to be, can you afford to take a chance on not making it to your final destination?

Seven years ago I met my husband on a flight. Eight months later we were engaged. Things moved pretty quickly for us. But even so, I did not make him my travel companion until three months into the relationship – and I loved the guy! Why? Because those passes must be earned. There’s a reason we don’t give them out to just anyone, the most important reason being that if you act up on a flight and someone reports it we can actually lose our flying benefits! And that’s the reason most of us became flight attendants in the first place.

If someone does sign you up as a travel companion, it’s a pretty big deal. Before 9/11 all a flight attendant had to do was hand someone, anyone really, a paper ticket, and that was that! Off they went. Times have changed and now that everything is computerized you’ll have to fork over your social security number, along with some other pertinent information about you, in order to fly on that very same pass. Not to mention, at my airline, once we pick a travel companion that person is locked in as our companion for a year, and we’re only allowed a certain number of travel companions per year.

For those of you who think air travel today sucks, try traveling as a “non-rev” (non-revenue passenger). Non-rev’s have no rights – none, zero, zilch! And are quite familiar with the phrase, “I’m just happy to be here,” even if here is a middle seat in the last row of coach next to a screaming child on a flight that has been delayed for hours – three days after the original departure date.


  1. Go for the first flight out. Even if the flight is booked full, the first flight out is notorious for passenger drop off. So set the alarm and get to the airport early.
  2. Back away from the gate! The agent is busy trying to get the flight out on time, which is a huge priority for airlines, so sit down and try to relax. You’ll only make things worse if you hover over the one in control of the empty seats
  3. Pack light – And don’t check your bags. You really don’t know which flight you’ll actually get on, or if you’ll even get out at all. Once the bag is checked you won’t get it back.
  4. Come prepared and be flexible- There’s a very good chance you’ll get stuck at the airport all day, especially during weekends, holidays and summer months. It will make your life a lot easier if you’re familiar with the flight numbers and departure times to your final destination. It’s also a good idea to have a back up plan. For instance, when I couldn’t get to Dallas from New York, I flew from New York to Boston to Dallas. It doesn’t always have to make sense.
  5. Don’t make special requests. Oh, no, no no, don’t even think about ringing the flight attendant call button! Unless it’s an emergency. Repeat after me, “I’m just happy to be here, I’m just happy to be here, I’m just happy to be here….” And try to mean it!
  6. Don’t push it! If you have to be somewhere important, give yourself at least a day or two to get there. Just in case. I recently ran into a teary eyed standby passenger who had missed her son graduate from military academy due to not being able to get out on the last flight of the night.