Airline Employee Travel
NonRev, the name of the game for airline employee travel. Short for NonRevenue, NonRev is flying for free, which is the greatest perk that airline employees take advantage of. This perk can definitely be a money-saving tool, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare. To do it successfully, smart planning and luck are required. So read below and take what you can out of it whether you are new to NonReving, flying somewhere that you are not familiar with, or just a curious reader. Hopefully, you will be better informed to make your next NonRev trip a better experience.
There are many factors that can affect your next NonRev trip. Some are controllable, others are not. So what you will need to do is prepare yourself for plans A, B, and C.
What can you control? Well, there's a few things. First of all, talk to someone who has made the same trip. This is your most valuable source of knowledge. You will get a feel on many things, such as which flights have the most seats open, flight reliability, number of standbys that you may have to compete with, etc. You can also find out other connecting routes that work well if your direct flight doesn't work out. Check NonRev websites, which you can ask questions on forums and see what tips you can find.
Second, which is the obvious, check the loads. See what the trend is for the day and plan so accordingly. Unfortunately, if you are not traveling on your carrier, you really can't get a firm load count unless you talk to someone who works there. If I don't know anybody at ABC airline, I will do a couple of things. I will call their reservations and politely ask. Most of the time you will hear, "it looks good/fair/poor." The other is going to a travel website and see how many tickets you can buy.
Third, give yourself enough time for when your plan doesn't go well. This is especially important when traveling internationally. All it takes is a flight cancellation or a volcano eruption (Iceland 2010) and you are stuck for days. Granted, a major mother nature event is rare, but if your luck is like mine, it will happen. If you are traveling alone, then you can take higher risks and squeeze your trip in. However, if you are with your family and not willing to split up, take extra precaution. My basic rule of thumb is this. When traveling internationally, put an extra day on the front and back-end of the trip. Domestically, two extra flights when departing and when flying back.
Fourth, check the news. See what the weather forecast is. If a snowstorm is on its way or something of the like, either beat the storm or fly at your own risk. If we are talking about NYC, a snowball chance in an (oven). Even a little thundercloud creates a mess there. If you are traveling outside the country, read up on any security threats and embargoes that may be taking place.
Lastly, which is more directed to international nonreving, get some id90 passes. In case you are not familiar with these, they are interline passes that you will need to fly standby on a different carrier other than yours. They are not free, but they are cheap. The great thing about them is that if you don't use them, you get your money back. So, check out which airlines that you could use to back yourself up with and buy an id90 for each of them. Since most airlines have interline agreements with each other, chances are you can get a pass. Check with your airline on how to buy and obtain an id90.
So, the above five points summarize the major items that you can control. Now, what can't you control?
Your priority. There's not much you can do with your priority other than buying a ticket, so get to know the priority ladder and know where you stand on it. Buddy passes, good luck.
Unexpected events. Maintenance, delays, diversions, etc. are the nature of the airlines and can snowball into a big mess. The flight could have plenty of open seats and look solid as gold, but all of a sudden a DC-9 diverts from Grand Forks to where you're at in Fargo, ND and empties their passengers onto your flight. It has happened...
And so many other things. The World keeps turning and you need to adapt. That is why it is extremely important to plan and not "wing it" or say, "everything is going to be ok." Otherwise, bring out your camera and create an indie sequel to the movie, The Terminal. Don't put yourself and especially your friends or family, who depend on your lead, in a bad place because of bad planning.
As airline employees, we have a great opportunity to fly the World for hardly nothing. Not many people can say this. NonReving can be a great experience, especially when you get a business class seat flying to Rome. Awesome. Plan, network with your coworkers, and enjoy your flight.