One of the most often asked questions by aspiring flight attendants, or even anyone who knows a flight attendant, is if flight attendants can fly for free?

While the exact details can depend on the airline, a flight attendant’s seniority, and a few other factors, a flight attendant can fly for free – only paying the taxes and fees associated with the flight.

This usually means that a flight attendant will only have to pay 10% of the price of a standard airfare.

Of course, flight attendants also fly for free while working.

If the layover is long enough, they will be able to enjoy and explore the city once they have landed.

What Determines if a Flight Attendant Can Fly for Free

There are several factors that determine if a flight attendant can fly for free or not.

  • Availability: First and foremost, for a flight attendant to fly for free, there needs to be availability on the flight. This can sometimes make flying for free during the holidays or on weekends challenging.
  • Fees and Taxes: A flight attendant might be able to fly for free, but this doesn’t mean that they won’t be responsible for paying any fees and taxes associated with the flight. This is usually a small amount, certainly a lot less than a standard airfare, but must still be paid by the flight attendant.
  • Jump Seats: A jump seat is an empty seat on a flight that is reserved for crew members when working. If the jump seat on a flight is empty, it is more likely that a flight attendant will be able to fly for free.
  • Seniority: Similar to most jobs and industries, the more senior you are, the better you have it. So a more senior flight attendant with many years of experience may be able to fly for free more often.
  • Quota: Some airlines may limit the number of times their flight attendants can fly for free in a year.

Can a Flight Attendant’s Friends and Family Fly for Free?

To know if a flight attendant’s family and friends can fly for free, you first need to know what a buddy pass is.

What is a Buddy Pass?

A buddy pass is essentially a voucher that allows people a flight attendant knows to fly for “free”.

This means that a flight attendant’s family and friends, including a flight attendant’s partner, spouse, and parents, can essentially fly for free.

“Free” is in quotation marks because any taxes and fees associated with the flight still need to be paid.

One important thing to note is that when someone uses a buddy pass, it only means that they are flying on standby.

So a seat is by no means guaranteed.

If there are empty seats on a plane, though, the person or people who have been issued with the buddy pass will be able to fly.

While it can vary by airline, a flight attendant may get up to 10 buddy passes a year, so they should be used wisely.

It can be hard to say no to friends and family who want to take advantage of this perk – and pretty much everyone does!

Retired Flight Attendants Can Fly for Free

While it can depend on the airline, retired flight attendants can usually fly for free.

However, this can also depend on how many years the flight attendant worked for the airline.

Again, this will be on a standby basis, though, so only if seats are available on a flight will a retired flight attendant be able to fly for free.

Flight Attendants Can Even Fly for Free With Other Airlines

Most airlines have agreements with each other to allow their employees, including flight attendants, to fly for free.

This makes it much more likely that a flight attendant will be able to fly for free when they want to.

Buddy passes, however, are limited to just the airline a flight attendant works for.

Flight Attendants Can Stay in Hotels for Free

Flight attendants get to stay in hotels for free during layovers – and they are usually very nice hotels, too – but are unable to stay in hotels for free when they are not working.

Flight attendants can usually earn points when they stay in hotels, though, which can result in free stays.

Flight Attendants Have Other Great Perks

Besides free flights and free hotel stays and points when on layovers, flight attendants also get their expenses covered when on layovers, such as their food.

Other perks include a flexible schedule, health insurance, retirement plans, seeing the world, and pretty good pay after a few years of service.

Patricia is a senior flight attendant with over 20 years of experience working for a major U.S. airline, primarily on international long haul flights.
Patricia is passionate about sharing her knowledge and expertise about the unique lives flight attendants lead, offers valuable insights on what it takes to become a flight attendant and what the job entails.
Patricia has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Newsweek.