Can A Pilot Family Fly Free?

Pilots can enjoy some excellent employment benefits which are rewarded to them by the airline in which they work for.

The perks that they are offered can differ between airlines although most provide health, dental, and life insurance along with paid vacation and a retirement plan. In recent times, travel opportunities for the pilots and their families have been added to this list of benefits, however, there are conditions in place regarding when this perk is applicable. 

If an employer is traveling for pleasure rather than work purposes they will often still be required to pay their tickets taxes and fees. This is because the airline isn’t going to be making any money from them so while some airlines may offer free tickets, others may charge them a discounted price.

In some instances, the employee may fly standby. This means that they will only be able to fly if there are seats available once all of the passengers have boarded the flight. While this isn’t likely to be an issue with less popular flights, attempting to board a flight to a popular destination is going to be more challenging as it is likely that it will already be booked to full capacity.

An advantage of this perk is that although the pilots may not always be permitted to fly free of charge, they will still be able to fly at a considerably lower cost than the other passengers. 

Many airlines will provide their employees with a buddy pass that can be enjoyed with family and friends. Again, those who are using this pass will not have to pay a fee for the flight itself, but will still be required to cover the expenses of the taxes and fees of their ticket.

The total cost can differ between airlines. On most airlines, those using the buddy pass who aren’t employed by the airline will not be prioritized in the same manner as those that are. In some cases, this benefit isn’t solely limited to family but can be extended to friends too.

Typically, the family of pilots will also fly standby so they will only be granted access to the flight if there is space available. Whilst this may not be an issue for smaller families, it is likely to become more problematic for larger groups where the availability of seats may be more limited making it difficult to fly as one group.

Of course, for larger families, this becomes more difficult with busier flights where there is unlikely to be enough seats to accommodate everyone. 

In most cases, free flights are offered to the pilot, a companion or parents, and children up to the age of 23 if they are still in full-time education or 19 if they do not continue in education.

As mentioned, the conditions for enjoying this perk can vary depending on the airline so it may be something that you wish to discuss with the airline prior to employment. 

Do retired pilots fly free?

Typically, when pilots retire, they will retain the privilege of flying at a lower cost than other passengers. With most airlines, the maximum retirement age sits at 65.

Some airlines have introduced the ‘65 Point Plan’ which entitles former employees with at least 10 years of active service to enjoy non-revenue flight benefits. To qualify for this plan, former pilots must have served for the minimum amount of time previously mentioned and this combined with their age must equate to or be higher than 65. 

Non-revenue flying surrounds a similar concept to flying standby. Non-revenue passengers will fly at a discounted rate and will only contribute a small amount to the total cost of the ticket, on occasions these tickets will be free and the passengers will have to pay the taxes.

Airlines do not make money from non-revenue tickets. Similar to flying standby, you will board the plane after the passengers who have paid for their tickets and will only be able to fly if there are seats available. 

Retired pilots who would prefer to fly in a certain class, e.g business class if there are seats available, will likely need to pay an additional fee to upgrade their seats. Otherwise, they will be able to fly via economy class without having to pay this expense.  

Aside from discounted travel costs, the 65 Point Plan provides retired employees with access to several other perks too. Just like flying as an employed pilot, the regulations regarding retired pilots' opportunities to fly for free or at a discounted rate when compared to other passengers will differ depending on the airline.

The retired employees and companions will also be of a lower priority to other passengers on the flight and flying employees who still work for the company.