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Non-revenue passengers, more popularly referred to as chance passengers, are travelers with flight privileges to fly either for free or at significantly discounted rates.
It is worth noting though that some chance passengers are not necessarily non-revenue passengers, like those full-paying travelers requesting for sudden changes in their flight itineraries and trying their luck that their targeted flights are not full.
These non-revenue passengers are airline employees or some of their family members and friends. However, free or discounted fares may also lead to these travelers suffering from delayed flights, or worst, not being able to fly to their intended destinations within a reasonable period of time.
If you are one of those passengers who happen to be lucky enough to experience becoming a chance passenger because of a family member or a friend, you will most likely save a lot of money and even experience getting an upgrade to the business or first class during your trip. You can make the most out of this privilege when traveling internationally. However, the downside of it is that you may be bumped from the flight if the plane is already full, which is usually due to overbooking or the peak season’s high demand for seats.
So, what are the things you should take note of before flying as a (non-revenue) chance passenger for an international flight?
Know Who’s the Priority
Remember that travelers who paid regular rates for their tickets are the airline’s priority, not you. You will only be allocated a seat after all other passengers who paid regular fares have already been allocated their seats. It is also possible that you are already sitting comfy inside the aircraft, then you would be asked to vacate your seat in favor of a regular passenger — for instance, a regular passenger suddenly arrives before the gate closes.
For a non-revenue passenger, your relative status to the airline’s flight privilege program matters when prioritizing who gets a seat first. The specific details for this depends on the airline company, but as a general guide, the airline employee’s spouse, children, and parents are the priority in the non-revenue passenger list, compared to siblings, other relatives, and friends.
If you are a parent of an airline employee and there are only a few seats left for non-revenue travelers, as a general rule, the category of the employee and the year this person started work in the company are crucial in determining who gets to the plane and who doesn’t. For example, if you are a parent of an employee who started work in the company in 1980, you will be the priority over another parent of an employee in the same category, if the said parent’s child started work in the company in 2013.
Be Patient of the Wait Time
Being a non-revenue passenger is not ideal for those with tight or strict schedules to follow. There is always no guarantee that you can fly your intended flight schedule. As previously explained, you can only get a seat if the airline still has open seats after all regular passengers are assigned their own. At this point, the only thing you can do is to patiently wait and hope for the best.
Once the last regular passenger is already confirmed to board the plane, which most likely means a couple of minutes before the plane leaves, then the ground crew can already designate a confirmed seat for you, if there is any that is still available.
Have Enough Resources for Emergencies
Always have a backup plan, in case you are unable to board your supposed flight. Otherwise, instead of saving money, you may end up spending more for your food at the airport, transportation going out of and going back to the airport for your next standby flight, or even hotel accommodation when the next possible flight you can try is scheduled for the next day, in the next two days, or even beyond that.
You may even end up paying for a regular fare if you desperately need to get to your destination or you already feel trapped from one airport to another — as you take your chances with no assurance of really making it to your final destination. Unfortunately, this last-minute ticket would cost you a lot more compared to buying the same ticket weeks in advance.
Be sure you have the right resources to get in touch with your loved ones, friends, or colleagues, or even the one who is supposed to pick you up at the airport in your final destination. A number of airports have free WiFi spots. However, some require you to pay a relatively hefty amount just for Internet access. Research about the confirmed facilities and amenities of all the airports you will be passing through so you know what to expect.
Your other communication options would be a phone card or a mobile phone activated for international roaming. Try to avoid calling internationally when roaming so you don’t get charged expensive fees. Texting and online messaging under roaming service are better options in such case, especially if your mobile network provides them to you for free or for a minimal amount. Purchasing a local SIM or a global SIM (which typically requires a subscription or service fee not ideal for infrequent travelers), and even a cheap mobile phone, in case your own cellphone is not compatible with the available local SIM, are your other choices for reliable communication while traveling internationally.