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Can pilots fly their friends for free?

Do pilots get free tickets?

In general, most airlines do not offer free tickets to their pilots. Pilots work as contractors and are typically not entitled to any kind of airline benefits like free tickets or other discounts. However, some airlines may offer pilots limited discounts on tickets, typically for family and friends.

According to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, such discount programs involve extra fees and may provide the pilot with a voucher that can be used to purchase a ticket at a reduced rate.

Additionally, while the airline may list a discounted fare on its website, the pilot may only be able to purchase the ticket at the discounted rate using their airline-issued ID. Even though most airlines don’t offer free tickets to their pilots, these discounted tickets can be a valuable benefit for pilot family members or friends.

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How many free tickets do pilots get?

The exact number of free tickets available to pilots varies depending on their airline, company policy, and their individual status, but most airlines allow them to fly for free on a space-available basis.

This means that the pilot can select any available flight and take it for free as long as there is an empty seat in the aircraft. Some airlines also offer pilots a limited number of free companion tickets, which means that the pilot can bring someone along at no cost.

Further, depending on the airline’s policies, a pilot may also be able to share his or her travel benefits with family members and close friends. To be eligible for this benefit, a pilot’s family and friends may have to meet the airline’s requirements such as age, destination, and flight time.

How many buddy passes does a pilot get?

Pilot buddy passes are provided to pilots employed by an airline as an employee benefit. The number of passes a pilot receives depends on the airline. Generally, buddy passes are distributed annually for personnel use, and some airlines have limitations on how many may be issued to each pilot.

Most airlines provide from two to four passes per year, and some may provide anywhere from one to eight or more. Depending on the airline, additional passes may also be obtained after working a certain number of qualified hours or by meeting certain performance criteria.

The passes typically allow the pilot’s family and friends to fly without ticket cost. The terms of usage and applicable restrictions may vary within different airlines.

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Volunteer Pilots Flying Wounded Vets for Free

Veterans Airlift Command

Imagine for a moment you’re a wounded veteran who has difficulty traveling. Maybe it’s hard to get around physically, or you just can’t afford to fly your family commercially. Now imagine an organization of volunteers to fly you and your loved ones where you want to go — for free. That’s the selfless concept behind Veterans Airlift Command (VAC).

Veterans Airlift Command is a nonprofit, all volunteer organization that provides free air transportation for medical and other compassionate purposes to wounded veterans and their families through a nationwide network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.

There is no cost to the veterans or their families. The volunteer organization or aircraft owner volunteers the aircraft, fuel and whatever else is needed to complete the mission. Thanks to the Veterans Airlift Command and its volunteer pilots from across the country, wounded military personnel, who could not travel long distances on their own, are able to be airlifted for medical care and to reunite with family and friends at important life events.

Veterans Airlift Command

Since its inception in 2006, VAC has recruited around 1,800 aircraft owners and pilots nationwide and has flown close to 4,000 veterans more than 2.2 million miles.

VAC’s Founder, President and Chairman of Veterans Airlift Command Walter Fricke is a decorated combat Army helicopter pilot with hundreds of combat missions flown in Vietnam. In a CNN Money interview, Fricke stated, «Pilots understand freedom in a unique way and appreciate those who defend our freedom in a way that makes them want to stand up and help.

In 2007, Fricke and Veterans Airlift Command received the NBAA Al Ueltschi Humanitarian Award in recognition of the VAC’s work. And in 2009, Fricke was the recipient of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award — an annual award given to the private citizen who has demonstrated the greatest selfless commitment to general aviation.

Andre Bohy is the President of Omni Financial, a company that makes personal loans to active-duty military and career retired military personnel. He is also a VAC volunteer pilot. «Our company does business with the military and this air service is our way of giving back to our troops for their selfless dedication to this country.»

Bohy continued, «Most people don’t realize what service members and their military families and friends go through. As a pilot, I enjoy the satisfaction that comes with each of these flights.»

To find out how you can help Veterans Airlift Command, visit VAC’s help page or call Ed Bauccio at (914) 576-1900, ext. 6007.

PALS is another great resource for veterans. To learn more, visit their website at PALS.

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Pilots Answer The Mysterious Questions Behind Flight Rules and Air Travel

Ever wonder where pilots sleep on planes, why people clap upon landing, and what happens when a passenger dies mid-flight?

With a median annual salary of $134,630, being a pilot was No. 47 in the latest ranking of the 100 Best Jobs by U.S. News & World Report. There is plenty more to the job, and the airline industry, than meets the eye.

Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and the author of Cockpit Confidential, told Newsweek: «Commercial air travel has long been a breeding ground for myths, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and plain old misunderstandings. Much of what people think they know about flying is wrong. I’ve spent the better part of two decades trying to set the record straight.»

Pilots in the cockpit of a plane.

Why Do People Clap at the End of a Flight?

Passengers would, in the past, routinely burst into applause each time their plane touched down, according to Smith. «I came of age, flying-wise, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the phenomenon was still widespread. No surprise that it seldom happens anymore.»

However, you still see people clapping from time to time and when it does, it seems to be largely an «economy class phenomenon.»

Smith said: «You’ll be apt to look for socioeconomic meaning to this, and maybe there is one, but the dynamics of economy class—more people sitting closer together—lend itself to the occasion.

«There’s a certain communal spirit, especially after a long-haul flight, when you’ve spent several hours in a relatively intimate space with hundreds of people. I don’t see it as a judgment on the landing so much as a big collective handshake,» he explained.

Passengers clapping on a plane.

Is There A Secret Room Somewhere On the Aircraft?

Dan Bubb, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is a historian and former airline pilot, told Newsweek that pilots and flight attendants have «a secret compartment in the top of the aircraft that is inaccessible and invisible to passengers.»

Smith said pilots retire in a bunk room that is «squirreled away» somewhere on, above, or below the main passenger deck. On aircraft that don’t have these bunks, a designated first or business-class seat is used instead, often cordoned off with a curtain.

The pilot said «long-haul flights carry augmented cockpit crews» who work in shifts. While this varies by country and airline, Smith noted that «a carrier’s in-house rules are sometimes more restrictive than the government rules.»

For example, for the airline that Smith files for, flights scheduled to be over eight hours long but fewer than 12 hours carry three pilots, which includes one captain and two first officers.

Cabin crew sleeping area on plane.

The Co-Pilot May Actually Be The One Taking Off And Landing The Plane

Pilot Smith said there are always at least two pilots in a jetliner cockpit (a captain and a first officer) when the flight is in operation and both are fully qualified to work the aircraft.

The first officer (known colloquially as the co-pilot) is «not an apprentice.» The co-pilot shares flying duties with the captain more or less equally. Co-pilots perform just as many take-offs and landings as captains do «in pretty much all weather conditions,» and both are part of the decision-making process during a flight.

The captain, however, is «officially in charge» and «earns a larger paycheck to accompany that responsibility, but both individuals fly the aircraft,» according to Smith.

A co-pilot becomes a captain not by gaining more skills or experience, but «when his or her seniority standing allows it,» he noted.

«Airline seniority bidding is a complicated thing, and a pilot can often have a more comfortable quality of life—salary, aircraft assignment, schedule, and choice of destinations—as a senior co-pilot than as a junior captain. Thus, on a given flight, it’s not terribly uncommon for the co-pilot to be older and more experienced than the captain,» he added.

Two pilots in cockpit of plane.

What Happens If A Pilot Gets Sick During a Flight?

Tony Shen, a former pilot who is the president of the Wayman Aviation Academy, told Newsweek that if both pilots fall ill during a flight and there isn’t a third pilot aboard the flight, the flight attendant will look for passengers with flight experience. «No cabin crew members have been trained to either control the plane or communicate with ATC (air traffic control).»

Airline expert Bubb said: «It is extremely rare that both pilots fall ill during a flight. Pilots order different meals for that reason. Some pilots bring their own food they know is safe. If the illness is severe and happens mid-flight, the pilot(s) will declare an emergency and land at the nearest airport to be met by medical personnel.»

What Happens If A Passenger Dies Mid-Flight?

According to Bubb: «If a passenger dies, they will be discreetly removed from the plane, and to avoid upsetting other passengers, the flight crew will not inform the passengers that a [fellow] passenger has died.»

Pilots and flight attendants are trained in first aid and most passenger aircraft have defibrillators on board but «that is about the extent of [the crew’s] training,» the professor said.

If the passenger’s illness requires advanced aid, the pilots will declare an emergency and land at the nearest airport, with medical personnel ready to assist. If the illness is severe, flight attendants will discreetly ask if there is a doctor on board, Bubb explained.

Passenger looking ill on plane.

Are There Secret Codes Only Pilots and Flight Crew Use On Planes?

Shen said: «It varies by airline, but all airlines have standard words or codes for communication between flight attendants and pilots using PA systems. In the case of emergencies e.g., hijack, flight attendants will notify pilots using secret words or special call options.»

According to Bubb, «there is no secret code language we use per se,» but there is a «public code language we use.»

For example, «cross-checked» means the flight attendant has done his/her task and another has verified it. Typically, if there is an emergency, the flight crew will talk on the intercom, and flight attendants will explain what’s happening to the passengers and provide instructions if needed. Pilots will also provide additional information if necessary, the professor said.

Should I Be Scared If The Plane Wings Flap During Turbulence?

Bubb said: «If the wings flex (flap like a bird) during turbulence, that is a good thing. It is not good to see the wings remain rigidly stationary.»

Florida-based flight school chief Shen said many people get very nervous and are afraid that the plane would be damaged or broken when it encounters turbulence. But modern airplanes are structurally strong enough to handle turbulence.

«The real danger during turbulence is that passengers can ‘fly’ out the seat and get hurt if the seat belt is not fastened. So it is always recommended to keep your seat belt fastened during flight,» Shen advised.

View of plane wing above clouds.

What Do the Pinging Noises Mean on a Plane?

Bubb said that when the plane is on the ground, the «one ding» sound means the plane is «cleared for takeoff.»

But when the plane is in the air, one ding means a passenger is paging a flight attendant. Two dings mean the plane is climbing through 10,000 feet and/or the pilots are asking flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing.

A «whoosh» sound means «the landing gear is extending in preparation for landing,» Bubb said.

Why Do Plane Window Blinds Need To Stay Up During Take Off and Landing?

Bubb explained that the window shades are required to stay up for safety reasons. For example, during an emergency evacuation, passengers seated in the emergency exit row can «better decide when to open the door.»

Passenger looking out plane window.

Are Modern Planes Flown By AutoPilot or A Real Pilot?

Smith noted that, contrary to what many may be led to believe, flying remains a very hands-on operation and involves tremendous amounts of input from the crew.

«Our hands might not be steering the airplane directly, as would have been the case in the 1930s, but almost everything the airplane does is commanded, one way or the other, by the pilots. The automation only does what we tell it to do,» the pilot said.

Smith explained the pilots are flying the plane through automation. «You still need to tell the plane what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. There are, for example, no fewer than six different ways that I can program an automatic climb or descent on the jet that I fly, depending on preference and circumstances.

«We are telling it which routes to follow, and how to follow them; which speeds and altitudes to fly, and when to fly them; and a hundred other things over the course of a flight. You’d be surprised how busy a cockpit can become—to the point of task-saturation—even with the autopilot [mode] on,» according to Smith.

Pilots «fly» as much or more as they ever have, Smith said, just in a somewhat different way. «The emphasis nowadays is on a different skill set, absolutely, but it’s wrong to say this skill set is somehow less important, or less demanding than the old one.»

Hand on a controller in the cockpit.

What Are the Perks of Being a Pilot?

The biggest perk is the flight benefits, Shen said. «Most U.S. carriers offer free non-revenue flights to employees and their spouse/partner and children.»

Bubb said pilots, flight attendants, their spouses, and children only have to pay the taxes on tickets. The same applies to «buddy» passes.

«Spouses, children, and ‘buddies’ fly ‘standby’ while the pilots/flight attendants can ride in jump seats [seats for non-passengers who aren’t operating the aircraft] if those seats are unoccupied,» the professor said.

Pilots at airport.

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