When a pass rider abuses the privilege of flying NRSA (non-revenue, space available), what are the consequences?
Amazingly, the story of #leggingsgate has dominated the news over the last 24 hours. Check out One Mile at a Time on NBC’s Today Show this morning:
Put simply, two pass riders were not in appropriate attire (as defined by United) and thus were denied boarding on a flight from Denver to Minneapolis.
What happens when a pass rider, usually a friend or family member of an employee, does not follow the rules?
A United FA shared this official company language—
We expect pass riders to treat employees and all other passengers with respect in every interaction, whether in person, on the phone, via email or external communications, including social or other media.
If we receive a complaint regarding a pass rider who uses inappropriate or offensive language or a display of inappropriate behavior on United, United Express including other airlines, upon investigation we may take corrective measures, including suspending or terminating pass travel privileges in particularly egregious situations.
United’s pass travel policy is a privilege and not a right of employment nor a vested right of any kind. The company may, at its sole discretion, take action to include: suspension and cancellation of pass travel privileges for conduct/actions deemed detrimental to United and/ or any of its subsidiaries, business partners, and successors or to any of our employees. The terms of the policy are subject to modification or termination, in whole or in part, by the company at any time and for any reason.
In other words, pass travel is not a right of employment, but a privilege. Abuse it and it will be suspended or terminated.
This incident should be a lesson to all United employees to reexplain to their family and friends who use their passes to follow the rules. Heck, all airline employees should remind pass riders about the obligations that come with the privilege of pass riding.
I’ve Seen Much Worse
The whole leggings incident only blew out of proportion because of a misinformed and misleading tweet. Still, there may be grounds for disciplinary action. The fact that the gate agent apparently had to argue with the two girls about whether they could board in leggings represents a violation of the terms they accepted in choosing to pass travel.
But I’ve seen so much worse. One time I was flying from Denver to Chicago…a two hour flight..and witnessed a shouting match between two pass riders and gate agent. The pass riders wanted to sit together and could not understand that they got two of the last seats on a plane and would need to sit in middle seats away from each other.
Pass riding is such an incredible benefit that airlines should have little tolerance for stunts like arguing over seat assignments or wearing leggings when the rules say 1.) you take the seat you are given and 2.) don’t wear leggings.
Would you give up leggings in exchange for greatly reduced price travel? I certainly would.