Who here likes to hear about rules they have to follow? Anyone? Uhm, anyone? Maybe Jim in the back? Nobody?
As I expected, no one is fond of rules. I get it. Things that suppress your freedom are not the best in life.
But knowing them will help you a great deal in life. And this also applies when you enjoy the staff travel benefits.
While knowing how to behave on a standby flight and being a pro at planning your trips will get you far enough, without knowing the rules, your success rate of attempts versus flown tickets will not be so big if you don’t use and know the rules.
Also, a complete guide to using staff travel benefits won’t be able to cover everything you need. So I figured I should take the bull by its horns or eat the frog first (I have been to too many time management workshops lately) and start writing this piece for you.
How to address the priority factor?
1. Know your priority and the rules
Before you even think of traveling standby, you have to know the rules by heart. You need to know your priority status, so you can assess what’s your chance of making it on the flight.
The priority system may depend from airline to airline but usually is decided based on your seniority and/or role in the company. The smaller the priority, the more obscure places or flights you need to target.
And while you’re the new one your priority is crap, and this may discourage you from using your benefits, remember not everyone is interested in going to the same place as you, on the same flight.
We have traveled standby since I got the benefits. By the time I’m writing this, we have a 100% success rate (meaning we weren’t kicked out of any flight by now) and our destinations include:
- Stockholm -> a month after I started at my workplace
- Berlin -> 5 months seniority
- Brussels -> 6 months seniority, using a different company than mine
- Tokyo -> 8 months seniority
- Barcelona -> 9 months seniority (just my husband though)
- Bucharest -> about 7-8 times, two of them being Christmas time
So, it can be done. Continue to read further to find out how. And/or look at this awesome infografic that I have created, that can help you make a decision in an instant. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to also download it at the end of the post, and you can also pin it.
2. Know all the companies you have benefits on and the priority you get.
If you can use multiple airlines, you’ve struck gold, right? Well, sort of.
If you want to leverage the power of options, you need to know the benefits system. I would draw you a chart if I’d be better at drawing than I am at writing.
Usually, your benefits map (see what I did there?) looks like this:
- You have the highest priority on your company’s flights (and then based on internal priority, see point above).
- You have the second-highest standby priority on subsidiaries of your company.
- You have the third-highest priority on other airlines within your group/alliance.
- You have a very basic priority on other airlines within the global benefits system (called myID in my case).
- You are no one on the airlines not in the ID partnership.
Here’s the deal: for each of these options, you also have to take into account the other people.
For example, if a subsidiary of your airline does not have lots of employees, this means it’s not too bad for you priority wise, and you can use them almost like your own company.
On the other hand, if the company is within your group, and it’s the leader in the group, they probably have 5000 employees that automatically have a higher priority than you. Even if you’re in the industry for 20 years now, you’re lower on the priority list than the twenty-five-year-old that just started his internship in HR.
When deciding the destinations and/or flights you want to use, always make your priority list based on the priority you have for all the options you have to get there.
How to address the visa requirements?
3. Know the visa requirements for all countries you may end up in
As you may know, you may be offloaded at any point in time during your journey (except for, you know, while you’re actually in the air). Also, based on the seats available, you may decide to change your destination last minute. Which is okay, flexibility is your strong suit when it comes to standby travel.
But don’t forget that in some countries you need a confirmed return ticket to be granted a visa. Confirmed being the keyword here. So, you either buy a confirmed ticket, or you try to get the visa beforehand.
This is entirely your responsibility, so you must do your homework, or you may end up stranded on an airport somewhere in South-East Asia, without being able to enter the country, while your check-in baggage is rolling around at the luggage belt.
It goes without saying that this applies to your whole party. You may think they’re adults and know the drill, but do you want to risk having your second cousin being denied entry somewhere in Sri Lanka?
4. Some countries also need a visa for transit
If you don’t have it, do not use these countries as hubs. Ever. You can blur them from your maps, it ain’t gonna happen.
Usually, they don’t allow you to board, but they might make a mistake and allow it. But at the destination, they WILL check your visa out. And in this case, you may even get in trouble with the law. Now, that’s what I call a #travelfail.
5. If you do have a visa for one of these countries
DO use them as hubs. Anytime you’re in the area and cannot get a non-stop flight, use this as a hub.
Not a lot of people get through the pain of getting a visa for a place they don’t intend to visit after all. So you’ll have less competition for those flights, even considering the full-paying passengers.
I’m not sure if it’s worth the trouble to get the visa specifically for this reason, especially if the visa granting process is not that easy, but if you got it for other reasons (a previous trip maybe), keep it as your secret card.
6. Some countries require a visa only to enter the country
If you don’t have it, but you don’t need a visa for transit, you have 2 options:
- Travel without checked luggage
- If you get offloaded, you can stay in the airport and either enjoy a hotel in there (best case) or enjoy a hotel in a darker corner of a waiting room. No one’s judging.
- Do not use it as a hub.
- No matter how empty your second leg might look, do not risk it. It just takes a canceled flight, on any airline, to make your flight overbooked 4 hours before take-off. Or the flight may be canceled exactly because it’s too empty.
I know people that have been denied boarding while they were traveling for business. They managed to fix it with the checked luggage (being duty travel and all) and paid for the overpriced hotel with the company’s credit card.
But on private travel, you won’t have the same assistance. So don’t risk your vacation and peace of mind and choose another option.
As I said, I know people don’t like rules. But if you know the rules for staff travel benefits, this can be your super-power. You can start using your benefits right away, with proper planning and some common sense suspicions. In the end, if it doesn’t cost you money, it has to cost you something.
Want to know more? Read the rest of this series to find out how to properly plan your trip when using staff travel benefits, how to behave so you’re granted access on the flight, and other super useful tips!