EA CO AS wrote:
A big part of the problem is that carriers have not only made them a benefit of X number per quarter or year, but that in many cases, they're actually ticketed on the company website itself.
Here's the problem; the "buddy pass" becomes a discount code, entered in the booking path on the main company website. So your buddy, who you've given this to, goes to the same website the general public uses to buy their tickets from the carrier directly, selects their preferred flights, is given a "fare" to pay (usually 90% off the unrestricted coach fare), and they receive a ticket number and a record locator for their non-rev listing.
Thing is, in that traveler's mind, despite the warnings given them by the employee, they've 1.) paid money on the company site, and 2.) have a ticket number and a "confirmation code," so they now suffer from the delusion that they're regular customers, entitled to a seat, etc.
I'm mystified, here. Having flown non-rev on at least five different airlines and distributed buddy passes on two of those, at no time were they processed through the public facing company site. All standby transactions have been handled on "behind the scenes", not visible to the public, intranet sites. I'm not saying it doesn't happen this way, just that in all my years of doing so, I've never seen it or heard of it.
That said, yes, the buddy passes are issued a record locator (commonly called a confirmation code, but when giving this information, I'm very cautious not to use the term). I've long made sure that my buddies are well aware of all the rules, oddities, and requirements of standby travel. Ultimately, the onus falls on the employee to ensure their buddies (or other pass travelers) have had their expectations managed appropriately.
Ultimately, United has their policy and has every right to have such a policy and enforce it. Is the policy unfair/inappropriate/in need of revison? Maybe, but the podium at the boarding gate is not the place to make that particular stand. Just like when the dress code required collared shirts and dress pants, you sucked it up and moved on. Just like when it was coats and ties, you sucked it up and moved on. At least, you sucked it up and moved on at the gate, then worked with and through the appropriate channels to change the policies.
Who (in my view) screwed up here:
- The employee distributing the buddy pass: They did not communicate the dress code and the ramifications clearly enough.
- The pass traveler's parents: They failed to follow the dress code. (If they didn't know the dress code, I'll give a pass here, and revert back to the employee.)
- Shannon Watts: She butted into a situation in which she was not involved and in which she had no knowledge or context, attempting to wave the sword of justice at United. (Doesn't she know that sharp objects aren't permitted in the secure area? )
- UAL: Their social media team fumbled the response to the point that the nuance that it was a pass traveler dress code has been lost or at best buried in 90% of the news coverage of the incident.