United Airlines is limiting the number of employee standbys it will board in order to encourage “social distancing” onboard.
Airline employees are generally allowed to travel on a non-revenue, space-available (NRSA) basis on any flight their airline operates. Sometimes this extends to other airlines as well. It is one of the draws of working in the airline business.
One reason seat maps can be deceiving is because employees, sometimes by the dozens, may be on the standby list, especially on the hub-to-hub routes. These seats are not cleared until boarding time, when sparse seat maps suddenly fill up.
The reality of standby travel complicates United’s new policy of allowing customers to rebook flights if loads are at 70% or more. What good is the guarantee if flights that would otherwise have had plenty of space onboard fill up at the very last-minute.
Consequently, in a memo to employees shared with Live and Let’s Fly, United has informed employees:
Flights boarded to more than 70% of the aircraft’s capacity with revenue customers will be capped and NRSA passengers will not be cleared for the flight.
This will be on a temporary basis starting May 19th and lasting through “at least” June 30th.
This Will Impact Only A Small Number Of Flights
United stresses the vast majority of flights remain less than half full. In fact, only 7% of flights have gone out with a load factor of more than 70% (8% when you include standbys).
United encourages employees to list at least 48 hours in advance for flights, noting that is upgauging 35-40 flights per day to help create space in busier markets. Furthermore, pilots and flight attendants who are commuting from their home base for a work assignment will be booked as “positive space” travelers (confirmed seating in advanced).
The memo does not indicate that employees will be restricted from first class seating. There have been many flights lately where the overall load is less than 50% while the first class cabin is booked full or nearly full due to a combination of upgrades and NRSA travel.
While this marks another blow for employees, this move just makes sense. Hopefully it won’t last long, but in the meantime employees should check loads and plan accordingly.
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