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Trying to figure out how United Airlines buddy passes work? You’ve come to the right place.

Getting free flights through a United buddy pass can be an amazing perk, but the rules and restrictions can be confusing.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer:

United buddy passes allow United employees to give friends and family free flight passes on standby travel when there’s available space on the plane after all ticketed passengers have boarded.

Availability is limited, especially during peak travel times.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about United buddy passes including eligibility, booking, fees, availability, tips for improving your chances of getting on flights, and how the program compares to other airline buddy passes.

What Are United Airline Buddy Passes?

United Airline buddy passes are a unique perk offered by the airline that allows employees to share the gift of travel with their friends and family.

These passes are essentially free or heavily discounted tickets that can be used by someone other than the employee themselves.

It’s a fantastic way for United employees to spread the joy of flying to their loved ones.

Definition and Overview of the Program

The United Airline buddy pass program is a special benefit provided to employees of the airline.

It allows them to give their friends and family the opportunity to fly on United flights at a significantly lower cost than regular fares.

These passes are typically provided to employees as part of their compensation package and can be used for both domestic and international travel.

With the buddy pass program, employees are given a set number of passes each year that they can distribute to their chosen beneficiaries.

The passes can be used to book flights on United Airlines and its partner airlines, offering a wide range of destinations and travel options.

This means that recipients of the buddy passes can enjoy the same level of service and convenience as regular paying passengers.

Difference Between Buddy Passes, Employee Discount Passes, and Other Free Flight Options

While buddy passes are a fantastic way for United employees to share the gift of travel, it’s important to note the difference between buddy passes, employee discount passes, and other free flight options.

Buddy Passes: These passes are provided to United employees and can be used by friends and family members. They offer heavily discounted or free airfare, allowing recipients to enjoy the benefits of flying at a fraction of the cost.

Employee Discount Passes: These are discounted tickets that United employees can purchase for themselves. They offer a lower price compared to regular fares but are not as heavily discounted as buddy passes.

These passes are a great way for employees to enjoy the perks of working for United while still paying for their own travel.

Other Free Flight Options: In addition to buddy passes and employee discount passes, United Airlines also offers other free flight options to its employees.

These may include standby travel, where employees can fly on a space-available basis, or non-revenue travel, where employees can travel for free but with certain restrictions and limitations.

It’s important for United employees to understand the specific details and limitations of each type of free flight option to make the most of their travel benefits.

The buddy pass program, in particular, is a highly sought-after perk that allows employees to create lasting memories with their loved ones through the gift of travel.

United Buddy Pass Eligibility and Restrictions

Who Can Get a United Buddy Pass?

United Airlines offers the Buddy Pass as a special benefit to certain employees and retirees. This means that the passes are not available to the general public.

Typically, individuals who are eligible for Buddy Passes include United Airlines employees, their immediate family members, and retirees who qualify for travel benefits.

The exact eligibility criteria may vary, so it is important to check with United Airlines or the employee’s HR department to determine if you qualify for a Buddy Pass.

It’s worth noting that while Buddy Passes are not available to everyone, there are other ways for the general public to access discounted tickets and special promotions offered by United Airlines.

These options include frequent flyer programs, credit card rewards, and online travel agencies.

United Buddy Pass Rules and Restrictions

Like any airline benefit, United Buddy Passes come with certain rules and restrictions. It’s important to be aware of these before planning your trip.

  • Standby Travel: Buddy Pass travel is typically on a standby basis, meaning that passholders are not guaranteed a seat on a specific flight. They will be accommodated if there are available seats after all paying customers have been boarded. This means that it’s important to have flexibility in your travel plans and be prepared for potential delays or changes.
  • Travel Priorities: When it comes to standby travel, United Airlines has a specific priority list for boarding. Passholders will be assigned a priority level based on their relationship to the employee. Immediate family members usually have higher priority than friends or extended family members.
  • Blackout Dates: Buddy Passes may have blackout dates, which are specific periods when the passes cannot be used for travel. These blackout dates are typically during peak travel seasons, such as holidays or busy vacation periods.
  • Passholder Responsibilities: As a passholder, it’s important to follow all airline rules and regulations. This includes complying with security measures, adhering to baggage policies, and behaving in a respectful manner towards airline staff and other passengers.

For more detailed information on United Buddy Passes, it is recommended to visit the official United Airlines website or speak to a United Airlines representative.

How to Get a United Buddy Pass

United Airlines offers a unique perk called Buddy Passes, which allow friends and family members of United employees to fly standby at a significantly discounted rate.

If you’re interested in obtaining a United Buddy Pass, there are a few different ways to go about it.

Having a Friend or Family Member Who Works for United

The most straightforward way to get a United Buddy Pass is by having a friend or family member who works for United Airlines.

United employees are typically given a limited number of Buddy Passes each year, which they can then distribute to their loved ones.

These passes allow the recipients to travel on United flights as standby passengers, meaning they can only board if there are available seats.

If you have a close relationship with a United employee, consider asking them if they have any Buddy Passes available.

Keep in mind that these passes are often in high demand, so it’s best to make your request well in advance to increase your chances of securing a pass.

Buying From Authorized Third-Party Sellers

Another option for obtaining a United Buddy Pass is by purchasing one from authorized third-party sellers.

These sellers typically acquire unused or excess Buddy Passes from United employees and sell them to individuals who are not directly connected to the company.

It’s important to note that buying a Buddy Pass from a third-party seller comes with some risks. United

Airlines strictly prohibits the sale of Buddy Passes, and if caught, both the seller and the buyer could face severe consequences, including the loss of travel privileges and legal action.

Therefore, it’s crucial to exercise caution and only purchase Buddy Passes from reputable sellers.

Joining United’s Employee Friends and Family Program

United Airlines also offers an Employee Friends and Family Program, which allows individuals who are not direct family members of United employees to access discounted travel benefits, including Buddy Passes.

This program is available to close friends, significant others, and domestic partners of United employees.

To join the Employee Friends and Family Program, you will typically need to be sponsored by a United employee.

The sponsoring employee will need to submit an application on your behalf, and if approved, you will gain access to the program’s benefits, including the opportunity to purchase Buddy Passes.

Keep in mind that the availability of Buddy Passes through the Employee Friends and Family Program may vary, and there may be certain restrictions and blackout dates associated with their use.

It’s always a good idea to check with the sponsoring employee or United Airlines directly for the most up-to-date information.

Booking United Buddy Pass Flights

When it comes to booking United buddy pass flights, there are several important factors to consider. Whether you are traveling for leisure or business, these tips will help you make the most out of your buddy pass experience.

Using the Employee Travel Center

The Employee Travel Center is your go-to resource for booking United buddy pass flights. It provides all the necessary information and tools to make your booking process smooth and hassle-free.

From checking flight availability to making reservations, the Employee Travel Center has got you covered.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with its features and utilize them to your advantage.

Booking as Early as Possible

One key tip for securing your United buddy pass flight is to book as early as possible. Buddy pass availability is limited, so the earlier you book, the better your chances of getting the flights you want.

Keep in mind that these passes operate on a standby basis, so it’s important to plan your travel dates accordingly and be flexible with your schedule.

By booking early, you can increase your chances of securing a seat on your desired flights.

Avoiding Peak Dates and Times

Peak travel dates and times are typically busy periods for airlines, making it more challenging to secure a seat with a buddy pass.

To increase your chances of getting on a flight, try to avoid peak travel periods such as holidays, weekends, and popular vacation seasons.

Opting for off-peak dates and times can significantly improve your chances of getting a seat and enjoying a smoother travel experience.

Considering Alternate Airports

If your travel plans allow for flexibility, considering alternate airports can be a smart move when booking United buddy pass flights.

Some airports may have more availability or fewer passengers traveling, increasing your chances of securing a seat.

Additionally, flying into or out of alternate airports can sometimes be more convenient or cost-effective.

Be sure to check the availability and options at nearby airports to maximize your chances of successfully using your buddy pass.

Traveling on a United Buddy Pass

If you have the opportunity to travel on a United Airlines Buddy Pass, you are in for a great travel experience. This pass allows you to fly standby and enjoy the benefits of discounted or even free airfare.

However, there are a few things you should know to make the most of your journey.

Checking in Early and Getting On Standby Lists

When traveling on a United Buddy Pass, it’s crucial to check in as early as possible. This increases your chances of getting a seat on the flight you desire.

United Airlines allows standby passengers to check in online or at the airport, but it’s recommended to arrive at the airport early to secure your spot on the standby list.

Remember, standby passengers are prioritized based on their check-in time, so the earlier you check in, the better your chances of securing a seat.

Understanding the Boarding Process

Boarding as a standby passenger can be a bit different than boarding with a regular ticket.

United Airlines uses a priority-based boarding process, and standby passengers are typically the last to be called.

It’s important to pay attention to the announcements and listen for your name or the standby group to be called.

Be prepared to be flexible and patient, as you may need to wait until all ticketed passengers have boarded before you can secure a seat.

Paying Fees and Taxes

While Buddy Passes offer discounted or free airfare, it’s important to note that you may still be responsible for paying certain fees and taxes.

These fees can vary depending on the destination and the specific pass you are using.

United Airlines’ website provides detailed information regarding fees and taxes, so be sure to check their website or contact their customer service to get a clear understanding of what you can expect to pay.

Following Dress Code and Policies

When traveling on a Buddy Pass, it’s essential to follow United Airlines’ dress code and policies.

While there isn’t a strict dress code for standby passengers, it’s always a good idea to dress neatly and professionally.

Additionally, it’s important to familiarize yourself with United Airlines’ policies regarding baggage, carry-on items, and any other restrictions that may apply.

By being aware of and adhering to these policies, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience.

Improving Your Chances of Getting a United Buddy Pass Flight

United Airlines’ Buddy Passes are a fantastic way to enjoy discounted or even free flights, but they can be in high demand. To increase your chances of securing a Buddy Pass flight, consider the following strategies:

Traveling Light and Being Flexible

When it comes to Buddy Pass flights, traveling light can significantly improve your chances of getting a seat. The more flexibility you have with your luggage, the more likely you are to find available space on a flight.

Pack only what you truly need and consider using a carry-on bag instead of checked luggage.

Additionally, being flexible with your travel dates and times can greatly increase your chances of finding an available Buddy Pass flight. It’s often easier to secure a seat on less busy flights, such as mid-week or early morning departures.

By adjusting your travel plans accordingly, you’ll have a better chance of snagging that coveted Buddy Pass seat.

Aim for Less Busy Routes and Times

Some routes and times are naturally more popular than others, making it more challenging to secure a Buddy Pass flight.

If possible, aim for less busy routes and times to increase your chances. This might mean choosing a less popular destination or flying during off-peak travel seasons.

Doing some research on United Airlines’ flight schedules and popular routes can help you identify the best times and destinations to increase your chances of finding available Buddy Pass flights.

Have Backup Options ready

While it’s always great to have a specific flight in mind when using a Buddy Pass, it’s essential to have backup options ready.

Flights can fill up quickly, and it’s possible that the flight you want may not have any available Buddy Pass seats.

By having alternative flights in mind, you can increase your chances of securing a Buddy Pass seat.

Consider looking for multiple flights that depart around the same time or on the same day. This way, if your first choice is unavailable, you can quickly book an alternative flight without starting your search from scratch.

Having backup options ready will save you time and increase your chances of getting a Buddy Pass flight.

Remember, Buddy Passes are a great way to enjoy discounted or even free flights, but they do come with some limitations.

By following these tips and strategies, you can improve your chances of securing a Buddy Pass flight and enjoy the benefits of traveling with United Airlines.

Comparing United Buddy Passes to Other Airlines

Southwest Airlines

When it comes to airline buddy passes, Southwest Airlines is known for its generous policies.

With their Companion Pass, a designated individual can fly with you for free on every Southwest flight you take, whether you book with cash or points.

This pass is valid for the entire year it is earned, plus the following calendar year, giving you ample opportunity to have a travel buddy by your side.

Additionally, Southwest Airlines allows you to change your designated companion up to three times per year, giving you flexibility and freedom in selecting your travel partner.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines offers a similar benefit to United Airlines with its SkyMiles Companion Certificate.

This pass allows a companion to travel with you on a round-trip domestic flight within the United States, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, for a discounted rate.

However, it is important to note that the companion must still pay taxes and fees associated with the ticket.

The Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate is a valuable perk for frequent Delta flyers who want to share their travel experiences with a friend or family member.

American Airlines

American Airlines offers a unique twist on buddy passes with their AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard.

Cardholders receive a companion certificate each year, allowing a companion to travel with them on any American Airlines flight for a reduced fee.

This pass is valid for one round-trip flight within the continental United States.

The AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard also offers other benefits such as priority boarding, free checked bags, and access to airport lounges, making it a comprehensive package for frequent American Airlines travelers.

Airline Companion Pass Benefit Restrictions
United Airlines Companion travels for free Only applicable on United flights
Southwest Airlines Companion travels for free Valid for the entire year it is earned plus the following calendar year
Delta Air Lines Discounted companion fare Only applicable on domestic flights within the United States
American Airlines Reduced fee for companion Only applicable on American Airlines flights within the continental United States


When comparing buddy passes among airlines, it is essential to consider the restrictions and limitations that each airline imposes.

While United Airlines offers the benefit of a free companion pass, it is only valid on United flights.

On the other hand, Southwest Airlines allows a designated individual to fly for free on any Southwest flight, making it a more flexible option for travelers.

Delta Air Lines and American Airlines offer discounted fares for companions, but the restrictions vary depending on the airline and the type of flight.

Ultimately, the best buddy pass program for you will depend on your travel preferences and the airlines you frequently fly with.

It’s worth exploring the benefits and restrictions of each airline’s buddy pass program to determine which one aligns with your needs and offers the greatest value.


While getting free flights through United’s buddy pass program can be a huge benefit, it does require planning and flexibility.

Following the tips in this guide can help improve your chances of successfully using a United buddy pass.

The program provides an excellent opportunity to travel for free or very cheaply if you’re willing to deal with the uncertainty involved with standby travel.

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