As some of you know or don't know, I work for a commercial airline that serves as a connection carrier that is solely based out of Atlanta flying for the big "D". I started out thinking that the associated flight benefits were going to be something out of the extraordinary; Coupled with the excitement to travel everywhere and anywhere in the system, I set out to just to do that. Being tired after flying for four days kind of knocks out the excitement of getting on another plane but the biggest let down is the game that you end up playing while traveling on "non-revenue" status. Being classified as a non-rev, you are left dwindling at the bottom of the barrel scavenging for open seats on aircraft that fly from your desired point A to point B. This status is below those that are of course, revenue customers, as well as mismanaged customers, those who missed their connections due to late arrivals, weather or maintenance, employees of the mother airline that have a higher seniority date as well as some others that might have been just plain and simple: a higher priority in the system.
The current industry as a whole has been reporting passenger loads exceeding those pre-9/11 which doesn't necessarily also account for the multitude of flights that have opened up in our system. All in all, with more people flying that ever before, the planes are fuller than ever. With current airline practices accounting for roughly 10% of passengers to miss their flights, airlines are forced under the rules of carriage to "oversell" a given flight based upon a pattern that is developed for that particular city pair and time of day/month/year.
It is not completely ridiculous to conclude that with these loads, getting on a given flight with a buddy pass is near impossible. It is a sad privilege really because you want flights to be sold out which means money and profits, but the it doesn't give you room to appreciate the perks of yesteryear. Smaller planes, less frequency in the upcoming months and overall reduction in flying (10% cut in Delta's domestic flights this fall) will prevail in creating an unwanted roller coaster ride of commuting back and forth. Here's to the jumpseat on the 757 and the 4 hours of one way, unadulterated, unpaid travel!
Oh yeah, my buddy passes are expensive too but that's doesn't allow me to tout them as a reciprocal gift during an exchange of affairs, so if you want one, just ask. =)