Five Tips for Jumpseat Etiquette
By Capt. Rich Odbert (FedEx Express), Chair, ALPA Aviation Jumpseat
More and more pilots are jumpseating on a regular basis to get to work, and protecting this benefit is incumbent upon us all. Jumpseating is a privilege—not a right—and we should act in a professional and courteous manner at all times. The following guidelines should be observed when exercising jumpseat privileges.
1. Be polite and courteous to operating crew and gate agents when registering for the jumpseat. Remember, though, that access to the jumpseat requires the captain’s approval; the gate or ticket agent can’t assign the jumpseat without the captain’s concurrence. It’s not just another seat. It’s a personal reciprocal privilege.
2. Ask the captain’s permission when you board and extend appreciation for the ride, even if occupying a cabin seat. U.S. regulations require the captain to know that you’re on board, and they also establish full authority to the pilot-in-command in approving all requests. Never let an agent or flight attendant rush you past the cockpit without asking the captain’s permission. Some airlines require nonrevenue passengers and jumpseaters to board last and to deplane last. Extend this courtesy to flight line crew buses as well; leave room for the operating crew and their bags first.
3. Remember that you’re an additional crewmember exercising the privileges of your airman certificate as an off-duty pilot. If you’re sitting on the flight deck, keep your eyes and ears open. Wear a headset. Follow sterile cockpit rules, but speak up when necessary. Turn off your cell phone as soon as you get in the cockpit. Remember, 10,000 feet and below is a sterile-cockpit environment (in some cases, above 10,000 feet also) and, as an additional crewmember, reading, talking, etc., aren’t allowed.
4. When off-line, if offered a seat in first class by the captain, inform the lead flight attendant of this permission. A first-class seat doesn’t automatically entitle you to the same first-class benefits as revenue passengers, however, so don’t take advantage of the free alcoholic beverages. Even when not in uniform, remember that you’re still considered an additional crewmember, and you may be required to perform duties in case of unusual or emergency circumstances. It’s not about where you sit—it’s about how you gain access.
5. No matter where you sit on your jumpseating trip, express your gratitude to the crew when deplaning. Again, some airlines’ policies are for nonrevs (including jumpseaters) to deplane last, so be aware if that’s the case. Be courteous, stay out of the way of revenue passengers, and provide any assistance, if necessary. Use your best judgment, especially if you stowed your bags farther aft than your seat.
Editor’s note: This article is condensed and reprinted from the June/July 2017 issue of Air Line Pilot.
Answers to Your Questions from ALPA's Jumpseat Committee
From time to time, we receive questions from ALPA members about particular jumpseat situations they’ve encountered. We’ve compiled some of these questions and responses to share with other members who might find themselves in similar situations.
Q: Due to a family obligation, I bought a ticket for a flight home from a trip to ensure I’d have a seat. When I got to the gate, the gate agent recognized me and motioned me up to the desk. He told me that the flight was full—overbooked, actually—and asked if I’d mind sitting in the jumpseat so the seat could be given to another passenger. He even offered me $500 in vouchers to do so. What should I do?
A: Definitely turn those vouchers down. The jumpseat comes under the authority of the pilot-in-command. No matter how nicely a gate agent asks you or what he or she offers you, never give up a ticketed seat for the jumpseat—whether you paid for it, you’re deadheading, or you’re on revenue travel. In certain circumstances, accepting the jumpseat can even result in your airline losing a reciprocal jumpseat agreement.
Q: I entered the cockpit to ask the captain of a recent flight for a lift, and someone was already sitting in the jumpseat. However, the captain told me that a seat in the back was still available—in first class. Can’t wait to sit back and relax—maybe even have a free drink. How should I thank the pilot?
A: While a first-class seat will indeed be extra comfortable, don’t go counting the bubbles in your champagne yet. Remember, when you’re jumpseating—whether on the flight deck or in the back—you’re an additional crewmember and must refrain from drinking alcohol. This applies whether you’re in first class or in a middle seat in Row 34.
Q: When based out of my home airport as a regional pilot, I never got along with one gate agent. I recently was hired by a mainline, though, and was heading out to my first assignment after training. However, when I approached the gate at my home airport to jumpseat to my new base, that one gate agent was there. She said she couldn’t let me board because I wasn’t in the system. No matter what form of ID I showed her, she wouldn’t do anything or call anyone. I ended up having to buy a ticket so that I didn’t miss my first trip. Why wouldn’t this agent fix the issue for me?
A: This gate agent has nothing against you. Your access to the plane for jumpseating is governed by the Cockpit Access Security System (CASS). Since you mention being a new employee of your airline, chances are your information in CASS is incorrect or incomplete and that the gate agent had no choice but to deny you access. Contact your airline’s HR Department to get your correct information into CASS, and your next attempt should go much smoother.
Q: I take the responsibility of jumpseating seriously. I know I’m an extra crewmember in case of emergency and remain ready to assist. That’s why it’s a little confusing that I was relegated to a seat in the back rather than the cockpit jumpseat when I was recently flying to Alberta. It’s the first time I’ve jumpseated on a carrier other than my own, so maybe they just don’t trust me. Any advice on how I can earn that trust for the future and return to the cockpit jumpseat?
A: Nothing personal here, they’re just following the rules. According to Canadian aviation regulations, only company employees are allowed on the flight deck jumpseat. Pilots from wholly owned subsidiaries or code-share partners may also use the flight deck jumpseat, but pilots from unaffiliated airlines—in this situation, you—are relegated to any available seats in the back of the plane. Non-Canadian international jumpseat travel is also heavily restricted compared to jumpseat travel in the United States. Contact your master executive council Jumpseat Committee or go to jumpseatinfo.org for more information.
Q: I’m based in Phoenix, Ariz., and just moved to Memphis, Tenn., to be near family. Am I able to jumpseat on a cargo carrier? How would that work?
A You sure can—just like a cargo pilot in Atlanta, Ga., can jumpseat to Memphis when needed. Most cargo aircraft have extra seats on the flight deck and seats available in the cabin for off-line jumpseating. It’s a little bit different, as you gather, mostly because cargo doesn’t have a gate agent to check in with to start the process. Typically, however, you’ll make a reservation in accordance with the airline’s jumpseat policy and be given a location to meet a ramp agent one hour prior to boarding. After the captain approves you for boarding, you’re all set.
Have other questions about jumpseating? Visit ALPA's jumpseat website for jumpseat policies by airline, additional etiquette tips, downloadable guides, a video, contact information for your jumpseat rep, and more.