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What It’s Like to Fly the Most Uncomfortable Seat in the Sky

What It’s Like to Fly the Most Uncomfortable Seat in the Sky
Taylor Rains

The internet is full of first, business, and economy class reviews giving insight into food, entertainment, seat pitch, and service. These are extremely useful for customers looking to buy or upgrade their seat on an unfamiliar airline; however, an unexpected experience on a recent KLM flight got me thinking about privileges specific to non-rev passengers – riding in the cabin jumpseat.

What is Non-Revving?

For those unfamiliar, non-revving is a privilege given to airline employees and their beneficiaries, such as a spouse, child, or friend. These individuals can fly standby (meaning they can fly if there is a seat available) on their own airline for free or on other airlines for a significant discount. Non-rev policy varies airline to airline, but standby passengers can expect to sit in economy class on most flights; however, some carriers give employees first or business class pending seat availability. However, in some cases where the aircraft is 100% full, non-rev employees can find themselves sitting in the cabin jumpseat.

Related: Non-Revving for Beginners: Never Check a Bag and Other Important Advice

How I Got the Jumpseat

First and foremost, I want to be clear that I was flying on a ZED fare ticket on KLM (I work for a US-based airline). ZED is the type of ticket airline employees book to ride on other carriers. The flight I listed on was Amsterdam to Las Vegas on a busy Sunday afternoon. The night prior, I checked the flight loads on StaffTraveler and saw there were about 20 seats open, so I thought I was in the clear for a nice ride home after a busy weekend exploring Amsterdam. When I showed up at the gate and asked the agent about the standby status, I was told the flight was overbooked due to a canceled Delta flight. I was looking into other flight options when the gate agent handed me a boarding pass and told me to take the jumpseat. Confused about the legal aspect, I was assured that KLM policy allows this. I had work the next day, so I hesitantly agreed and soon found myself sitting in the forward jumpseat of a 787 Dreamliner.

Pros of the Jumpseat

Everyone knows what an aircraft jumpseat is: that small, no-recline seat perched up against the cabin wall where flight attendants sit during takeoff, landing, and turbulence. The one I was seated in was no different, so I harnessed myself in and prepared for a long, uncomfortable journey. To my luck, I only ended up being stuck in the forward jumpseat for takeoff and landing. Once airborne, the lead flight attendant led me to the aft galley where, to my surprise, they had a fully reclined jumpseat for me. Not only was it reclined, but also had armrests and a curtain between it and the galley, so essentially, I had my own little nook next to the right aft door.

They gave me a pillow, a blanket, and a business class amenity kit as well. I also had my own window, which allowed for some phenomenal viewing of Greenland as we passed over.

Not only did the flight attendants seem to go above and beyond to accommodate me on this long-haul journey across the pond, but they also showed me where all the drinks and food were and allowed me to help myself to coffee, tea, pretzels, and other snacks. During the meal service, I was given more bread and pasta than I asked for, and I was even offered some business class dessert.

Although the flight attendants were some of the friendliest cabin crew I’ve ever met and the seat ended up being comfortable for sleeping, I lacked some essential amenities that make long-haul flying bearable.

Cons of the Jumpseat

I was less than prepared for this flight when I got to the airport. My phone was at 40% when I boarded (I assumed I would be able to charge it at my seat), my portable charger was dead, and I had zero movies, podcasts, or TV shows downloaded to my phone. Because I was in the jumpseat, I did not have inflight entertainment, and I found myself twiddling my thumbs, listening to music, and forcing myself to sleep for a majority of the flight. Fortunately, the crew did have a way to charge my phone, but it was slow, and I could not use it while it was charging.

I know this experience sounds like a first-world problem, and believe me, I was grateful to just be on the flight, but I was extremely bored. Sitting in my own little corner of the aircraft was cool for the first couple of hours, but I was desperate for some entertainment after a while.

Tips for Flying in the Jumpseat

To be honest, the flight as a whole was not that bad in the long run. I got a cheap ride from Amsterdam to Las Vegas, got to meet the Captain, had some good conversation with the flight attendants, and was given an unlimited supply of food and beverages. If you unexpectedly end up getting stuck in the cabin jumpseat, I’ve outlined a few tips that can help make the journey manageable.

  1. Make friends with the flight attendants. At first, I was not happy to be flying the jumpseat, but I masked my emotions when I boarded and tried to be as friendly to the cabin crew as possible. I made small talk, and they quickly took a liking to me, which may explain why they were willing to let me have a lot of food and drinks.
  2. Charge your electronics. When flying non-rev, you may not always have inflight entertainment or a charging port on long-haul flights. Make sure your electronics are fully charged and you have entertainment downloaded to your devices. This will save you hours of staring out the window fighting boredom.
  3. Ask about the aft galley jumpseat. I’m not sure if all Dreamliners have the reclined jumpseat, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Having a little bit of privacy made the flight a lot more comfortable, and I was actually able to get a few hours of sleep.

Has anyone else experienced the cabin jumpseat on long-haul flights? I was lucky on KLM, but I know some crewmembers tough it out in the cockpit jumpseat for hours on end. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

View Comments (8)

8 Comments

  1. edgewood49

    November 26, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    Try a Martin Baker ejection seat then come back and complain

  2. zitsky

    November 27, 2019 at 5:26 am

    Misleading headline. Click bait?

  3. Daniel Keller

    November 27, 2019 at 9:48 am

    In the 1990s (when air travel was a fair bit easier), my wife was a FA for LHA and I travelled frequently between FRA and LAX. I ended up in a jump seat for one such flight. FAs and crew were great…first class meal, extra blanket and pillows…but no such luck getting moved to anyplace more comfortable. Wifi didn’t exist on flights back then, and in-flight entertainment had far fewer options, so the book I had with me was my only option against boredom. I found a couple of metal containers they used for documents and appropriated them as a makeshift ottoman, which afforded me a bit of a pretzel-shaped position to nap, but it was definitely not one of my better flights. That said, I was glad to get on the plane and wasn’t going to argue.

  4. marilyn35406

    November 27, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    A flight attendant told me that they call the seat at the front, the Sharon Stone seat.

  5. DeltaFlyer123

    November 27, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    I would expect that a free flight that could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars would be worth a little inconvenience. If not, one can simply buy a ticket.

  6. DCAFly

    November 28, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    What’s it like to read the worst article on flyertalk?

  7. drvannostren

    December 2, 2019 at 3:09 am

    Flying standby is definitely interesting. There’s pros and cons to each trip. You’re gonna get a lot of middle seats, but you’ll also get cheapo business class, and lots of exit row or economy plus type seats as well. But you definitely need to fly prepared. Because there’s also a decent chance you’ll be given the seat with broken IFE, or no recline. I don’t usually travel with a pillow, but when I fly standby I travel with one of those inflatable face down arms underneath pillows. It’s not great, but it helps. Flew SFO-PIT red eye last week and ended up with a middle seat, basically got 0 sleep, but hey it was basically free right?

  8. alexmyboy

    December 2, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Sharon stone seat lol

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