Suppose an airliner flight is full with passengers and the airline staff realize afterwards that there are employees who the airline wants to send to their shifts using that flight.

The airline staff decides to ask for volunteers to surrender their seats in exchange for compensation, but they don't get enough volunteers to make room in passenger seats for their employees to take.

Would it be legal for the airline to instead have one or more of the employee-passengers take the flight as "extra crew" (assuming there is an extra seat to strap into in the crew areas)?


3 Answers 3


First of all it depends on what type of "employee" and if the jumpseat is in the cockpit or the cabin.

According to the answers to this question there are no regulations on who may sit in a cabin jumpseat as long as it meets the specifications set out in FAR § 121.211 for proper airline seats. So the airline is free to set policy for cabin jumpseats.

As for jumpseats on the flight deck the restrictions are quite stringent. If the employee is a pilot FAR § 121.547(c)(3) allows off-duty pilots to fly in a jumpseat on the flight deck, so there would be no need to make them an active crew member.

FAR § 121.547(a)(1) allows an on-duty flight attendant to fly in a jumpseat on the flight deck. The person would have to be a certified flight attendant, so you couldn't just make any employee a crew member. Remember also that flight attendants have hours of service restrictions, so any time they are considered on-duty has to comply with the h.o.s. regulations.

Certain other types of employees are allowed to fly in the flight deck, but they have to be performing a specific function on the flight that requires their presence in th cockpit. For example, a mechanic could fly in the cockpit if he's there to monitor something on the aircraft. A flight dispatcher could be on the flight deck if they are observing flight operations as a part of training.

Even some persons who may be given access to the cockpit for operational need, like air marshals or training personnel, still must have a seat available in the cabin.

So they can't put someone in the cockpit just to transport them from place to place and they couldn't just plop a salesman or a ticket agent there and say they are a "crew member."

There are regulations stipulating the minimum number of flight attendants on a flight but not a maximum number. So, technically they could make a flight attendant part of the crew, but if that person was just listed as a crew member and wasn't actually performing any duties, the FAA would certainly interpret that as a violation.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! So, if they had a spare cabin jumpseat, they could have an employee use it without being considered working or crew, yes? $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Apr 12, 2017 at 20:30
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yes. Afaik there are no regulations on cabin jumpseats. For pilots and FA's they still have to keep track of their hours of service because I don't believe dead-heading counts toward their required rest period $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Apr 12, 2017 at 20:38

I used to work for AA and travelled as an employee quite often. The concept of involuntary bumping from a flight has been around for a long, long time, and it only takes simple arithmetic to figure out that if a flight somewhere further along the line cannot depart for lack of crew, to use one possible example, it is much cheaper to bump a paying pax, compensate according to the rules and get the employee where he/she needs to be, than cancel the flight that employee needs to be on. Employees dead-heading to a destination for work are not considered crew by the FAA. The only way to guarantee a seat on an aircraft is to own it, and even then it's not always a sure thing. :)


With few exceptions, only pilots and flight attendants can ride in a jumpseat. Pilots can ride in the flight deck jumpseat, and flight attendants can ride in a jumpseat in the cabin.

Other types of airline employees are not permitted to ride in a jumpseat.

It is my understanding that, contractually speaking, it is up to the employee to decide whether they want to ride in a jumpseat to their destination instead of in a regular seat.

There are exceptions in emergency situations where the pilot can, for safety reasons, decide to allow non-flight crew to sit in a jumpseat.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Airline dispatchers are also in CASS and can ride in the cockpit jumpseats. In fact, they are required to for 5 hours annually to maintain currency, but they have access to the jumpseat for leisure/stand-by travel (just like pilots) when the aircraft is booked full. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmy
    Apr 12, 2017 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ And this rule only applies to pax aircraft, not cargo. $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2017 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ I have first hand knowledge of mechanics riding in the jumpseat on US 121 carriers. Also FAA inspectors will make observational and evaluative jumpseat rides. Furthermore, there are provisions for air traffic controllers to have jumpseat rides for familiarization purposes. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Mar 15, 2019 at 13:03

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