Airline Patron

11 January 2012. Filed under category Nomad.
Airline Patron

Airline Patron

So you fancy yourself a nomad? Looking to jet set around the world and spread yourself wafer thin across the five continents? Looking to plant your wild oats in far-flung fields? Great! I applaud you.

Your new life will involve a lot of flying, and as any frequent flyer, you should find yourself an airline patron.

What is an airline patron?

An airline patron is someone working for an airline that provides their employees with non-revenue travel passes transferable to friends and family. Most airlines do this. These non-rev passes are the travel equivalence of the golden Willy Wonka tickets. They open the door to the fantastical world of stand-by travel.

Reduced Price

There is no point in having the freedom to travel if you can’t afford to do it.

If you already have a job that earns you a steady income whilst being geographically unbound, congratulations. However, if you –like me– are looking to build such a career en route, then you will have to travel cheaply for a while.

Cheap travel usually means busses, but trans-Atlantic busses are hard to come by, and sometimes you just want to fly. You are a modern nomad after all.

With an airline patron, you pay a heavily reduced price, around a tenth of the standard fare. You can also be upgraded to first class on certain routes if there is space. There is no better feeling than to sip champagne, look at your fellow first class passengers and know that you paid a tenth of the coach price.

Experienced Help

Airline patrons work in the travel business. They know all the tricks. They have access to all the inside information. They know which airports have the grumpiest border control police, they know where the free Wi-Fi is located and they know the risk of your flight becoming ground-locked by that storm the news are talking about.

This experience and un-Googleable (it should be a word) information is priceless to any frequent flyer.


Entirely unrelated, but delicious!

Entirely unrelated, but delicious!

Breathe in. Breathe out. Think — freedom. You are free to go wherever you want, whenever you want.

Well, you would, if you could afford to buy last-minute tickets all the time. But ticket prices skyrocket the closer you get to the departure date, and flexible tickets are expensive. So you end up buying tickets months in advance, with fixed return dates. Where is your freedom now?

Enter stage right, your airline patron! With him at your side, you can book a flight as late as the date of departure. If you change your mind, no worries! Unbook it at no cost whatsoever. Want to change the destination? Sure, whatever you want; the world is your oyster!


Stand-by flights are cheap and flexible, but they come with the risk of not having a guaranteed seat on the plane. As a non-revenue stand-by passenger, you only find out if you will get on the plane when you are at the airport. Your airline patron can tell you if the plane is heavily or lightly booked, and if there are plenty of open seats then you shouldn’t have any problems, but there is always the risk. Even good flights can fill up quickly if bad weather forces the airlines to cancel a few flights. The airline will then prioritize the revenue passengers, and you can end up waiting a long time at the airport.

The worst example I’ve seen of this was when I flew to New York from London. There had been several cancelled flights, and the backlog of passengers was so bad that the stand-by passengers had waited for five days at the airport. I was in luck; the backlog cleared the day I arrived and I caught the fourth and final flight.

This uncertainty sounds terrible, but for a nomad it isn’t so bad. Waiting a day at the airport doesn’t eat away at our precious holiday days. We don’t have holiday days. What does it matter if we arrive a day late? We are in no hurry. We can drink some airport coffee, pay for the Wi-Fi and make a working day out of it.

How to find your airline patron

Ask around. Maybe a distant relative or a friend of a friend works for an airline. Buy them dinner; get them drunk; beg on your bare knees; start a blog. Hopefully, your prospective patron works in the travel industry because he is passionate about travel, and your decision to become nomad is perhaps something he’d want to support.

Finally, I am always looking for new patrons. I’m especially looking for a British Airways patron. If you work for an airline and would like to support the endeavours of a modern nomad, please contact me.


I’d like to thank Craig, my airline patron extraordinaire. He has been more help than I can describe. He has also been a great supporter and evangelist of this blog, as you will have seen if you read the comment section.

I also want to thank Marco, a recent airline patron I met in Mexico.

Willy Wonka

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the story of a retiring old man who uses his position as the CEO of a chocolate factory to lure girls and boys into his home where he finishes them off one by one while their terrified parents look on, powerless to stop him.

Next Stop: Switzerland

On Friday, I am flying to Lostorf, Switzerland. I don’t know much about it apart from that Xavier, a reader of The Modern Nomad, lives there and invited me to visit.


Do you follow Kant’s Categorical Imperative?

Skip to bottom
  1. MB says:

    I’ve never come across this information in all of the googling I’ve done of cheap air fare. Very nice, thank you! Well I need a place to vent a little. I wasn’t sure where else to go, but this is topic appropriate. Reading your blog has inspired me to do what I always wanted and that is to experience different cultures and places through a nomadic lifestyle. I had figured it all out, even got an online job and found the perfect place to start Hawai’i! I planned on wwoofing working in exchange for room and board while getting paid from my online job. My parents are old school immigrants and they can’t comprehend why on earth I would want to work where I am not getting paid. I of course didn’t tell them it was wwoofing but rather job training thinking that would work out better, but no luck. So my mom teary eyed guilted me like who would help pay for the house even though they can cover it and I offered to help with other bills while on the road. I don’t make that much online, but it’s enough to cover travel expenses and etc., but I still want to help them financially. I don’t understand what they want from me, I’m 24 put myself through college and now just want my own freedom, but at the same time I don’t want to disappoint them 🙁 Sorry for venting here, but I really don’t have anyone else that understands why I want to this. I love how your friends and family support you.
    And yes un-Googleable should be a word.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Wow, what a dilemma. We are used to our parents supporting us, not hold us back. They are important people and I think it would be worth going that extra mile to ‘bring them along’. Maybe sit down and have some serious conversations where your job is to understand exactly what they are scared of. Once you know that, then it will be easier to help calm them down.

      I have a friend, however, where the time of self-sacrifice has gone on too far, and his mother is stifling the life she gave him right out of him.

      And yeah, I recognize what an amazing gift it is to have a mother who support you wholeheartedly. I know she reads the blog, so mum — thank you! I love you.

      1. MB says:

        You want me to actually talk to my parents? aj aj aj
        That’s good advice. I definitely will try again and postpone my plans to see if they will feel more comfortable with them. Even though I understand where they are coming from I don’t think they understand my point of view so I think explaining myself to them a little more would help. Cross your fingers!

        Like your friend I feel just like that as if my life is being sucked out of me. That’s how it is when your parents don’t give you the freedom to be your own person. I hope he makes it 🙂

        That’s awesome, shout out to Gustav’s very cool mom!

  2. Xavier says:

    Well… In some kind of “Gerglish” play on words, we gave to our village (“Lostorf”) the nickname “Lost Dorf” which can translate into “Lost Village”: that says it all… So get ready to a big plunge into nature from fancy London!!! I’ll let you discover the rest so I’ll shut up for now.
    Back to the topic of this post: I won’t be able to help you with airline patronage but… I’ll use some of my magic tricks to support your public transportation in the whole country (bus, train, boats, literally anything where people can board on) at the undisputable price of 0 CHF for a limited duration only and with some restrictions but it’s still totally free! We’ll talk about this once you’re here…
    We are welcoming you with open hearts and hands.

    1. xavier says:

      mr nomad is coming tomorrow and I am totally freaking out. what if we don’t get along? what if he is not the person he claims to be? what if these are avatars that he has created himself to lure innocent victims? what if he bores himself to death after 2 days and swears never to come back to this country? What if he can’t stand when we start dancing on Avicii dance remixes in the whole house? what if i forget to purchase important groceries tonight? what if his beard is just a theatre accessory? what if he is not interested in getting to know us? what if he sleepwalks and fall from the balcony? what if we had met in a past life and this is some kind of divine retribution for my past sins? what if he prefers playing taurens and I prefer night elves? what if he doesnt care about learning some mediterranean cooking? what if this could have an impact on our respective lives? what if the only thing i have nomadic is my roaming wi-fi access? what if blogging is actually some kind of meeting point for life threads across the universe?
      what if i was just feeling excited to get to know him and expect the best? 🙂
      Silent nomad hosts, raise your voice!

      1. J. says:

        Both your lives may never be the same!

      2. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

        I know! Isn’t it exciting?!

      3. Craig Brown says:

        Have no fear Xavier!!!
        Gustav is really as charming, easy-going, intellegent, open and considerate as you’d expect from this blog. He is very self sufficient and won’t NEED much hosting….but you will WANT to do much hosting!
        I can’t say, however, if you have issues to settle from a past life, lol. But there is a good chance you will have an impact on your respective lives this time around.
        If anyone out there gets the chance to host Gustav, I heartily recommend it! Seriously, he’s an unusual person, in a good way.
        I mentioned to Gustav that, judging from your post, he better get ready for an intellectual extravaganza (not my exact words). But really, no one is ever who we “imagine” them to be. It’s like opening a present.
        One of the greatest gifts of my life, Fabian, who has traveled all over the world with me, who taught me a more adventurous, less cautious way to live, came when I told him, a stranger I met on a plane, that he could sleep on my couch. Bonanza.
        Have a wonderful time.

      4. Jon says:

        I just realised that while I know Gustav fairly well and have had many interesting conversations, I have no idea what he turns into after midnight so be warned!

      5. Imogen says:

        “What if he bores himself to death?” Not possible. Only boring people get bored. “What if he’s not interested in getting to know us?” That’s highly unlikely. One of the things he’s said he enjoys most about nomading is meeting new people. “What if he doesn’t care about learning some Mediterranean cooking?” Well now there you might have a legitimate concern. “Poor” Gustav has been rendered almost infantile in the kitchen on account of his mother’s perfection and abundance as an incredible domestic goddess. So be prepared, Gustav will eat your food gladly, but if you try to teach him cooking he might just nod his head politely until the beautiful meal magically appears!

        1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

          I might be rubbish in the kitchen, but I am very good at picking flatmates who aren’t. I call it ‘proxy-cooking’.

  3. kimera azriel says:

    There must be a book titled “100 things to do while waiting at the airport after a cancelled flight.” If not, next time you are sitting for 18 hours in LHR you could write it.

  4. J. says:

    Even non-nomads can use a patron, (of all sorts)! But travel patrons allow all kinds of last minute cost effective travel.

  5. Craig Brown says:

    Since Gustav gave the nomad’s point of view in having an airline patron, let me, as his “patron” (a role I though I’d never be called!) offer some advice from the patron’s point of view to the would be benefactor.

    1. If you are not already the friend of an airline employee, then you must inspire the patron to offer you this benefit. The airline person can only put a limited number of people on their pass list. Gustav was not yet my friend, but I was impressed by his courage, adventurousness, and the way he was truly attempting to maximize his time here on earth. To live in the spirit of “carpe diem”. I have also put someone on my pass list who is studying Asian culture, is a Buddhist, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel around to different retreats and perhaps have the chance to travel to Nepal to live for a year…something otherwise out of his financial reach. I am also about to support someone who is joining the Peace Corps, and this will help him travel back home occasionally to see his family and girlfriend. Do you want a pass to go to a party in Ibiza for the weekend? Well, that probably won’t work for me.

    2. The second issue is also essential: TRUST. When I put someone on my pass list I must be confident that they will not “act up” while using it. This would include things like yelling at the gate agent if you don’t get on board a flight, trying to secretly “upgrade” yourself, drinking your own liquor on board, that kind of thing. This jeopardizes the patron’s entire pass privilege. To a lesser extent it means not paying attention to rules such as what is proper “non-rev” (the benefactor) attire. Then, can the patron trust you to pay him/her back? Because the pass fee is deducted right out of the airline employee’s paycheck. Personally, I have never had a problem with any of this and I feel a lot of gratitude at the number and ways I’ve been able to aid peoples’ lives.

    3. Understand any ulterior motives on behalf of you and the patron. Is the patron wanting something from you that you may not want to give? What do you expect of your patron? One thing I sometimes ask of the people I put on my passlist is how’d they’d feel about me visiting them…since I have the right to travel too! I have discussed with Justin, the Buddhist, for example, the possibility of traveling with him from Beijing to Llasa…and the Peace Corps guy the idea of visiting him wherever they assign him. I ask this openly and it’s not a requirement. I’ve already visited Gustav in Mexico City ;-). Gustav was joking, I’m sure, about getting them drunk or buying them dinner…don’t pretend to be their friend. Aim for real mutual friendship! This is a kind of trust.

    4. I’m unsure how to find such a person. I know Gustav built two Shrines, one to the Wright brothers and the other to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, and then danced naked to the rhythm of an ancient Druid drumbeat between them. The next day I happened to sign up for Skype and my computer searched everyone I ever emailed who happened to be on Skype and Gustav’s picture popped up. I said hello. Voila. LOL
    GOOD LUCK everyone!!
    Travel is a huge blessing and an awesome way to expand your consciousness.

    Craig Medici

    1. Craig Brown says:

      Forgot to ask Gustav…great question about whether you believe in Kant’s categorical imperative. I guess what I think is imperative is that we act according to our human nature and not something else that is contrived. An alien or a cheetah would have a different categorical imperative. But why did the question arise here?

      1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

        I meant the question as a comment on the importance of treating people as an end and not a means to an end.

        1. Craig Brown says:

          Ah, if this is what you meant, then your question is very relevant…so relevant that I pretty much inadvertantly gave my answer in point 3 above. Of course, people like being treated as an end in themself and not being used as a means to someone else’s end. I might even consider rewording your question to what you reinterpreted above. Kant is one of the more obscure philosophers and that question above has the potential to ignite a discussion equal to “Purpose”, “Guadalope” and “Norway”. This is because the question extends to almost all human interaction–the offering of being on a pass list is just one very good example.

    2. MB says:

      Very insightful and great that you posted this so we have both the patron and the benefactor’s perspective.

    3. It’s not as well known, but there’s a somewhat similar thing with cruise ships. I wonder if I can barter with an airline patron 😀

      1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

        What do you say, Craig? May I trade you like a bag of beans for such a cruise-line patron? 🙂

        Roy, feel free to point the rest of us to where we may read up on this. I’ve long been thinking of crossing the ocean on a freight ship, but it is far too expensive for a poor nomad.

        1. Craig Brown says:

          “Trade like a bag of beans?” LOL. That must be English not American, but I THINK I know what you mean: Roy takes your place on my list and you take his place on the Cruise worker’s list(?) I don’t think you are serious on giving up your spot on a plane–especially because it would take up that spot for 12 months (once on my list you stay there for a year at least).
          As I said above though, if I’m inspired, someone could acquire their own place on my golden list. Roy can introduce himself to me (and read my blog!) and you never know. How can you meet Roy’s friend to get a cruise ship spot? If you can, inspire them with your sense of adventure, gratitude and trustworthiness.
          The spoils go to those who truly want to expand their consciousness.

  6. Steve says:

    As a frequent traveler, all over the place these days, and enjoying the service of many airlines, I can appreciate Gustav your luck in having Craig as a patron. I do not know what Craig does specifically, but it is a tough business on the people that work in it. Appreciate his willingness to share in your adventures it is a treat for the both of you. Gustav you help remind us all the time of the importance of being in the now and sharing our experiences. It helps make us all better at being human.

  7. Jon says:

    I don’t follow Kant’s Categorical Imperative because I tried to read about it on Wikipedia and it made my brain hurt.

    On a completely unrelated subject Craig mentioned something the other day that I thought was profound, even if its not clear exactly what it means….

    Years ago he had came across an isolated beach cove, far off the beaten track, on the New Zealand coastline somewhere, where a number of penguins were taking turns to catch a wave (one at a time) and surf it into shore, at which point they would waddle back out to the spit and patiently join the line to catch another wave.

    If you could speak penguin they would be saying “dude, check out this gnarly trick”.

    I read the below item today which reminded me of that:

    I once heard a quote along the lines of: the only animals that hunt things for fun (i.e. not to eat) other than humans are cats. There is probably something deeper to it than that, i.e. they are often showing off prowess to impress someone (like their master), but an interesting point nonetheless.

    Anyway, maybe the story of the penguins and the crow is profound because it illustrates creatures passing the time having fun, without a negative impact on anything else. We should all aspire to that.

    What does this have to do with Airline Patrons? Nothing, except maybe air travel is a substantial contributor to global warming which is devastating the natural world but, um. Woops. That cuts a little close to the bone.

  8. Bob W says:

    I love the irony of being able to subscribe to an RSS feed that notifies me immediately on my iPhone — day or night — whenever a blog about consuming life meaningfully gets updated. I’d have to save the feed to my ‘reading list,’ of course, which I take time to scan only when I’m on the can (as I write this) or in line waiting for my cancelled flight to be rebooked…

    Keep up the good (and meaningful) work, Gustav!

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      I am both honoured and humbled to have made your toilet reading list.

      Good luck with your flight.

  9. Rich says:

    Some very useful information here for most travellers. I made the mistake of booking everything in advance two years ago, but last year, when I traveled for 8 + months around the globe, I booked last second. I could have used my friendly “airline patron saint”
    Cheers man
    Feel free to check my adventures out here 🙂
    Rich Trek – Funny Travel Adventures

    1. Craig Brown says:

      Rich, I have bookmarked your site because you have been to many places I have not actually. I may ask travel advice in the future 😉 I will have a blog in place soon, not dedicated entirely to travel, but some of my trips will be there and you are free to ask me for travel advice as well (I am the “saintly” patron, LOL).

  10. kae f says:

    Since when do we only have 5 continents?

    1. It depends a bit on what you consider a continent. 🙂

Do you follow Kant’s Categorical Imperative?

Click to see allowed HTML.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> <ol> <ul> <li>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.