- Delta CEO Ed Bastian is awarding employees with two free travel passes as a thank you for their work this year.
- Called "Delta Difference" passes, employees can use them to fly anywhere Delta flies with a confirmed seat.
- Delta employees already have free flight benefits but these passes will be useful during a busy travel period or when using their benefits is less likely to secure a seat.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Christmas is coming early for Delta Air Lines employees this year.
In an internal memo sent on Monday and obtained by Reuters reporter David Shepardson, CEO Ed Bastian rewarded Delta employees with two travel passes that can be used to fly on any Delta Air Lines flight, international or domestic. Employees both currently working and those on a leave of absence will receive the passes.
"Delta people have risen to the challenge and led the way to a brighter future," Bastian wrote. "During a time of deep divisions, seeing the Delta family come together in unity over the past nine months toward a common purpose has been awe-inspiring."
The "positive space" passes are nearly equivalent to a confirmed booking, allowing employees a guaranteed seat if one is available, regardless of how full or expensive the flight is.
And while the urge might be to jet off to a distant locale, Americans are still limited in where they can fly. Luckily, the "Delta Difference" passes also don't expire, allowing employees the opportunity to use them once the world reopens.
Airline employees already fly for free but positive space passes are more like a paid ticket
A perk of the job, Delta employees receive free flight benefits on the airline and can access discounted fares on others. It's known as "space available," "standby," or "non-revenue" travel as employees will only get onboard if there are open seats available after all paying customers have boarded.
But those benefits have their limitations, especially around the holidays. A novice "non-revver," as they're known, will quickly learn not to count on open seats being available on popular routes during major travel holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Independence Day. And even if there is, someone more senior at the company will be given first dibs.
These passes, however, guarantee a seat if one is available and remove the waiting game and guesswork from the equation. So while an eager traveler might use these passes to access the furthest cities in Delta's reach such as Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv, or Sydney, a skilled traveler might use it to fly home for the holidays, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it.
Ironically, long-haul international flights are among the easiest on which to get a seat when flying standby. Since long-haul international flights utilize the largest aircraft in an airline's fleet, they often have enough availability to accommodate a few free flyers. If coach fills up, a non-revenue flyer could still be given a seat in business class or premium economy class, if it's available.
As the employees will only get the seats that go unsold, the perk doesn't cost airlines much as the flights are already going. But these positive space tickets fill the seats that could be sold at a high price to paying customers and airlines know that, so it's rare when an airline does this and usually reserved for a special occasion.
American Airlines gave its employees, including those at wholly-owned subsidiary airlines, two round-trip positive space passes in 2017 after the airline won the "Airline of the Year" award by Air Transport World.
Read more: American will lose its crown as the biggest US airline and could fall behind Delta and United as it struggles to pay off $38 billion in debt
Bastian also thanked employees for implementing the airline's new health and safety protocols, aimed at restoring confidence in air travel amid an industry-wide slump in demand. The "Delta CareStandard" has seen the airline overhaul the airport and in-flight experience, as Business Insider saw firsthand on a recent visit to Delta's hub at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"Rather than be victimized by our circumstances, you have been part of the solution, providing safe, healthy travel for those who needed it," Bastian wrote.
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