Hitching a Ride on an Airplane

Photo: Joshua Davis

Flying can be frustrating to say the least. Hours upon hours in airports, praying for checked baggage to arrive at the same place that you do, increasingly stringent security measures — it all makes for a stressful day to be sure.

Add onto that the sheer cost of flying, taxes, fuel surcharges, and other erroneous fees, and if you're like me you are seething before the plane even takes off.

Have you ever thought about hitch-hiking? On an airplane? (See also: Alternatives to Flying: Other Ways to Get From Here to There)

Try Air Tech.

The premise of these services is that airline companies who don't fill flights would rather the seats go at a discount than not at all. So they sell their extra seats to the above companies, who in turn offer them to their subscribers.


Here's how it works: You purchase a "voucher" to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii for $179 for example. Once you have the pass in hand (and within a year of purchasing it usually), you submit your travel window or preferred dates of travel. You will be notified of any available seats, and you basically fly on a glorified stand-by basis. You need to be flexible in your travel; sometimes your preferred date of travel isn't available, or there's only a flight to a neighboring city (or even country) on that day. If you are a business traveller or have a very specific window of availability, it is suggested that you book a confirmed flight instead.

But if you have an open itinerary and want to get on a plane inexpensively, air-hitch-hiking seems to be a way to do it on the cheap.

Most of the available flight routes I found in my research were from selected US cities to Europe or Hawaii.

I don't have any experience with these services, so I turn it to you: Has anybody flown with either of these companies? Or are there other ways to fly inexpensively that Wise Bread Bloggers need to know about? Drop us a comment and let us know!

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Guest's picture

"You can't jump a jet plane, like you can a freight train, so I'd best be on my way, in the early morning rain."

One of my favorite lines by Gordon Lightfoot. Seemed relevant. If only slightly.

Guest's picture

This posting, while informative, isn't really about hitch-hiking - it's about purchasing discounted airline tickets.

But it *is* possible to actually hitch-hike on airplanes - I've done it. There are thousands of "general aviation" airports all over the country, and every day, private planes depart for destinations near & far. One can hang out in pilot's lounges in FBOs (Fixed Base Operators, the businesses that sell fuel, maintain planes, & rent parking spots at airports) & ask pilots if they have an empty seat (& which direction they're going, of course).

I did this successfully in the 1970s in the US & Canada, & I had 2 particular advantages. First, I travelled with an attractive young woman (my wife). Second, I had a commercial pilot's license (easily produced for inspection) which meant I could "share the driving", which can be an attractive offer to a lone pilot about to fly a long leg.

I don't know if this is still practical in the post-9/11 world, but if so, it's a fun way to bum around the country!

Guest's picture

Hmmmm....never thought this was possible.

Guest's picture
martha in mobile

I recently used air tech to fly rt from Mobile to Sacramento on 14 hours notice and got a great rate (considering) of $635 total using Continental. Delta wanted $1,650 for the same itinerary. I got my choice of my flights and seats. I was impressed with air tech and will use it in the future.

Nora Dunn's picture

Thanks Martha for your input! It's good to know that air tech offers a valuable service.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the great article, these days www.airtech.com focuses on flights to and from hawaii from los angeles to san francisco these cheap tickets have one catch you can only book 7 days OR LESS from the chosen date of travel. With a bit flexibility you get a great fare on these last minute tickets to hawaii, for most of the summer season 2009 we sold these at $199 now price hovers around $199-$215 for low season travel. The great advantage is for last minute travelers who typically pay alot for these seats without 14 days advance. Call us at 212 219 7000 x2 or x1 for details.

thanks again

Mike Esterson
President airtech

Guest's picture

Looks like it would be a good idea for wandering nomads, but maybe not so crash hot for people who have set vacation times. Great idea though.

Guest's picture

A friend of mine also "hitchhiked" on a plane. Although it was a small airport in either Kazakhstan, or Kyrgyzstan...or another of the -stan countries. Anyway, he had four hours to wait for his plane to Moscow and as he's a really chatty, charismatic guy, someone ended up mentioning to him that an empty plane was leaving for Moscow right then for some other flight from Moscow. He got offered a ride and was the only passenger on the plane.
Although I think he had already paid for the other flight...? I don't remember the details but it's a great story nonetheless.

Guest's picture

In the 1970s I was in the Navy and "hitchhiked" via private air craft quite often. I'd show up at an FBO wearing my Navy uniform and hang out in the lobby or pilots lounge and could usually get a ride within a couple hours of a plane heading in the direction I wanted to go. If you aren't on a fixed schedule, this works pretty well.