This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Do you really understand what an airplane jumpseat is? You may have heard the term used somewhere. Here's your chance to find out.

Airplane jumpseat seems like an unlikely name for something that doesn't do any jumping. But an important part of being a pilot is that you have to be knowledgeable about every single detail of airplanes. You must know the role each part of an airplane plays in an airplane, where they're located, and why.

An airplane jumpseat can describe several things but is often used to describe an auxiliary seat in an airplane that is designated for government officials or some unofficial pilots and crew members. The airplane jumpseat is a foldable seat meant for temporary use.

When a crew member or pilot flies on an airplane jumpseat, they are said to be jumpseating, or in certain circumstances, deadheading. The expectations for anyone who would consider flying a jumpseat are usually high. Just like other aspects of flying, attention to the details is what a jumpseater needs to fully grasp the concept of an airplane jumpseat.

This guide will take you through all you possibly have to know about airplane jumpseat - The history of them, who can fly a jumpseat, the types of airplane jumpseats, etiquette for jumpseating, and their safety precautions.

Table of contents


History of The Airplane Jumpseat

The term jumpseat is not a new one by any means, in fact, usage of the term dates back to the 1860s, long before the Wright Brothers’ first flight in December 1903. Back then, a jumpseat was a foldable extra seat found in stagecoach carriages, used by staff who needed a quick way to get from where they were to where they needed to be for their next shift, usually in the next town or city. Rather than pay for their own staff to be transported, stagecoach companies elected to install these seats on their carriages to transport their staff for free. This invention was also used on cars to the same end for taxi companies decades later.

Interestingly, the origin of the name “jumpseat” is unknown, though some say it came about because the first jumpseats were poorly fastened or the carriage, and as such, jumped about as the carriage moved, whilst others say it originated with carriage staff who were being inspected by upper management unexpectedly; something they referred to as being “jumped”.

As airplanes increased in size, and commercial aviation became much larger following WWII, airlines began to have the same problem carriage companies had over 80 years previously: How to get their staff from one place to the place they needed to be.

Raising this concern to aircraft manufacturers, engineers responded by looking to the past, and the very first airplane jumpseats were introduced, located in the cockpit behind the two pilots and flight engineers. As time went on, further jump seats were added in the main cabin alongside the crew seating, with some aircraft having both types and others having only one (especially older and/or smaller models).

At first, who could use airplane jumpseats was almost anyone (at the captain’s discretion of course), ranging from close friends and family of the crew, to journalists covering aviation-related stories, to its intended users: extra pilots and crew. However, the 9/11 attacks changed everything. After the attacks, the FAA overhauled restrictions on nearly all aspects of flights, including who could fly on jumpseats. Only extra pilots, airline staff or government observers were allowed to ride in the cockpit jumpseat.

Types of Airplane Jumpseat

To reflect the differing needs of airlines, aircraft manufacturers offer two different types of airplane jumpseats, with both usually coming as standard (though smaller aircraft may only have one). These are:

Cockpit Jumpseat

As the name implies, the cockpit jumpseat is located in the aircraft’s cockpit (shocker I know!) It's usually placed behind the operating pilots, by the cockpit door. Though not always, the most common types of people who sit in the cabin jumpseats are fellow pilots, followed closely behind government officials or other airline representatives.

Main Cabin Jumpseat

This type of jumpseat is located at the front of the main cabin before the passenger seating. It is also in tandem with the official seats reserved for the flight’s crew. As a result, most people jumpseating in the main cabin jumpseat are similar to flight crew.

Who Can Fly in an Airplane Jumpseat?

At least in the US, not just anyone can fly an airplane jumpseat. Airplane jumpseats, whether in the cockpit or main cabin, are meant for pilots- not on duty- or employees of the FAA or NTSB agents or technical experts, who are there for operational purposes. These are the only individuals permitted to fly in any jumpseat.

After all the possible instances of who can fly an airplane jumpseat cited from the preceding, it is very rare to find a flight passenger with a ticket to fly a jumpseat. It could almost be impossible for such an event to happen.

However, it cannot be ruled out that a revenue passenger can fly an airplane jumpseat. In such cases, it simply means there must have been something leading to it, and it can only be allowed by the captain.


Pilots are one group of people who can fly a jumpseat. These could be pilots employed by the same airline. If so, it is usually in the event that such a pilot is not on flying duties for that flight. The pilot may be traveling in the jumpseat for work-related purposes or possibly to reach another airport rather than for pleasure or personal travel.

CASS (Cockpit Access Security System) grants cockpit jumpseat access to pilots of participating airlines to those in other airlines’ airplanes, though only on domestic flights, and is subject to electronic verification. As a pilot from another company, your approach of seeking to jumpseat is very crucial.

Pilots flying a jumpseat can do that at no cost. Jumpseating is free whether for pilots of the same airline or from another.

FAA Agents

As part of its regulatory duties, the Federal Aviation Administration has the right to physically inspect the mode of operations during a flight. When on such duties, they are expected to use the jumpseat during the flight. FAA agents could show up before a flight or could have notified the jumpseat coordinator a day or two before the flight.

Although it's normal for flight inspectors to use the jumpseat while on official duties,  they don't have the final call to do so. If the jumpseats were already listed, then they can't possibly run their duty on that flight but if the seats are available they can have the  to fly in a jumpseat and perform their duty accordingly.

FAA inspectors in most cases prefer to fly in the cockpit jumpseat with the pilots for proper inspection.

In a similar vein to FAA agents, NTSB agents may also fly in the cabin jumpseat to oversee how an airline operates, especially one that’s under scrutiny for a recent crash the NTSB is investigating. In certain cases, a lone NTSB agent may also fly in the jumpseat to get to the site of a crash they’re investigating.

Crew Members

Crew member(s) of an airline also can fly in an airplane jumpseat. They may not be on active duty for that flight, however, the law still regards them as part of the crew. However, crew members could jumpseat only when they have official duties to perform in another airport, they can't fly a jumpseat for their own personal business.

Just like what obtains in CASS, a crew member of another airline could request for a jumpseat in another airline. The request is done via a letter, it of course depends on pre-existing pilot's policy and jumpseat agreements.

Any crew member that intends to fly a jumpseat can only use the main cabin jumpseat. And if from another airline, they could fly if seats are available.

Jumpseating Etiquette

While there are locally set rules and regulations for jumpseating, either by countries or the airlines, there is also a certain etiquette for those who are jumpseating, which most expect to be followed and maintained. These are:

  • To fly a jumpseat, you must have these documents; company ID, medical test results, and pilot's license. This is according to the jumpseat rules of the FARs.
  • To fly an airplane jumpseat, you must dress appropriately. It is highly recommended that you wear your company-issued uniform, or similar business attire. Do not wear shorts or sneakers. Ensure you are clean shaven, and appear neatly.
  • Who gets to fly on an airplane jumpseat is generally granted to those who request it first; however, some airliners accord their aircraft officials (who are willing to fly a jumpseat) all privileges to do so before considering a non-staff to fly a jumpseat. Additionally, jumpseat flyers may not be permitted, even when there are unoccupied jump seats in the cabin.
  • Do not request a jumpseat if you have already purchased tickets for your flight as this is bad form.
  • Always remember that jumpseating isn’t a right - it’s a privilege. And as such, it requires a professional demeanor for every moment spent on the flight. Behave orderly when requesting a jumpseat from the captain.
  • You should know that whilst in either type of airplane jumpseat, you are legally considered to be a part of the crew, albeit in an unofficial capacity When using the cockpit jumpseat, a headset should be worn for you to listen to ATC chatter.
  • Speak only if it's necessary. Like other passengers, phones should be turned off or put in airplane mode (and only used when you’re allowed to; but it’s recommended that you don’t). Do not engage crew members in unnecessary conversation as this may impede their ability to do their jobs correctly.
  • Depending on availability, the captain may offer you a seat in first class, if they do so, this should be accepted gracefully (it’s not that they don’t want you, it may be for other reasons, especially if you’re not there to supervise or monitor them). And note that, as you are considered an additional member of the crew, FARs 121.583 and 121.547 automatically bar you from drinking alcohol while on a jumpseat.
  • As you are a non-revenue passenger, you will likely deplane last. As such, and as an additional member of the crew, you should offer to help revenue passengers deplane as/when needed.
  • During the flight, there is the expectation that you will remain seated unless going to the bathroom or given instructions to do so by the captain, as passengers may mistake you for cabin crew or cause unnecessary alarm if they see a pilot (though not their pilot) walk down the aircraft aisle.

Jumpseat Safety Precautions

Just like revenue passengers, jumpseats or personnels who fly a jumpseat have their own safety materials such that whenever there is an emergency, a jumpseater should enjoy the privileges enjoyed by revenue passengers. Just to mention a few, the following safety precautionary materials are available to jumpseaters.

Life Vest: Just as most other seats on the airplane, jumpseats are equipped with emergency life vests for use in case of a water landing

Oxygen Mask: According to FAR regulations, every jumpseat should have an oxygen mask in case of emergency, like every other seat on the airplane, it's stored in the overhead panel.

Emergency Exits: Your nearest emergency exits are located at the front of the aircraft (where the cabin jumpseats are) to ensure the promptness of crew members during emergencies.