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Meet an 'Airline Nepo Baby' — He's Flown for Free Since Birth, Gets Upgraded to Business Class, and Books Last-Minute Trips to Tokyo and Sydney His dad's been with United for 30 years.

By Maria Noyen

Key Takeaways

  • Joshua Crawford, who calls himself an "airline nepo baby," has flown for free his entire life.
  • He gets access to travel perks because his father has worked for United Airlines for 30 years.
  • Crawford, 23, books spur-of-the-moment international trips and often gets free cabin upgrades.
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Courtesy of Joshua Crawford via Business Insider
Joshua Crawford in Paris.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Step aside, Hollywood, there's a new nepo baby in town.

Joshua Crawford, a 23-year-old who works at a grocery store in LA and recently graduated from college with a degree in marketing, calls himself an "airline nepo baby." The son of an employee who has worked for United Airlines for over 30 years, Crawford can fly for free, get upgraded to business class, and book last-minute vacations to destinations like Tokyo.

Crawford shared a glimpse of the travel perks he enjoys in a February 28 TikTok that has over 4.8 million views.

Rules for relatives of employees vary from airline to airline. At United Airlines, children of airline employees usually lose their privileges when they turn 26. But that won't apply to Crawford, as he's listed as his father's primary companion.

"I'm very grateful for that," he said.

Flying on standby isn't as risky as you'd think

In 2016, Crawford started to realize how lucky he was when planning a trip to Coachella, the music festival held in the California desert.

According to Google Flights, flights to Los Angeles or Palm Springs from New Jersey, where Crawford grew up, can run as much as $450 roundtrip — a price he and his sister didn't have to consider.

"We have an aunt that lives in California, so we just stayed at her house," he said. "We were like, 'Wow, all we have to do is pay for the wristband, and we're going to Coachella.'"

Crawford flies for free domestically because he travels on standby, meaning he doesn't have a seat assigned until close to the flight's departure time.

Crawford has booked cheap last-minute vacations to Sydney and Paris, thanks to his status as an

Crawford has booked cheap last-minute vacations to Sydney and Paris, thanks to his status as an "airline nepo baby." Courtesy of Joshua Crawford via BI

Crawford said he doesn't always get on the flights he wants. There are times he's had to wait at a gate for a later, emptier flight when previous ones were fully booked.

But Crawford maintains that those situations rarely arise because he's learned to avoid certain routes and major airports during high-peak travel seasons.

Instead of flying direct from LA to New York during the December holidays, Crawford usually does a layover in Denver to ensure he gets a seat.

"If you learn your route, essentially, you will realize you have a lot of other options," he said.

It also doesn't hurt that Crawford's dad is privy to handy behind-the-scenes information like how many seats are left open on flights months before departure.

"I'm usually not enlisting on a flight where I have a high chance of being booted off to the next one," he said. "It also really depends on your seniority with the company. My dad's been with United for quite some time now, so I'm definitely a higher priority — and very grateful for my father."

Last-minute jet-setting to destinations like Sydney, Tokyo, and Paris

These days, Crawford takes longer-haul trips — often without much pre-planning. He can book anytime, though he said he isn't given an "official" reservation until around a month before travel.

Over the past year, Crawford said he's booked last-minute trips to destinations including Japan, Australia, and Europe.

Learning the best flight routes has helped Crawford avoid the risks of flying on standby.

Learning the best flight routes has helped Crawford avoid the risks of flying on standby. Courtesy of Joshua Crawford via BI

"I went to Australia a couple of months ago by myself," he said. "I did like a little solo trip, and I probably planned that about two weeks before I went."

More recently, Crawford said, he celebrated his birthday with a quick trip to Paris booked just a week before takeoff.

Crawford does have to pay taxes when he books flights out of the country. However, they're normally a fraction of the cost of the ticket.

"It depends on the country," he said. "For example, I was leaving Japan, and it was like $70 to get back home."

Perks extend to business-class upgrades

Paying almost nothing to fly isn't the only benefit Crawford gets as an airline nepo baby.

Given how long his father has worked for United, Crawford said he's also a high priority when free upgrades to business class are available.

Known as Polaris, the premium cabins feature spacious pods with seats that can be turned into lie-flat beds and amenities like eye serums, facial sprays, and hand creams.

On some occasions, Crawford has received free upgrades to United Airlines Polaris business class cabin.

On some occasions, Crawford has received free upgrades to United Airlines Polaris business class cabin. Courtesy of Joshua Crawford via BI

According to Crawford, the upgrades help alleviate his jet lag.

"I flew to Sydney from LA, and that was about a 16-hour flight. There and back, I was in Polaris," he said. "There's such a big difference when you're in that economy middle seat versus when you've got upgraded on your flight."

As a recent college grad, he said he couldn't afford to fly business class otherwise.

"Round-trip prices for business-class tickets for a long-haul flight can range upwards of $15,000," Crawford said. "Coming out of college — as someone who has student debt and is trying to find a job — it's crazy to me. $15,000 — I could do so much with that."

In his TikTok, Crawford also said he breezes past security and immigration when he leaves and reenters the US.

Speaking to BI, he said these benefits — Global Entry and TSA PreCheck — weren't "completely free," but he got a discount on the application fee (normally $100) because of his dad's job.

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