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To execute this proposed plan, the "parents" would book an itinerary, make all the necessary preparations, check-in, go through security, arrive at the gate, and . . . wait. The airline then offers a first class upgrade to other-class passengers. If there are still open first class seats, the parents are permitted to board. But then before the aircraft pulls away, the crew must, once again, offer first class upgrades (which some do). If anyone decides to upgrade, the parents are removed from the flight to make space for them.
If that is what is being suggested, it has lot of moving parts and is risky for the parents. But the paying customers would come first (no pun intended)
I have had the privilege of flying as a Non-Rev passenger on standby. I was not guaranteed a seat on all of the flights of my trip. I was placed in comfort for one leg, and at the back of the plane for another. Since the plane goes out with the same amount paid by the passengers it makes no difference to the airline monetarily, so if there is an open seat in comfort or first class there is no lost revenue. As was pointed out, if someone walks up and buys a last minute seat, the non-revs can be bumped. Another thing the non-revs must do that a normally ticketed passenger does not,is conform to dress codes and behavior codes just like the airline employee.