How to Fly Standby

Due to declining profits and increasing fuel prices, the airline industry has contracted and fewer last-minute seats are available for standby flyers. Standby is an ideal option for travelers who want to arrive a few hours early or late at their final destination. Most airlines charge a $25-100 fee for confirmed same-day flight changes; standby is technically an unconfirmed same-day flight change, which means that your ability to get a seat is not guaranteed. Here are some tips to optimize your experience.


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    Look up what the policy of your airline is. Different airlines have different stipulations and charges for standby passengers, and it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with those nuances beforehand. Standby is not offered by all airlines.
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    Purchase the cheapest plane ticket to your desired destination, if you have not already. Nearly all airlines stipulate that you must have already purchased a plane ticket to be eligible for standby. If you do not already have a ticket and have no airline preference, purchase a jetBlue ticket because they offer standby for no additional charge[1].
    • Some airlines have restrictions on the type of ticket or elite membership status that makes you eligible for standby, so make sure to read their policies carefully.
    • Some airlines, such as Delta, only offer standby as an option if confirmed same-day flight changes are not possible.
    • Most airlines only offer standby flights to destinations that match the destination on your purchased ticket. There are some exceptions for nearby airports (e.g., SFO, SJC and OAK in the San Francisco Bay Area or DCA and IAD in Washington D.C.), but this flexibility cannot be guaranteed.
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    Pack your things in a carry-on bag, if possible. Your chances of securing a standby flight are significantly increased if you do not have checked luggage. Moreover, because of the possibility that you may not obtain a standby seat, you want your baggage with you at all times.
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    On the day before or day of your flight, check your airline's website or phone-in for seat availability and flight information. Find the earlier flight that you want to wait standby for, and check if there are seats available. If there aren't, find another flight.
    • If you want to be certain that you will win that seat, you can call the airline to make a same-day flight change for a fee.
    • Do not check a third-party website such as Expedia or Priceline, as they won't have the most current flight information.
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    Go to the airport at least two hours before your desired standby flight. When you check in, let the ticketing agent know that you have a later ticket but you wish to fly standby for that flight. If your request accords with the airline's policy, you should be placed on a standby list.
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    Proceed through security and wait at the gate of your desired standby flight. Let the gate agents know that you are waiting standby for available seats.
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    If you are able to secure a seat, congratulations! Enjoy your flight. If not, proceed to the gate of your original purchased ticket. You may still board that flight to your final destination.

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Categories: Air Travel | Buying Air Travel