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How To Fly Standby

How To Fly Standby

While in the past it was possible to fly standby at a discounted rate, or even free, that is no longer the case. Heightened security and budget concerns have caused airlines to discontinue this service for their passengers. Those who work in the airlines or are related to someone who does are still able to board a flight free when there are open seats, but everyone else must purchase a ticket in advance. Flying standby is still an option, but the definition has changed. The good news is that learning how to fly standby under today's definition is fairly straightforward, and although the rate will remain the same, this option can offer you convenience.

If you arrive early the day of your flight and there are open seats on an earlier flight to your same destination, you will be able to transfer your ticket to the earlier flight; saving you time, and giving you a few hours more to spend on your trip.


Every airline will have its own guidelines of how to fly standby, or if you are allowed to. Some have standby lists you will need to add your name to, while others require you to check in and ask at the front counter before moving along to your plane's waiting area.

Continue below…

Some will immediately tell you whether there are open seats, and some will make you wait to find out. Regardless of the method, you will not receive a discount on your ticket. The benefit you will receive is that of convenience. With Delta, you have a Same-Day Standby Option if you are a Diamond, Platinum or Gold Medallion member.

You can travel standby within the United States, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, or Canada. The flight you go on must be to the same location, in the same way. For example, if your ticket is for a direct route, the earlier flight must also be a direct route. If you have a connecting flight, there must be openings on both the earlier flights, or you will not be allowed to fly on the first one.


Flying standby on Southwest is available with a Business Select or Anytime fares, at no additional fee. Priority seating (the "A" boarding group) may be lost if you choose to fly standby with a Business Select ticket. Changing to an earlier flight is not an option with a Wanna Get Away or Senior fare, though you can choose to upgrade to an Anytime fare (and pay the additional cost) if you learn you require a standby flight.

As with any airline, flying standby does not guarantee that you will have a seat on an earlier flight. It is a possibility, and a risk. You may wait all day with no luck, and still have to fly on your originally booked flight.


Regardless of what type of member you are with United, you have the ability to fly standby, though you may be subject to a fee if you do so. Gold, Premiere Gold, Platinum and 1K members are allowed to fly standby at no additional cost; MileagePlus, Silver, and Premiere members are charged $75 if they choose to switch their flight. However, if seats are not available on an earlier flight, you will not be charged this fee. You can check the availability of standby flights on United Airlines by visiting their website or calling them, and you can book a flight within 24 hours of your originally scheduled ticket.

Without A Ticket

Unfortunately it is no longer possible to fly standby without a ticket, though airlines such as Air Tran will sometimes offer deeply discounted  last-minute rates to students. If you are hoping for a cheaper airline ticket, your best option is to purchase well in advance. Buying your ticket at least a month before your trip, and comparing the costs of various airlines, will ensure that you receive the best deal. Waiting until the last minute usually means the price will only go up, and tickets purchased the day of the flight will cost you the full fare.