How to Go Standby at an Airport
Airlines generally do not sell tickets designed for standby travel; most tickets specify a certain flight and date, and airlines expect passengers to travel on that flight. But circumstances can change, and travelers often want to change to a later flight or earlier flight at the last-minute and make new reservations. While expensive full-fare tickets allow this change at no charge, most tickets sold today carry substantial restrictions that discourage such changes. Additional charges incurred may include special flight “change” fees and additional fare charges, which may more than double the price of the original ticket. But these costs may be substantially avoided if the customer opts to travel on the same day, but on a different flight by flying standby at no additional charge or for a minimal fee.
Review your ticket receipt or your online ticket via the airline’s website. Check the restrictions and standby policies. Some higher-priced tickets favored by business travelers often have few or no restrictions, and they are valid for one year. You can make new reservations. But if the flight is full, ticket-holders may still opt to go standby. Passengers with discount tickets may be restricted, but standby travel on a different flight is usually possible on the same day as the original reservation and at the original price, although a small change fee may apply.
Check the desired flights for same-day standby availability. Enter the city-pair and flight time desired as though you are making a reservation. While online reservations systems will not tell you the actual number of seats available, flights that are full will appear as "sold-out." If online access is not possible, call the airline and ask a reservations agent for standby flight availability.
Review your schedule versus air travel seat availability. Often, early morning domestic flights have more basic economy and first class availability. In addition, early flights often have more “no shows” than flights later in the day due to same-day flight change.
Get to the airport early, preferably at least 1.5 hours before the flight. Contact an agent and ask them to put you on the standby list. Some automated check-in system kiosks will allow you to do this yourself.
Go to the gate with your boarding pass and carry-on. Many airlines post the standby list on an electronic screen at the gate. Check to ensure your name is on the list; if not, contact the airline gate agent. If you do not see a screen, ask the agent if your name is on the list.
Sit close to the boarding desk and listen for your name to be called. If your name has not been called and the flight is full, request the agent to transfer your name to the next flight.
While many passengers believe the standby list priority is determined by arrival time at the airport, this is only partially true. Customers who missed a connecting flight usually are placed at the top of the standby list regardless of check-in time. Additionally, airline mileage frequent flyer program participants have priority according to their status. Airlines that offer this include southwest, American Airlines, jetblue, delta airlines, frontier, and Alaska airlines. You may see frequent changes to your clearance number on the list as standbys with higher priorities are added. If you have any questions contact an airline employee about airfare.
Discount tickets may only be used as standby tickets on the date of the originally scheduled travel. You generally may not travel standby before or after that date. During inclement weather, or when bad weather is expected, airlines may waive this requirement.