Flying standby for international travel is like business — it's all about who you know. Gone are the days when a budget traveler could walk into an airport at the last minute with only a carry-on, snag a spot on the standby list, and wait for the next available seat. Now, most airlines don't even sell domestic standby tickets. If you have a long wait in the airport, you can try to snag an empty seat on an earlier flight, but it will still cost you regular airfare prices. If you know or are related to an airline employee, however, you might be in luck. If you’re one of those lucky few people, here’s some travel tips on how to fly standby internationally.

Standby Me

Standby travel means you're trying to board a flight for which you don't have a confirmed ticket. Because most airlines won't let you fly standby without a confirmed reservation for later in the same day, you don't have much to lose from trying it.

If you have already paid for a flight on the same day, most airlines are happy to let you have an empty seat on a different flight to a domestic destination —in some cases, Canada, as well as some Caribbean destinations like the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — but they generally aren't as flexible with international destinations.

Many times there are standby fees if you choose to go standby in advance of the flight, and they get more expensive for same-day standby passengers.

Same-day flight changes are already stressful enough, and the added factor of trying to figure out connecting flights or seat arrangements beyond basic economy might be too much.

Additional difficulties with airlines, limited numbers of non-stop flights to your final destination, and the fact that fewer people give up seats on international flights, make for a particularly low chance of taking a same-day standby flight.

The Fly List

Many major airlines allow dependents or spouses of employees to fly standby on international flights. But if none of your family members work for a participating airline, don't despair — just check your friend group.

Some airline employees are allowed to give out buddy passes to a limited number of eligible people.

The Buddy System

In most cases, a buddy pass will grant you entry to an international or domestic flight, seat availability permitting. However, don't be surprised if you don't get on the flight you want. Buddy passes are just like standby seats, so nothing is guaranteed.

You may not be in the business class big leagues like you could’ve been on a flight with a confirmed seat. Be aware that your buddy pass only works for the airline your loved one works for; for example, an American Airlines or United pass will not work on a Delta or Southwest flight.

Each buddy pass program is different too, so be sure to ask before you present your boarding pass at the check-in kiosk about any additional terms and conditions. You also shouldn't be surprised that your buddy pass isn't completely free -- you still have to pay the taxes on the new flight or additional change fees, which can add up quickly.

Check all flight prices before deciding to fly on a buddy pass to make your credit card happier.


Standby passengers are the lowest traveler on the totem pole. Every passenger with a confirmed seat gets to board before you, which can slow you down.

Be sure to check in on the specifics of your buddy pass before heading to the airport -- some airlines don't allow travelers to use buddy passes on busy traveling days, such as holidays.

Also, don't go looking for special treatment. Just because you have the standby option to fly first class on a new flight doesn’t mean that you get to be rude to the gate agent at the departure gate for your original flight.

Additionally, be sure to be extra appreciative to any ticketing agents who are able to get you on to an earlier or later flight on standby; it’s not an easy task.