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, snag a standby ticket 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 the price of a regular ticket. If you know or are related to an airline employee, however, you might be in luck.

Standby Me

Standby flying 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're in the middle of an eight-hour layover in Chicago, go ahead and put your name on the list for an earlier flight to L.A. -- but you might not have as much luck trying to get to Paris that way. If you have already paid for a flight on the same day, most airlines are happy to let you have an empty seat to a domestic destination -- and, in some cases, Canada and Puerto Rico -- but they generally aren't as flexible with international destinations. Couple difficulties with airlines with the fact that fewer people give up seats on international flights, and you've got a risky journey ahead.

The Fly List

Many major airlines allow dependents or spouses of employees to fly standby on international flights. But if neither your partner nor parents 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, space permitting. Don't be surprised, however, if you don't get on the flight you want. Buddy passes are just like standby tickets, so nothing is guaranteed. You also shouldn't be surprised that your buddy pass isn't completely free -- you still have to pay the taxes on it, which can add up quickly, reports travel expert Roni Faida on "The Travel Guru" website.


Flying standby means you're the lowest traveler on the totem pole. Every fare-paying passenger gets to board before you, which can slow you down. Be sure to check 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. Even with a buddy pass, you're still under all Transportation Security Administration restrictions.