Flying standby has certainly changed in recent years. Once a tried-and-true method favored by budget travelers to score cheap, last-minute flights to holiday destinations, standby flying is now almost exclusively limited to pre-booked passengers needing to make same-day flight changes, or friends and family members of airline employees. But though the circumstances of flying standby may be different, the strategies for staying sane while waiting and improving your chances of scoring a seat remain the same. Here are some of the top tips to help you navigate your next standby flight:
Do your research.
Having a well-researched game plan is the best thing you can do to maximize your chances of success as a standby flyer. Be sure to read up on the standby policy of the airline you’re planning to fly with. All airlines operate differently when it comes to standby passengers, and it would be unfortunate to miss out on a seat due to a technicality you weren’t aware of. It’s also helpful to do some advance research on the days, times, and airports where you’ll be more likely to find flights that still have space remaining.
It’s technically possible to check bags when you’re a standby flyer, but it’s best avoided because it usually leads to delays and hassles at your destination. Traveling with just a carry-on is generally the best rule of thumb for standby flights.
Flying standby is all about being flexible. Unfortunately, your flexibility level decreases sharply if you are traveling with other people. To avoid headaches and frustration, both for yourself and for the gate agent helping you with your flight, save standby trips for times when you know you’ll be on your own.
Just because you’re on a waitlist for a standby seat doesn’t mean you are free to wander off to other areas of the airport. If you’re not at the gate and ready to board when your name is called, you’ll lose your chance at getting on the plane. So if you’re on standby, be sure that you are, in fact, standing by. It’s also a good idea to keep waiting at the gate, even if you’ve been told there’s no more space, until the plane actually leaves: sometimes final passenger miscounts can lead to down-to-the-wire seat openings.