how to fly standby

Flying standby simply means traveling on a flight without a confirmed seat reservation. This method is popular among travelers who are flexible with their plans and fearless when taking last-minute opportunities. Being so, they can often score flight tickets at reasonable prices and even have the potential to get seat upgrades, depending on seat availability.

These days, you must do more than walk into an airport and expect to get a standby flight. You may or may not have to pay a specific fee amount to get your name on the waiting list in addition to the ticket price. If you want assurance, you can book a same-day confirmed flight with a fee. 

What is Flying Standby?

To simplify the process, if you are flying on standby, you arrive at the airport without a previously booked seat and wait for a spot on a flight. The airline may charge you an additional fee, too. Such passengers get accommodation based on the availability of seats on a first-come, first-served basis. This way of traveling is usually used by passengers who want to travel cheaper or want to get an earlier flight. 

What is Flying Standby

The process starts with passengers getting listed on the standby list and waiting for seats to become available. Afterward, passengers are called in order of priority, which changes according to the policies of the concerned airlines. Standby passengers are issued boarding passes that indicate “SBY” in place of a seat number. They have to be attentive to the ongoing announcements of seat availability. 

In case the flight is full, the passenger cannot get on the plane, and their bags are then offloaded. Under such conditions, they can request to get listed on the next available flight. If a seat is available, passengers can happily board the flight and start their journey. 

Perks Of Being a Standby Passenger

The most popular benefit of flying standby is securing the cheapest fares in comparison to regular-priced tickets. These tickets are sold at lower prices since the airline’s main motive is to fill the empty seats on a plane. Hence, it is a popular traveling concept for budget-conscious passengers. This way, they can save money on fare costs. 

If available, there is also a higher chance of getting unexpected upgrades to premium seats. If a seat is vacant in a business or First-class cabin, the airline will discount it and arrange it for you. This adds an extra oomph to your travel experience. 

  • Cost Savings: Steal the deal at lower prices in comparison to the standard flight ticket. 
  • Flexibility: Only passengers with flexible travel schedules or catching earlier flights can benefit from this concept. 
  • Opportunity for Upgrades: There is a high probability that standby passengers will get a chance to sit in premium seat cabins at cheaper prices. 

How Do You Get Standby Flights?

It is important to familiarize yourself with the airline’s terms and conditions for traveling on standby and the applicable fee charges. You can also download the airline’s mobile application to get notified of standby availability. 

As mentioned, being listed on the airline’s elite status will increase your chance of scoring standby seats. The airline often prioritizes the list of passengers based on their flying status. So, if you’re flying on low fares with no premium rank, you will likely be at the end of the list. 

How Do You Get Standby Flights

Some other suggestions that we would like to point out for passengers hoping to fly standby are as follows:

  • Arrive at the airport early to secure a spot on the list, as many airlines allot seats on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • Travel with no checked bags as the plane might not have the storage. Pack only cabin bags, which must comply with the airline’s size and weight restrictions.
  • Communicate with staff and let them know you want to travel on a standby flight and get on the waiting list. 
  • Travel solo, as there is very little chance of multiple vacant seats on a flight. The airline also considers allotting standby seats to passengers who are traveling alone.  

The Cost Of Standby Travel

Generally, same-day standby flights are complimentary, and many airlines like Delta, United, and Southwest offer this service for free on the day of travel. The guarantee of acquiring a seat is very slim under such circumstances. However, you can get the assurance if you book a same-day confirmed standby flight for a certain fee. For instance, Delta charges around $75 for a standby flight, while United may charge a fee as high as $75. 

Some airlines provide passengers with free same-day standby to frequent fliers or members of loyalty programs.  Thus, it is very important to check the guidelines of the concerned airlines because that’s what shapes the rules of flying standby. Check the standby flight rules of famous airlines and applicable fees, if any. 

Alaska Airlines You can request a same-day standby flight change available on previously purchased tickets. Same-day confirmed standby will cost around $50
Allegiant AirTypically, it does not offer same-day standby to its customers. However, passengers who have bought TripFlex can change flight destination one hour before departure. 
Delta AirlinesThe same-day confirmed seat price starts at $75. The service is complimentary for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members. 
Frontier AirlinesPassengers who are a part of FRONTIER Miles and hold elite status can request standby seats. 
JetBlueThe airline charges a fee of $75 for flights with the exact origin and destination and departing on the same day. 

Maximize Chances Of Getting Standby Seats

Consider the following shared tips in maximizing the probability of getting seated while traveling on standby. 

  • Select Off-Peak Season

Flights are mostly less crowded on weekdays and off-peak hours, and due to this, many seats are left vacant. So, travelers have a higher chance of scoring a great deal on such seats. 

  • Join Frequent Flyer Programs

Every airline has its way of working out things. Some airlines give preference to standby passengers on the basis of their flying status and membership. 

  • Be Patient and Polite

Embodying a positive attitude can be very effective in securing a standby seat. Therefore, try to be as polite as possible. 

What is standby “Buddy Pass”?

The only condition where a passenger can literally show up at the airport and hop on a flight is if they work (or retire) for the concerned airline. The airline issues its employees ample buddy passes when flying on standby. It enables them to get a standby flight for only the price of taxes and fees. Remember that the issuance of such cards varies according to the airline. In many cases, the employees can transfer these passes to friends and family. So, if you are looking for an opportunity, it’s better to befriend someone currently working as a permanent employee at an airline company. 

In Closing!

The concept of flying standby has developed over the past years. This concept is more common between airline employees and business travelers with elite status. Now, it has become accessible to other passengers as well in recent years. It combines excitement and stress, as there are high chances of not getting a seat due to a completely sold-out situation. However, if you are flexible with your travel plans and can adjust to a given situation, you can make the most out of flying standby. 


What does flying standby mean?

Flying standby means you can change your flight to another on the day of departure if seats are available on the latter. 

How does standby flight work?

Passengers wanting to book a standby flight seat must be on the waiting list. The seats are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on seat availability. 

Can you fly standby without buying a ticket?

Most airlines will want passengers to have booked tickets since flying standby has evolved. Employees and special guests of the airline can fly on standby without a booked flight. 

Does it cost extra to fly standby?

Yes. Many airlines charge fees in addition to flight tickets for flying on a standby flight. Delta applies a cost of $75 for same-day confirmed flights.

How can I increase my chances of getting a standby flight?

Arrive at the airport early, get a spot on the list, and travel alone. Purchase the airline’s elite member status to maximize the chance of getting a standby flight. 

Do standby get boarding pass?

Yes. Passengers get the boarding pass where “SBY” is listed in place of a seat number. 

Also read about: I Overslept and Missed My Flight

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