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How to Fly Standby

Need to leave town earlier or later than planned? Flying standby is not as simple as it used to be.


  • Step 1: Have a ticket Have a ticket. Most airlines no longer allow stand-by travel unless the flyer already has a ticket, and it is typically allowed only for flights to the same destination.
  • TIP: If you are 18 to 22, check out Air Tran’s special standby program for college age travelers. It allows you to fly standby without having a ticket.
  • Step 2: Call ahead Before you even think about going to the airport, call your airline to get their policy on flying stand-by and to see if there are seats available on the flight you want.
  • Step 3: Prepare to pay Prepare to pay a fee for the privilege of flying standby; most airlines charge one, though some waive it for their frequent flyers.
  • TIP: Most airlines only allow stand-by travel on the same day as your original flight, and some impose time restrictions, like only allowing you to rebook on a flight within six to 12 hours.
  • Step 4: Get on the list At the airport, go to the check-in counter and ask to be put on a list for stand-by flights to your destination. Seats are awarded on a fist-come, first-served basis, so plan on getting to the airport early.
  • TIP: Remember, you can’t check luggage when you fly standby, so don’t over-pack.
  • Step 5: Double-check Head to your gate and double-check with the gate attendant that you are on the standby list.
  • Step 6: Stay put Once you’re at the gate, stay put. If a seat becomes available while you’re waiting for your double latte, it will go to the next person on the list.
  • FACT: U.S. airplanes have gone from an average of 62% full in 1990 to 81% full in 2007.

You Will Need

  • An original airline booking or ticket
  • Extra time and patience
  • A willingness to pay an extra fee

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