Stand by flying has changes in recent years. In the past, standby tickets were available that allowed you to fly much cheaper, as long as you were willing to risk sitting at the airport for an extended period of time. Now, these standby tickets are no longer available, but flying standby still has its benefits. When you make reservations, you most likely choose the most convenient and the least expensive flight from your preferred airport to your destination. However, after making your reservation, others may have cancelled, businesses could have released blocks of tickets, or someone could have not shown up to fly. An airline dislikes flying with empty seats and the airline will do everything it can to fill these empty seats. You can benefit from this by taking an earlier flight by flying standby.
To fly standby you must already have a ticket for a flight, and you can only fly to the same destination as your current ticket, typically on the same route, if there are layovers. If you want to fly standby, head to the ticket counter as soon as you arrive at the airport, since standbys are typically on a first come, first serve basis. Once you are on the list, do not leave the area. The agent will not hold your spot and it will be lost if your name is called and you are not present.
The first rule of flying standby is to pack lightly. When an airline makes the decision to put people on an earlier flight, they often do so at the last minute. If you have bags to check, or have already checked bags for a different flight, your chances of flying standby are reduced significantly. Therefore, to increase your odds of flying standby, pack only what you can carry on.
If you are curious about flying standby, and would like to try it, call the airline several hours before your scheduled flight and ask if there are any open seats on earlier flights. If there are a few extra seats available, head to the airport since you cannot be placed on standby over the phone.
An important consideration when flying standby is what happens in the case of connecting flights. If you standby and board a plane four hours before your confirmed reservation, you will arrive early at the next airport, but if you are connecting, there is no guarantee that the connecting airport will have openings on their flights. You may end up waiting at that airport until your originally ticketed flight arrives. One of the best scenarios for flying standby is when you are able to convert your confirmed ticket with layovers to a standby, same price, ticket that is non-stop. If the flight has layovers, head directly to the ticket desk when you land, and ask to be placed on the standby list for the connecting flight.
Increase your success of flying standby
There are a variety of ways to increase your success of flying standby. If you are traveling by yourself, your chances of success are greater than if you are traveling with your family. This makes sense, as there is a much greater chance of finding one empty seat than finding four empty seats. Because of the decrease in the odds of flying standby, it does not make sense to fly standby with children. To successfully fly standby, you need to arrive early at the airport, and spend a good deal of time waiting around. This is too much to ask for children right before climbing on board an airplane.
Take time to consider the time of year as well. If you are traveling on a holiday weekend or on the edge of bad weather, flights are probably overbooked already, and showing up early will not be very beneficial. Airlines give first choice on standby flights to those who have been bumped from another flight, so showing up early will not put you at the head of the line.
Flying standby is a great way to take advantage of cheap plane tickets as long as you are willing to be flexible. Cheap tickets, for late night arrivals, are easy to find. Once you buy your ticket, pack lightly, and on the day of your flight head to the airport early, or call ahead and see if there are any empty seats on flights heading to the same destination. Using this method, assuming that you are not traveling at a busy time of the week, midweek is best, you are very likely to standby on an earlier flight, and arrive at your destination at a reasonable hour.