How does standby flying work?

Written by amy hannaford
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How does standby flying work?
(Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Flying standby simply means waiting for a seat to become available on an aeroplane and being willing to jump on that flight at any time. Those who fly standby typically to not have a scheduled time or date for their destination. These travellers understand that there are no guarantees of a seat opening up and know they may have to wait for a later flight. There is even the chance that they cannot fly out until the following day.

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Flying standby simply means waiting for a seat to become available on an aeroplane and being willing to jump on that flight at any time. Those who fly standby typically to not have a scheduled time or date for their destination. These travellers understand that there are no guarantees of a seat opening up and know they may have to wait for a later flight. There is even the chance that they cannot fly out until the following day.

Although saving money is one of the main reasons someone would choose to fly stand by, gone are the days where a standby ticket cost less than half the price of regular airfare. Many airlines today though will give discounted rates for someone willing to fly standby but many times you will pay full price just to sit and wait for something to open up. Some airlines offer special one-day tickets for anyone travelling on Christmas or New Year's.

Be sure to arrive early to the airport to ensure that you are at the top of the standby list. Chances are better for you getting on a flight if you try for the first flight of the day. If you do not make it on that flight, the you will get "rolled over" to the next one.

Keep in mind that others can have priority over standby flyers. Connecting passengers and airline employees and crew who must get to their destination for work purposes will be given any open seats first. Also, standby passengers are more likely to get a seat on the day of a major holiday such as Thanksgiving. It's less likely that there will be open seats the day before or the weekend after a holiday because more people travel on those days.

Do not check in any luggage. The chances of your bags getting on the same plane as you are slim. Your luggage will get checked in for the first flight you are standing by for--but if you get bumped and have to continue waiting, your bags will go on without you. Take a carry-on bag only.

Stay at the gate for the airline you are on standby for. You risk missing your name being called at a moments notice. Pick up food and drink on the way to the gate so you don't need to leave. Plan a bathroom break about 15 to 20 minutes before the plane is scheduled to board.

Be patient and flexible. Although this route of travel can work out well and possibly save you money, it can also be time consuming and is unpredictable.

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