How Do Standby Flights Work?| What Is Standby Travel?

standby flights guide

Posted on 25th Jul, 2023 by Heena Ganotra , Updated 1 month ago

There’s nothing worse than being stuck at the airport with a delayed flight. But did you know that there are ways to avoid this stressful situation? Standby flights are a great way to get to your destination without worrying about your flight being delayed. But, what does standby on a flight mean? 

Let’s explore what is standby travel, how do standby flights work, the tips for flying standby, and are standby flights cheaper than your scheduled flights or not. 

The chances of getting a ticket when flying standby are pretty slim, and it’s definitely not worth counting if you’re trying to save money. It’s just a gamble. No matter how you feel about flying standby, it can be a great way to get home earlier, fly in style, or even make changes to your itinerary. With the right tools and a little bit of patience, anyone can do it. 

Here’s how to make the most of your airline standby flights. 

What Is Standby Travel?

Flying standby can land you some fantastic deals on last-minute tickets! Sometimes, you can even show up at the airport without a ticket and see if there are any open seats. There are several reasons why a passenger might choose to fly on standby. For example, if a passenger doesn’t have a seat assignment, they may wait at the gate to see if there is an extra seat after all scheduled passengers have boarded. Other common reasons for flying standby include last-minute travel plans or wanting to upgrade to a better seat. Whatever the reason, if you plan to buy standby flight tickets for yourself, they can turn out to be a great way to save time and money.

A few common scenarios where you can consider to buy standby flights are :

  • If you don’t have a ticket – In case you don’t have a ticket, there’s still a chance you can get on the flight if there are any empty seats left over after all the other passengers have boarded. Keep your fingers crossed, and hope for the best!
  • If you miss a flight – Missing a flight can be frustrating, but flying standby on the next flight to the same destination is usually easy. If you miss your flight, simply go to the ticket counter and ask to be on the airline standby flights list. In most cases, you’ll be able to get on the next flight with no problem.
  • To save time – If you arrive early for your flight, you can ask to be placed on standby for an earlier flight. Also, If a seat becomes available, you can take advantage of an earlier flight. If not, you can simply take your booked flight. Also famous as a “go-show.”
  • If you wish to have an upgrade – If you’re a ticketed passenger hoping for an upgrade to first class, don’t despair – there’s still a chance! Many airlines set aside a certain number of free space-available domestic upgrades to first-class for their top-tier fliers. As an elite tier flier, you may be eligible for a free upgrade to first class if space is available. Suppose first class is sold out or higher-tiered passengers receive upgrades. In that case, you may be able to stand by if a first-class seat becomes available due to a cancellation, no-show, misconnect, irregular operation, or equipment change. How to get on a standby flight? If you clear for an upgrade, you will receive a new boarding pass at the gate.
  • Flying Standby United Airlines – Some airlines, such as American Airlines and United Airlines, have gate-side monitors that show the upgrade and general standby list and announce when first class is full (no further upgrades are available).
  • Overbooked flights – Wondering, how to buy standby tickets if a flight is overbooked? Don’t worry! The airline will assign available seats to everyone before boarding (as standby tickets).

Remember: A standby flight is completely different from a red-eye flight. While in the former you have an option of boarding an earlier flight if your scheduled flight gets delayed, red-eye flights are those flights in which a plane takes off at night and lands the next morning. 

How Do Standby Tickets Work?

Wondering if you can still fly on standby flights or not? Here’s your answer- 

In the past, flying standby was a cheap way to travel. You could buy a discounted ticket for the next available flight and wait at the airport. Although the wait could be hours long, you could eventually get a last-minute flight for a reduced price.

However, it may be said that some things have changed, but it is essential to remember that safety has always been and will always be a top priority. Airlines have therefore decided to no longer allow travelers to fly without a pre-purchased ticket to ensure that all passengers are accounted for. Hence, buying standby airline tickets seems kind of impossible if you have not booked a flight with them. Additionally, with airport security being stricter than ever and airlines wanting to minimize empty seats, this policy allows everyone to enjoy a comfortable and safe flight.

Airports and airlines have come a long way in just a few decades. Boarding passes are mostly digital now, security measures are stricter (even some innocent behaviors can get you flagged by the TSA), and standby flights aren’t as common as they used to be. 

Things may not be perfect, but they’re certainly getting better all the time.

How Do Standby Flights Work?

Some airlines still offer standby tickets, so it’s worth checking if that’s an option for your travel plans. Keep in mind that airlines are filling more seats than ever before, so it may be harder to get a standby seat than it used to be. But it’s still possible to snag one if you’re prepared to be flexible.

Is Flying Standby Cheaper?

While a few standby seats may be free for some passengers, most will come at a cost. However, free seats are typically given to elite members or those who have already purchased first or business-class tickets. Additionally, those who buy more expensive refundable economy seats may also get free standby. 

However, it is important to note that standby policies and prices are subject to change without notice.

How To Get A Standby Ticket For Airlines? 

You can request to fly standby when checking in online or at the airport. The airline will advise you to head to the departure gate early, but your standby status won’t be confirmed until 30 minutes before the flight leaves.

How Much Does It Cost To Fly Standby?

If you’re looking to snag an earlier flight than the one you have already booked, flying standby may be the way to go. Different airlines have different policies on standby flights, so it’s important to check with your carrier beforehand. In most cases, you’ll need to have already purchased a ticket before you can standby for another flight. Some airlines require you to check in at the airport, while others let you do so online.

How does a standby flight work for different airlines? 

Here’s a glimpse into the workings of various airlines, the fees they charge, and how to purchase standby airline tickets if you are opting for one.

Airlines That Offer Standby Flights

Alaska Airlines

Same-day standby flights Alaska Airlines cost $25 and are available on their shuttle flights and flights entirely within California. For other standby flight requests, there is a $50 fee.

Delta Airlines

If you need to change your flight, Delta Airlines’ same-day standby policy covers you. For a fee of $75, you can go for a standby flight on the same day. 

Thinking of – “How can I buy a standby ticket for free?”
Well, The fee is waived if you are a Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion member.

United Airlines

United standby earlier flight plicy allows you to change your flight to a different flight if your booked one gets delayed or cancelled. This has to be done no more than 24 hours before your original flight. As per United Airlines flying standby policy , you can fly with them for free but there’s no guarantee of getting a seat. 

Spirit Airlines

If you are thinking as to can you fly standby on spirit then, Bingo! Spirit Airlines is happy to offer standby flight tickets for only $99 per person. This is a great way to get to your destination without worrying about a specific flight time.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier’s Early Returns program offers its elite members the chance to flying standby cheaper by allowing them to change their flights to earlier or later ones for free. For everyone else, there is a $99 fee.

American Airlines

If you’re traveling with American Airlines within the US, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can standby for free and can avail of same-day confirmed change for $60. AAdvantage elite members, military personnel, first-class, business class, and high-fare coach ticket holders are exempt from this fee.

JetBlue Airlines

How does standby flights work for JetBlue airlines?

Well, if you are a JetBlue customer, then you can make a confirmed same-day switch for a fee of $75.If you are a Mosaic member, you can avail of this free of cost, starting 24 hours prior to departure. 

Southwest Airlines

You can fly standby for free with Southwest Airlines if you’re holding a more expensive Business Select or refundable ticket. So, is standby cheaper than prebookings? Here’s a twist – if you’ve got a cheaper fare, you’ll have to pay the fare difference.

Hope this answers your doubt as to how do standby flight tickets work for different airlines! 

The next question is – 

Can you purchase standby airline tickets at cheaper rates? 

Let’s find out!

Tips To Get a Cheap Standby Flights Ticket

  • One of the best ways to make flying easier is to travel with only carry-on luggage. This way, you don’t have to worry about your bags getting lost or delayed. 
  • Go to the departure gate for your chosen standby airline tickets and be ready to respond when the gate agent calls your name. Quickly responding may result in you getting the seat.
  • If you are hoping to get standby flights, requesting as early as possible is best. 
  • By joining airline loyalty rewards programs, you can improve your status and enjoy perks like priority cheap standby flight tickets and access to exclusive lounges. This can make your travel experience more enjoyable and stress-free.
  • When considering which flight to book, be sure to read the ticket details like your flight number carefully. Some airlines have very restrictive policies that may not allow for standby travel. By knowing the details of your ticket upfront and going through your flight itinerary thoroughly, you can make sure you’re booking the standby flight that best suits your needs.
  • Be patient and flexible – you’re the one asking for the change in travel plans! Be prepared to wait around and potentially walk from the gate to the gate, but don’t worry – everything will work out in the end.

Here’s another tip for you If packing for your flights is what stresses you out the most, then you must know about our packing tips for last minute travel to help you breathe lighter. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does standby flight mean?

Ans: A standby flight is a flight that you are not booked on, but for which you may be able to get a seat if one becomes available. Standby flights are often used by people who have flexible travel plans, or by those who need to fly on short notice. This can be a good option if you are trying to save money. Q: How much does it cost to fly standby

Q: How much does it cost to fly standby?

Ans: If you have a same-day flight booked with Southwest Airlines, you can fly standby for free if you have business class or refundable tickets. However, other airlines typically charge between $25 and $75 for this service.

Q: Can you save money by flying standby?

Ans: You can save money by flying standby if you are an airline employee like flying standby on United employee discount or traveling with someone with a buddy pass. If you don’t already have a ticket, you will have to pay a fee to fly standby. However, if you are a student, you can book student discount flights and save!

Q: How do you get on standby flights?

Ans: In order to fly standby, you will need to purchase a ticket from the airline you wish to fly with. Once you have cleared security at the airport, you can go to the gate for the flight you want to take and ask the attendant to add you to the standby airline list.

Q: What are the rules for same day standby United Airlines?

A: As per the rules of one of the best airlines that offers cheap prices, you can join the standby list no more than 24 hours before your original scheduled flight. United standby for earlier flight allows you to change your flight in case it gets canceled or delayed.

Q: How much are standby tickets for?

A: If you are wondering how much is a standby ticket for then there’s no definite answer to this as prices vary from one airline to another. While some may extend the service for free, others charge a fee for the same.

Q: When is the best time to fly standby?

A: To avail of standby flights cheap rates, consider traveling off-season or on weekdays like Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This even increases your chances of securing the standby seats you want.

Q: What is the difference between business class and first class?

A: The main difference between business class vs first class is that of price and the amenities that come with it.


Well, that’s all. We work hard to provide the most accurate and current information possible. However, it’s important to remember that the policies of standby flights are subject to change, so it’s best to check with your airline or agent before booking. 

With our up-to-date information, you can be confident that you’re getting the best possible deal on your next trip. At MyIndiaFlight, we’re dedicated to helping you find the best deals on flights from USA to India along with flights from Australia to India. To make affordable flight bookings easy and stress-free, all you have to do is get in touch with us. We are a leading travel agency that always puts our customers first. Thanks to our partnerships with various airlines, we can help you find the cheapest flights available.


About Heena | View Posts

A writer by both passion and profession, Heena Ganotra is "half agony, half hope" but all heart. And oh, she has been a book lover from the start! Her love for books is what convinced her to make a career in the wonderful world of words. She loves what she does and is out-and-out a satisfied soul with a wish to spread happiness like herpes. Insight- Some say she is living the best life anyone could because she reads, writes, travels, and makes merry. They’re right because what else does one really need! :)

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