There are not many things I feel comfortable calling myself an expert in, but flying standby is an exception. I have grown up having a dad who flies for a major airline and because of that I have flown standby well over 100 times. Although you can’t fly standby without a connection to someone in the airline I recently had friends who had a terrible experience and were upset that no one had given them the information they needed. For them and for all those out there who are considering it, given the opportunity, this is for you.
When you fly standby aka non-rev you are not guaranteed a seat. You are going in hopes that there will be an empty seat on the airplane for you to sit. With this you could be sitting anywhere. Last row or first class. Unless the airplane is really empty you will not receive your ticket until everyone is boarding or has boarded.
If anything goes wrong, for example the airplane is overweight, you will be the first one they pull off. If someone doesn’t show up and you get their seat but then that person runs up to the gate last minute, you will get pulled off.
It is important to check in immediately, but that doesn’t put you at the top of the list. There are several priorities. The airline my Dad works for(and most airlines are similar) it was broken down like this:
D1 – Employee of the airline
D2 – Immediate family of employee of the airline
D3 – Friend/non-immediate family
D1s no matter when they check in will get priority over D2s and D3s. Same goes for D2s will always get priority over D3s. The reason you still want to check in as soon as you can is because if you are a D3 and a bunch of other D3s list for your flight you will get a seat before them if you are the first to check in.
When you don’t get on the flight don’t panic. Let the gate agent(if they haven’t announced it already) that you would like to be rolled over to the next flight. If there seem to be a lot of standby who didn’t get on start thinking of connection options. For instance, I often fly to Chicago from Seattle and that flight can get full. I can look into connecting cities if the flights look full all day. I will consider flying to Denver or Dallas or SLC or if I’m desperate even NYC to then catch another plane to Chicago. You can get creative with this. Sometimes it can save you a lot of waiting and disappointment if you just get on another flight to get you to your final destination.
I hope that helps you on your next standby adventure! I will be doing more posts with other standby information in the future.