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To Fly Standby or Not To Fly Standby: What Works Best For Your Trip

Flying standby comes with just as many risk as playing standby russian roulette but equally some (money saving) rewards as if you got lucky your first time playing at a casino. Its all a gamble but in this post, as a life time standby passenger , I’m going to share some crucial tips to help you save some coins, time and your sanity (patience sold separately).

And for those of you who are new to this very popular and risky travel game, heres a quick introduction.

The goal to flying standby is to show up at the airport without a confirmed seat in the hopes of landing a free, or sometimes discounted seat if available.

At some point we’ve all known someone to have worked for an airline. The first thing that comes to many people’s mind is “So what are those flight benefits looking like?” While the majority of people who work for an airline do enjoy free flights, what exactly does that mean for their friends and family?

My father has worked for Delta Airlines for over 25 years. What that means for me besides the fact that i’ve become a master procrastinator when it comes to planning trips, is that as a dependent (child of said employee) up until the age of 23, I was able to fly for free and not have to pay for my checked luggages. This has allowed me to take multiple trips to Jamaica to visit family during holidays, my first trip to Paris, my second trip to Paris, and a list of multiple other places along the way!

Now as I am deemed a legal adult over the age of 23, my flights are no longer free but still , I pay a significantly discounted price and sometimes enjoy the perks of first class (mostly on those long haul, international flights).

Example: A one way ticket for me from Atlanta, GA to Shanghia, China would cost 250 USD (Regular price is usually between 700 and 1,000 USD). If its during a non peak time (holidays, etc…) chances are pretty high that I get to enjoy all the perks of first class for the entirety of the 14 hour flight and embrace the opportunity to “front” for the gram.

Here, I provide some misconceptions and clarifications on what it means to fly standby;

1.You can fly for FREE YES & NO

In most cases, if you’re a minor of an employee, spouse or employee yourself the standby or also known as Non- Revenue listing is free. Outside of these parameters you will most likely be booked on a buddy pass ( not a baepass friend-zoned ) and will be charged a fee.

2. You and your friends can get unlimited flying benefits too NO

Usually, depending on the airline, the names added to standby or buddy pass listings come with a limit and can only be changed every year. So i’d recommend choosing that special someone for a baecation with special precautions.

3. You can fly anywhere NO

Alot of airlines partner with other carriers, whom come with their own standby guidelines. So sure, you could get to France on Delta but you’d have to pay full price for a flight from France to Senegal.

4. You’re guaranteed a spot on the flight NOOOOOOO

A visual representation of what I look waiting for the gate agent to call my name after 3 no shows

The biggest misconception is that being on the standby list guarantees you a seat. If I’m booked standby for a flight to New York and its showing that there are 5 open seats and i’m number 38…chances are not enough people, 33 people to be exact, will miss the flight.

Click here to read how I beat the odds for the second time in a month and skipped to the front of the standby list by God!

5. You get points towards your miles and mileage NO

In this case, the airline will loose money, so no need to get greedy and argue with the flight agent as to why your “new” miles aren’t showing up on your account. I’ve seen this happen with an older gentleman and it was not a pretty site to behold.

Going to the gate as a non revenue passenger can bring with it a bit of anxiety. “Will I get on this flight or will I have to sell my soul to airport Lucifer so i wont have to spend the night in the airport?”

But as with everything in life, I believe whats meant for you is meant for you and good luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Made it home for my great grandpa’s 94th birthday in Jamaica

So with that being said, here are some tips to help prepare you to take on and maneuver this game of standby with ease! And hopefully keep your mascara from running unto the collar of your shirt.

1.Don’t travel standby during holidays and times when children are getting out of school during conferences, or other city wide events. If you have some time and flexibility, save those standby coins for last minute trips. If holiday travel is a must, try for flights on the actual day of the holiday.

2. Get to the airport early if flying domestic as most people book flights between 11am and 2pm. If taking an international flight, which most airlines will have an average of 2 per day, try for the first one. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for those who oversleep and miss their flights. Just don’t be that person yourself.

3. Pack light, so when that good luck sets in and the gate agent calls your name 3 minutes before they close the boarding door, you wont be worried as to whether or not your checked luggage will also make it on board.

4. Check the monitors at the gates if provided to see your number on the standby list. Some airlines also provide the list if you have their app ( Delta definitely).

Perks from the wait. A first class meal on my way to Shanghai

*For those traveling abroad, note that international travelers are less likely to be “no-shows” a nickname for those who got stuck in traffic or missed their connecting flights. Either way you put it, they didn’t show up for the flight. So before you book that non-refundable night at a five star hotel, make sure you get that confirmed seat.

I’m all about saving some coins and over the past 25 years or so, one could dub me the standby Queen as I have amassed thousands in savings and great memories, from seeing family, partying a la playa in the Domincan Republic for spring break, ordering my first croissant in french IN France and moving to China.

I’m, as always grateful for the privilege to travel by any means necessary and the extra calories lost from moving gate to gate during those more difficult non-rev days.

With that being said, “May the odds ever be in your favor. Let the annual Standby Games commence!”

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