Skip to content

What is Fly Standby in Air Travel and How Do You Go About It?

Many years ago, airline carriers would allow passengers to travel to their destination with a last-minute ticket for an unoccupied seat after having boarded all passengers. This strategy also proved to be quite cheap for travellers. However, a lot has changed now and new travel policies issued by airline carriers have almost put an end to such flying.

But, if you have not heard about flying standby, this is also one of the strategies used by travellers to fly cheap and in the last minute of boarding the plane.

This blog post covers an insight on what is fly standby with regard to airlines and also what are its benefits and drawbacks that you need to know.

What is Flying Standby?

In air travel, when a passenger flying with either full service or a low-cost airline carrier has not been assigned a seat i.e., a passenger travelling with an unconfirmed ticket is generally referred to as “flying standby”.

Passengers that are put on standby do not have guaranteed seats, unless the seat becomes available only when the other passenger who had originally booked decides to cancel his/her reservation, changes same-day flight, etc. Thus, your chances may become limited.

The idea of flying standby was essentially made available to airline employees and their companions only. Most popular airliners also offered passes so that their employees could travel on standby along with their companion(s). Later, this idea of flying free or cheap also started becoming common among general passengers. However, there may be only a few airliners that still allow general passengers to fly standby on certain conditions though.

Under What Circumstances Can You Fly Standby?

A few airline carriers may allow passengers to fly standby under certain circumstances only. These may include the following:

(a) Non-reservation Waiting List

If you are not booked on the flight, but are in waiting until an extra seat is available for you. Extra seats may only be available after all passengers have boarded the plane and settled down in their reserved seats.

(b) Missed Flight

If you missed your flight and want to catch the next available flight to your destination. Here, you would be flying standby since you do not have a reservation on the next flight.

(c) Arriving Early to Board Flight

If you are already booked on a flight, but you arrived early at the airport, you could request to be put on a standby for an earlier flight. However, in this situation, you may not be guaranteed with a standby and you may end up having to wait and board your original flight.

(d) Flight is Overbooked

If the flight you are travelling is overbooked, you along with other passengers that are offered non-assigned seats would be considered standby prior to boarding.

(e) Request an Upgrade to a Higher Class of Cabin

If you already purchased a flight ticket and later request to standby for an upgrade, the airline carrier may approve or refuse your request depending on the availability.

Usually, most airline carriers may offer upgrades from domestic to first class to their elite tier flyers for free and if there is space available. Sometimes, there may also be opportunities, such as in the events of a flight cancellation, no show, equipment change or irregular operation, where a first class seat could become available. Thus, in the case of any of these events, elite flyers can request for or be put in standby.

If your upgrade request is approved, the airline will issue a new boarding pass to you at the gate. Additionally, you will often find monitors that display flight information at the gate side, which will also include information on upgrades and a general list of passengers on standby. Announcements may also be made at some airports in the event a flight’s First Class seats are full and there are no upgrades available at the moment.

Are There Any Benefits of Flying Standby?

There may be quite a few benefits of flying standby on certain airlines. However, bear in mind that flying standby and its benefits will vary from one airline carrier to another.

One common advantage of flying standby is that you do not have to pay for the unconfirmed seat. However, it may be possible that some airlines that allow general passengers to fly standby on their flights might charge a small fee.

You can also benefit from flying standby provided there are still seats unoccupied after boarding all passengers on the flight. Whatever seats are vacant can be made available to passengers who may need to change their current flights in order to take an earlier flight or board the next available flight. This option may include seat availability in higher class of cabins, like business and first class cabins.

Another benefit of flying standby is that you could change flight and fly the same day, but on an unconfirmed seat. If there is a seat available on the next flight, the airline may charge you a change fee. The change fee can also differ from one airline to another. It is thus, advised that you contact the airline’s help desk at the airport or via phone to get more details on flying standby to your final destination.

Drawbacks of Flying Standby

Aside from the benefits of flying standby with an airline carrier, there are, of course, few drawbacks as well.

The opportunity to fly standby is usually offered to passengers on the basis of a first come, first served only. Thus, if you are at the airport and are the first to make a request at the ticketing counter to put you on standby on an earlier but last-minute or next available flight, you may get lucky. However, your chances of flying standby could also depend greatly on the availability of seats in the flight.

Another disadvantage of flying standby is the limitation of routes, airports and flight operation. For instance, America’s low-cost carrier JetBlue does not offer seats to passengers with unconfirmed reservation for routes that are served by the airliner only once a day.


If the airline you want to fly with offers an unconfirmed seat for standby to your destination, you could request either at the airport, on their website or by contacting the airport help desk via phone.

Call Now