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An all things aviation blog

What is Standby, basically you show up to the airport in advance of your flight and try to hop on an earlier flight. Airlines used to do this as a matter of routine because it is a win-win. The airlines fill a seat that would have gone out empty and they get an open seat on a later flight that can be used for IRROPS. The passenger wins because they get to go somewhere sooner. However, US Airlines discovered this could be a revenue stream and have changed their policies to get customers to pay for the privilege.  Some airline force customers to use the “Same day confirmed or SDC” this means for a reduced fee airlines will confirm the passenger on to an earlier flight. We’ll discuss that policy in another post. So when you see references to SDC that’s what that means.

Here is the list of US Airline policies:

Alaska Airlines

Standby yes. You can standby for a flight on the same-day for free provided it is a shuttle flight, SEA-PDX, SEA-GEG, or a flexible ticket, or the traveler is MVP Gold or traveling or on the same reservations as a MVP Gold member. In all other situations a passenger will have to SDC and pay the fee.

As an aside, I was responsible for changes to Alaska’s policy. I was on OGG-SEA-PDX and I wanted to get onto an earlier SEA-PDX (shuttle flight). They said I would have to pay because I wasn’t using the flight as shuttle service. Ok, I waited for my flight and then I got bumped off the later flight. So I saved myself the SDC fee and made $400 in denied boarding compensation. Alaska changed their standby policy to include all shuttle flights, not just stand-alone shuttle flights a day later. 

American Airlines

Standby yes, to military members, AA Elites and people on the same reservation as an elite member, people holding flexible/AAnytime Award coach tickets, people any first or business class ticket, and Oneworld elites.


Standby sort of, for Non-members, general members, and silver elites there is a$50.00 standby fee which is the same as the SDC fee. Standby is free for all other elites. It has to be a flight to the US and can be done from Midnight forward only. Also no routing changes allowed.


Standby yes, free only for flight immediately prior to the scheduled flight. You can change the number of connections or the connection cities provided the Origin and Destination stay the same. If you are in a city where it there is only one flight a day, you can move to the final flight the preceding day.

Spirit Airlines

Standby yes, for a flight on the same day for $25.00

Southwest Airlines,

Standby not really, for flexible fares only otherwise the fare difference applies.

United Airlines

Standby no, You have to SDC, if you can not SDC you will be added to the Standby list and charged the SDC fee if it clears, $75.00 for general passengers and silver elites, free for all other elite tiers.

US Airways

Standby yes, free only for a sold-out flight preceding the original flight, otherwise the SDC fee applies. Applies to non-stops only.

Virgin America

Standby yes, If there are seats available on the immediately flight prior to the originally scheduled flight.

I was compelled to make this list in response to a post about standby on US Airways. Until today I thought US had a reasonable policy. It now looks like US Airways has again joined the race to the bottom customer service wise. The worst standby policy has to go to Southwest Airlines. This is not surprising, Southwest has had the same mentality regarding the lack of standby since inception. They actually used to pass out an article for passengers to read on why they don’t have standby. I don’t know if they still do that. I think the best policy has to go to JetBlue, it is free for everyone and unlike Virgin America you can change the routing and go into the previous day.

Flexible fares mean that they can be changed without paying a fee, generally. So for most cases where a person holding a flexible fare tickets wants to standby they can just confirm for free. Allowing them to standby on a sold out flight just makes it easier on the gate agent to get the flight out. The gate agent can add them to the standby list and then clear them after the no-shows are accounted for, rather then making the change after the no-shows are accounted for which would take more time. I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it is a six-of-one/half-dozen-of-another situation don’t worry about it.

Happy Travels!


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