Flying Standby 101
My dad has worked in the airline industry for 17 years now and one of the perks my family has because of his employment is flying for free on standby. Mind you, I am 21, (omg it still feels weird to say that) so flying standby is seriously the only way I know how to travel. Let me transfer my knowledge (and a trick or two) about flying fo free onto you.
1. Standby aka nothing is guaranteed
Just because you list to fly standby, does not mean you have a seat. It means you are on a list to get a seat if there are any unsold or no-shows. A gate agent can also turn you down for a seat if you are not dressed for the airline's guidelines or if they filled the plane with cargo and it is too heavy to take any more passengers.
2. Follow the dress code.
Most airline's dress code guidelines are business casual. Nice slacks, a clean blouse or button down and decently nice shoes. Definitely, check the company's website before you head to the airport because they will turn you away if you are not in compliance. This means: no leggings, no sweatpants, no blue jeans, no t-shirts, no see- through shirts, no slippers, nada. No, it is not sexist or ridiculous, you are flying on the company's dime so dress like you are representing the company, even if know one else knows besides you and the gate agent who is giving you the ticket.
3. Watch the flights
If you are the employee, or the dependent, and have access to the standby booking site, keep a close eye on it. See how full the same flight is the week before you leave and see what other flights are going to your destination as backups in case you can't get on your plan(e) a. I will always try to take the first or second flight of the day, even if it's at 6 am. Such early flights are usually the last to sell out, there is a higher chance of no shows, and if you can't get on it, there are still other flights throughout the day. The last thing you want to do is sleep in an airport. Trust me on this one.
4. Prepare for the worst
Many a times have I had to sleep in an airport. It was fine when I was little because my parents would always get a hotel room but now that I am flying solo (get it?) I would rather sleep in the terminal or ride the terminal train for hours than fork out at least $100 for the hotel attached to the airport. Always pack extra snacks, portable chargers, regular chargers, a travel toiletries (tooth brush, paste, hair brush, make up wipes, make up, and deodorant) and a clean pair of clothes. Sleeping in the airport sucks but it is all apart of the adventure... right?
5. Get creative
You're going from Charlotte to Phoenix but the flight took a dump? Check other hubs like going through Atlanta, Las Vegas, or L.A.
- Be super nice to gate agents, they already have to deal with grumpy paying passengers, they sure do not want to deal with grumpy non revs as well. I have also found that the nicer you are to them, they are more likely to make sure you get a ticket or are more accommodating when you would like to sit with someone.
- Unless you are going home, don't check your bag. There have been several times where I would plan on flying into LA and end up flying into another near by airport BUT STILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH LA just to pick up my bag. Also, if you hop around to different airports, there is a higher chance of it getting lost. Spare the headache, pack light, and carry on.
- Don't bug employees for buddy passes. Standby is a privilege and a perk! Most employees get about 10 one way buddy passes per year. They are super handy to fly loved ones out around holidays or when flying with a friend. Let an employee offer them to you, don't ask. If they want to offer you one they will. Asking puts everyone in an uncomfortable position.
Have you even flown standby? What are your survival tips? Let's chat in the comments!