Let’s say you’re traveling for business and the weekend activities go longer than expected, forcing you to miss your flight home. Or, what if your meeting ends early and you want to get home to start the weekend as soon as possible? The good news is that you have options. The bad news is that some of them can be quite pricey.
Rebooking Your Ticket
The first option for changing your itinerary is to re-book your ticket to an earlier or later flight. The pro: you can be sure to have a seat on the flight that you want. The con: it can cost a $200-$300 change fee, plus the fare difference, to make this happen.
The alternative to paying to change your ticket is to play the uncertain yet cost-effective game of flying standby. Flying standby on major airlines such as Delta, United, and American costs only $75 as opposed to the change fees plus the airfare difference. When you find a flight that works for you, simply go to the airport, change your status to “standby,” and wait at the gate. Once everyone boards, if there is an open seat, you will be added to the flight.
Like everything, flying standby does have limitations:
-Delta and American require that the flight you choose for standby has the same destination as your original ticket. This would prevent you from changing your flight from, say, Scranton, PA to New York City for just $75 more.
-Some airlines also limit where you can fly standby. Delta and American only allow you to fly standby in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
-Southwest doesn’t charge $75 to fly standby, but it does require travelers of certain fare classes to upgrade. For example, passengers flying on the economy “Wanna Get Away” class must upgrade to the “Anytime” fare class.
-Economy class travelers only can fly standby before the time of their original departure when flying on Delta, United and American Airlines. So, if you miss your flight, standby won’t work.
Priority for Frequent Fliers
If you are a member of an airline’s frequent flyer or loyalty program, flying standby is even easier. Delta waives the change fee for its Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members, while its Silver Medallion and general SkyMile members, along with every other economy class passenger, must pay $75. Additionally, Diamond, Platinum, and Gold members can fly standby on flights after their original flight’s departure. Members of United’s Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, or Premier 1K programs don’t pay anything to fly standby. American Airlines offers its customers similar benefits…AAdvantage elite members can depart earlier or later than their original flight, and travelers in Business Class, Platinum Pro Class, and others fly standby free of charge.
Something important to consider when flying standby are your bags. If you intend to fly standby, try to keep your bags with you as carry-ons. If you check your bags, they may arrive at your destination on the flight you originally were scheduled to board. Checking your bags on a flight that you hope to board is not the best idea either. If you don’t end up getting a seat, your bag could head to your destination without you.
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