What Are The Chances Of Getting On A Standby Flight

What Are The Chances Of Getting On A Standby Flight

What Are The Chances Of Getting On A Standby Flight

While some airlines reserve an amount of their capacity on each flight specifically for standby passengers, there are only so many spots available, and not everyone will make it onto the plane.

This means that the chances of getting on standby vary from airline to airline and even daily, depending on how many other people need to fly out that day and how many spots are left in the standby cabin.

Still, you can take steps to increase your chances of getting on a standby flight if you really need to travel somewhere quickly or if your flight gets cancelled unexpectedly.

What if I miss my flight?

 What Are The Chances Of Getting On A Standby Flight

Chances are good that there will be another flight to your destination within a day or two. Flying standby can get you to your destination faster than waiting for rescheduled travel.

Make sure you contact an airline directly to see their available options before booking any new flights.

Some airlines will accommodate their customers with accommodations like complimentary hotel rooms and meal vouchers, while others won’t.

At any rate, if you miss your original flight due to circumstances beyond your control, contacting an airline directly is generally preferable to using a third-party ticketing agency.

If you need help finding alternative flights and working with airlines, consider contacting The Points Guy for help!

They’ve been in the industry for over 15 years. They offer independent advice and partnerships with major brands such as Delta Air Lines. 

How often can you get on a standby list?

There’s no natural way to determine how often you can get on a standby list; each airline handles things differently.

Typically, with domestic flights, you’ll have one or two standby options per day, which could also be spread out over different flights.

You may also have unlimited options with international flights if domestic carriers operate them.

In other words, there aren’t set rules to follow; it depends on your specific route and carrier.

If you don’t like those odds, there is another option: Get an airline credit card.

Every time you fly (even without reward points), your account earns points that can be applied towards future purchases, hotel stays, or gift cards. 

For example, with the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, you’ll earn 2x miles for every dollar spent at restaurants or 1x mile for every dollar spent elsewhere.

Plus, if you spend $25,000 a year on your card, you’ll earn an extra 5,000 bonus miles!

Ways to Get On Standby Lists

It’s often said that persistence is vital. Suppose you want to get on a specific flight and have flexibility with your schedule. In that case, one easy way to get into your desired departure city is to fly out of an alternate airport.

This can be especially useful if your trip involves visiting several different cities. 

Another way to increase your chances of landing in an alternative destination is by flying an airline that doesn’t consistently fly out of every single city it serves or has some deal with another airline for code sharing or interline agreements.

An example would be flying Southwest Airlines if you wanted to visit Baltimore from Philadelphia because Baltimore isn’t a primary destination for Southwest even though it does serve Philly.

Now there’s also the opportunity to sign up for email alerts which will notify you about new flights when they become available. 

With this method, you don’t need to go anywhere near an airport but sit at home waiting for notification about availability.

You won’t know whether or not you’ll get on the flight until it happens (the notifications come as soon as seats open up), but that’s certainly better than not knowing anything.

One downside of this strategy is if you’re trying to stay within a budget since sometimes these deals can include more expensive fares than what would typically be offered online through a search engine.

What should I do once I’m on the Standby List?

If you get put on a standby list, there’s still hope! The airlines don’t necessarily announce when they’ll give away tickets (or call people off their waiting list), so it pays to be in close communication with your airport.

Depending on where you’re flying from, you may be able to go straight to your gate and present yourself to an agent, so have your ID and boarding pass ready when it happens. 

(If not, either hang out in that terminal or go home and return before departure.) On routes that offer upgrades, especially those with super-pricey seats, you could luck into free business class or first class space, but don’t hold your breath.

Generally speaking, if the airline can’t fill up its unsold seats for any reason, it will sell them as last-minute fares at the ticket counter.

But these tickets typically cost more than standard coach fare and can be tough to come by for flights about to take off.

What happens when I make it onto an empty seat?

It depends on where you’re trying to fly. If it’s an international flight, you might be unable to check in online.

You might have to check in by phone and return to the airport for your flight (make sure you have time).

Some airlines allow for same-day confirmation, so your bags will automatically be checked on your next connection.

If it’s domestic, look into whether you can use check and go or whether you’ll need to claim baggage from your previous flight. 

Airlines also vary in their policy about what happens if you miss a connecting flight. Some will put you up at their expense for the night and get you on a new one; others won’t. Again, check the airline’s policies before making any decisions!


The bottom line is that there’s no exact science to flying standby. While airlines can’t guarantee an empty seat, they can assign you one.

Be flexible with your travel plans and watch for upcoming flights to improve your odds. And don’t take no for an answer when asking to be bumped. The worst they can say is no. Just like Southwest Airlines, you’ve got a shot!

If a plane doesn’t sell out, passengers who have requested but have not yet been confirmed will have their names added to the list of those awaiting boarding orders.