If you're a frequent business traveler, you're probably familiar with flying standby. It can be a great way to minimize the cost of air travel. It may seem like a big sacrifice to make, but cutting air travel costs is also a great way to keep your company happy.
That said, flying standby also comes with a certain amount of risk. A standby ticket essentially means that your seat on the flight is not guaranteed. In fact, you may not know if you're actually going to be on the flight until it's time to board the plane.
Needless to say, this method of travel can get a bit hectic and complicated, especially if you have to rearrange your plans. So, in order to get the most out of your trip and avoid a scheduling nightmare, here are five tips for flying standby.
Don't pack too much.
When you're flying standby, you'll want to travel light. While you should never leave behind anything you absolutely need, you must prioritize the essentials, and discard everything else.
Flying standby means that you may not make it on the plane. You will need to stick around the airport for a while, return home, or even get a hotel while you wait for the next available flight. The last thing you'll want to do is lug around a bunch of huge bags while you wait.
If possible, try to limit yourself to one small-to-medium-sized bag, or a carry-on.
Know your airline's rules.
Every airline handles standby passengers a little differently. Since you don't want any surprises at the boarding gate, make sure that you know any and all applicable rules.
For example, depending on the airline, you may need to pay a fee to switch flights if your preferred flight is full. If you're using a "buddy pass," you may be required to follow a strict dress code, as you are considered a temporary "representative" of the airline.
In either case, you will need to know the rules before you head to the airport.
Check in early.
In most cases, standby passengers are treated on a "first come, first serve" basis. Consequently, the earlier you check in, the higher you will be on the list.
Once your flight starts filling up, the boarding gate attendants will call the names of standby passengers to start boarding. If you check in too late, you might end up losing your seat to someone else. In order to avoid this, find out when the check-in window begins for your flight, and give yourself ample time to check your luggage and get through security.
Have a "Plan B".
In the event that you cannot get a seat on the initial flight, you may need to make a few last-minute arrangements. For example, if the next available flight doesn't take off for another 24 hours and you are not in your home city, you will need to get a hotel for the evening.
If it is peak travel season or you are in a popular area, availability might be limited, while prices might be very high. To avoid a headache later on, make sure you have a back-up plan. Research the hotels in the area (if needed), as well as other flights to your destination.
I highly recommend booking your travels on a credit card that offers trip protection. Some cards will reimburse you and even pay for your food and lodging, depending on the delay and the credit card. The best credit card reviews can help you find a card that has protections but also works with your lifestyle and travel needs.
Stay close to the boarding gate.
It may sound obvious, but once you've made it through security, you will want to stay close to your boarding gate. The attendants could call your name at any time to either confirm your seat on the plane or inform you that you will need to make other arrangements.
If there is space for you and you miss the announcement, your seat could end up going to the next standby passenger in line.
Even if there isn't space for you, knowing this sooner will give you more time to figure out how to proceed. Additionally, in the event that your flight is full, staying in regular contact with the boarding gate attendants can help you find out about other flights to the same destination.