Five Tips for Scoring a Seat with a Standby VoucherAir Travel News — By Mary on October 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm
It must have been the worst day possible for me to be flying. I was in Chicago’s Midway Airport, about to return home after attending a wedding of a friend of mine. I had gone through security and proceeded to the ticket desk, armed with my sword (in the proverbial sense, of course, weapons aren’t allowed through security): my standby pass, which was cheap and very flexible.
The agent looked at her computer, and said, coolly, “Everything’s full on this flight…”
My little sword of a pass deflated in efficacy before my eyes. I felt the anxiety start to rise: I needed to get home that day. The woman continued to calmly clack away on her keyboard.
“How about… any flight to LAX or Burbank?” I asked, hopefully. There had to be flights to Southern California.
And I was right. There were flights to Southern California.
But they were all full.
This, is not a normal circumstance. Midway is a major hub airport for Southwest Airlines (the airline I was traveling on), meaning that many of their flights would be directed through Chicago. The likelihood of all flights to Los Angeles being booked, overbooked, and with an army of standby passengers scavenging for a way home, was slim. But there I was.
I made it home, safe and sound that evening, but it was a battle of strategy and perseverance, but I was equipped with a proper knowledge of the system. And now, I’m passing along the knowledge to you. For a smooth standby experience, take heed of the following tips.
Arrive at the airport early.
When you get a standby pass, you are waiting to grab an unreserved or unclaimed seat on a flight. Standby passes allow you to take one of those unreserved or unclaimed seats. They are a lot cheaper than regular flight fares and are very flexible, but you will never know if you are on the flight for sure until you are actually in the air.
However, when you arrive at the airport early, the gate agent can place you on the standby waiting list. Call the airline to ask when you should arrive. Some airlines will not start a waiting list until exactly one hour before scheduled takeoff.
But remember the army of standby passengers I mentioned earlier? Yes, they really do exist, especially in major cities and on insanely busy travel days. Packs of these standby passengers roam from terminal to terminal, trying to be the first on the waiting list to get on a flight. If you anticipate a busy travel day, try and be there a bit before the one-hour mark so that you can get in line just before the waiting list is started.
Also, be prepared to travel on a later flight if you cannot get on your first choice.
Before you head to the airport, try to make a list of the different flights that are heading to your destination. Write down the flight number and the time of takeoff. Then, if the gate agent tells you that the flight is full, you politely ask, “What about flight #743?”
Make sure to ask about connecting flights as well. If you can’t get to your destination on one flight, ask if you can transfer to another flight. Also, most standby vouchers come with a transfer receipt, but if you need to transfer twice, ask about getting an extension voucher.
You should be familiar with your airline’s standby procedures. Check to see if there are any fees or restrictions on travelling standby. Rules can vary greatly from airline to airline.
Politely ask for clarification.
Always make sure you are at the correct gate and ask the desk agent if you have all the correct documents. You don’t want to miss your flight because you forgot to ask for a boarding pass!
Also, please ask for things politely. I can’t tell you how often I saw the gate agents berated by frustrated travellers. The gate agents are there to help you, not annoy you and they certainly won’t feel inclined to come to your aid if you bully them.
Be willing to wait it out.
If at all possible, keep your schedule open in case you can’t get your flight. In my case, I had to consider the possibility of staying at the airport all day to wait until the crowds dwindled a bit (and I did indeed had to wait for at least eight hours).
I was even prepared to stay overnight in the terminal so that I could catch a flight first thing in the morning. If you might need to stay overnight at the airport, do not check your bags (if possible) and keep all of your essentials at hand. I also suggest going to SleepinginAirports.net. This immensely useful site gives you advice on sleeping in airports and reviews the safety and comfort of various airports around the world.
Wait at the gate.
You can only be on one standby waiting list at a time. So don’t wander off to another gate, hoping to snag a flight at a similar time. If the chances at both flights are the same, just stay put until you are put on the flight or else turned away. I managed to get on my flight because five standby passengers were not at the gate when their name was called!
Travel alone or in a very small group.
Lastly, remember that traveling on standby works best when traveling solo. Don’t travel on standby with groups! Trying to get six standby passengers on a flight is generally impossible—and immensely frustrating to gate agents—unless the flight is relatively empty.
No related posts.