It is true that flying standby in the summer isn’t recommended, but that doesn’t mean you have to rule it out entirely. Flexibility is still the key here, even more than you may be prepared for.If you can adjust your expectations according to the following six rules, you just might be up for the challenge:
1. Rule out international travel. Plan to travel within the US because US Airports have far more flights available than International Airports and everyone is flying to Italy and Greece in the summer. Including most of Europe while on Holiday.
2. Realize flying confirmed standby may be a waste of money. Up until about six years ago, airlines allowed passengers to standby on earlier flights at no charge. Now, you will be charged a non-refundable fee, often between $50 and $100 for the chance to fly “confirmed standby,” with no guarantee you’ll get a seat. Airlines are overselling seats and during the summer months, you would be very lucky to board a flight before your originally scheduled flight.
3. If flying on a buddy pass, keep your options open. Instead of being set on flying only into San Diego, be open to vacationing in another California destination such as Los Angeles or San Francisco. Have those optional gate numbers and times handy so if you don’t get on the flight to San Diego, you can make the next flight to another destination. This also means not booking your hotel and rental car ahead of time.
4. Choose high-traffic destinations with 4 or more flights available every day. Some of the busiest airports are also the easiest to fly into standby. Why? Because of the number of daily flights they have on multiple airlines. If you don’t make one, you’re rolled over to the standby list on the next flight. Each time you’re rolled over, you obtain a higher priority listing among like travelers. For example, if flying on a buddy pass, you’ll still have a lower priority than an airline employee on the standby list, but higher than others holding a buddy pass.
5. Choose off-season destinations. Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix and Atlanta are all cities whose off-season is in the summertime. They are also among the highest-traffic airports in the U.S. giving you even greater opportunity to get on a flight.
6. Same rules of when to fly apply year-round. As always, fly Tuesday – Wednesday, and show up for the very first flight available, typically 8am.