I’ve been away on a sneaky holiday in a sneaky location for the past week. It was exactly what I needed – to get away from reality, just for a few days. Though it rained the entire time, though everything didn’t go according to plan, though there’s always a ‘what could have been’ floating around the back of my mind, it was an incredibly calming, much needed week away.
For the first time ever, I flew standby for this trip. I’d always wanted to try flying standby before but have never really had the opportunity. It’s a luxury awarded to employees of airlines and their friends/family. Luckily, on of my connections decided to use his standby pass for me.
After five days, four standby flights, three airports and two time zones here is one list of things to know about flying standby:
- It’s cheap. Hella cheap! For a trip that regularly costs roughly $1,000 Canadian, the entire trip’s fees were just airport taxes. I’d travel every trip this way, if I could.
- It’s convenient. If you’re not needing to be anywhere at any given time, flying standby means you can show up at the airport whenever you want to and hop on any flight that happens to have an extra seat.
- If the plane isn’t full, you have the opportunity to sit in your own row without paying an extra fee. One of the planes I boarded was only half booked. Not only did the airport gate attendant assign my seat to my own row, she assigned my seat to a row that didn’t have anyone around (four rows in front and four rows behind). You can always ask. It never hurts to ask!
- If the plane is full, they will put you in whatever seat remains – which can include premium and plus seating. The second flight I got on was full. I was the last person to get a seat on the plane and the last seat available was premium seating… a seat/ticket that those sitting in paid an extra $500 for. I got it for free! Premium seating included having free drinks and a flight attendant waiting on us the entire flight… a perk I’ve never had before in my life as I’ve never booked a premium fare.
- If the plane is full, you’re waiting for the next one. If you’re in a large airport, this might not a big deal. Another flight could be leaving for your destination in an hour, in which case I recommend grabbing some Starbucks and relaxing. But, if you’re in a small airport in a smaller city, this could mean several hours to a half day of waiting. This could be kind of a pain in the butt. It all depends on what type of traveller you are.
- You can’t really check a bag. If you don’t know that you’re for sure getting on a flight, checking a bag would be rather stupid. Your bag will get to the destination and you just might not. For that reason, I highly recommend only bringing a carry-on bag and not paying for a checked-bag.
- If you have connecting flights, you won’t know if you’re getting on them until you get there. You won’t know if you can get on flight two until you get off of flight one. If you’re a nervous/anxious traveller, this might not be an ideal scenario for you.
All-in-all, if you’re a laid back or easy going traveller and you have the opportunity to fly standby, I highly recommend it. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and packing in a carry-on promotes the minimalist lifestyle we all dream of finding on holiday.
On the other hand, if you get nervous about flying, anxious about connections, fearful of lost baggage or any of the other worries travellers experience, I would say that flying standby might not be an ideal option for you. Some people really don’t want to have to worry about anything so booking flights 5+ weeks in advance is ideal for them.
If you know someone who works for an airline, or you just have the opportunity and want to try it, go for it! Sneak away for the weekend, or for a longer holiday. Everybody needs a little more adventure in their lives.