In the past, securing a cheap ticket used to be as simple as walking up to the ticket counter and saying that you wanted to put on the standby list. Airlines would happily allow you access to any leftover seats they had available for a greatly reduced cost. Although you weren't guaranteed a seat on any particular flight, the savings were well worth the inconvenience of waiting around the airport.
Although some airlines are offering standby tickets to college students and airline employees, none offer standby tickets to the general public. Even the tickets that are marketed “standby” are often just re-packaged coach seats. The discounts offered aren't nearly as steep as they were in previous years.
So, why are airlines so reluctant to allow standby flyers?
- Passenger weight/fuel ratios.
Adding another passenger at the last minute changes the passenger weight to fuel ratio. If the plane is already fueled and ready to go, adding another passenger can throw off the appropriate ratio. Further, guidelines require that a plane with more passengers carry a certain amount more fuel. The plane would have to be re-fueled to account for the additional passenger(s).
- Sneaky strategies.
Some standby passengers began to book tickets on a flight, only to cancel the reservations at the last minute. This ensured that open seats were available, and cost the airlines a significant amount of money.
- Cost of fuel.
The cost of oil has skyrocketed over the past decade, and will likely continue to rise well into the foreseeable future. Adding more weight to the plane significantly increases the cost of fuel. It simply isn’t profitable for an airline to add another 100-250lbs of passenger weight for pennies of what they would normally charge for the seat.
Deeply discounted airfares are becoming more difficult to find with each passing year. Students and other who want to fly for the least possible expense should consider booking their trips at least six months ahead-of-time. Flying on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays will also lower costs. If possible, applying for a credit card that awards airline miles will also help to offset the cost somewhat.
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.