I flew standby recently for a full flight and was given a boarding pass at the gate 15 minutes before departure (in the middle of boarding) because 1 passenger did not show. I was wondering what would have happened if the no show appeared right after I got my boarding pass? What about after the jetway door was closed? What about after the cabin door was closed? What about after the jetway was pulled back?

In other words at what point is a standby passenger "safe"?

  • 1
    I would imagine as soon as you have your boarding pass you would be "safe" though as the case of David Dao shows airlines can revoke the right of any passenger to travel in favor of someone else at any time. Aug 25, 2017 at 14:10
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    There is always a stated time at which a confirmed passenger is required to be at the gate to keep their confirmation, often 15 minutes before scheduled departure. You were probably given your boarding pass immediately after that cut-off time. Aug 25, 2017 at 14:20
  • Related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/22403/…
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 25, 2017 at 15:05
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    There are usually two times a passenger is required to make, check in and boarding. If the passenger misses either, the airline can remove them from the flight and add a new passenger. Once this happens, the late passenger has very limited recourse beyond being accommodated on a later flight. The new passenger is 99.9% safe once they have been issued a Boarding Pass (unless the Agent realizes they made a huge mistake). Once either the jetbridge door or aircraft door closes, that's it for everyone.
    – DTRT
    Aug 25, 2017 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


Most airlines have a gate cutoff time. For example for United it's 15 minutes (see https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/airport/process/default.aspx#boarding-gate) . After that time the airline can choose to deny boarding, even though you have a boarding pass and a confirmed seat.

Whether they do or not, depends on a variety of factors like check-in status, connections, status, mood of the day, etc. which are hard to predict and not particularly consistent.

You are never truly "safe" until you have pushed off the gate. You can certainly be de-planed after having boarded and I have also seen the doors being re-opened and passengers kicked out of their seats for late arriving passengers although I don't know if anyone was actually removed from the plane

  • When you "pushed off the gate", do you mean when the gate driver pulls the gate back from the aircraft, or when the tractor pulls the aircraft backward onto the taxiway? I really wanted to know when it was ok to tell my family when to pick me up, and I didn't want to wait too long, when they tell you to go to airplane mode
    – JoelFan
    Aug 25, 2017 at 17:53
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    @JoelFan: I'd say when the aircraft starts moving. In my case the jet way was already detached and brought back. That may not help you though: in either case your phone should already be in airplane mode. Personally, I let my family know as soon as I'm on board. While you still could be deplaned, it's extremely unlikely. Even if you are kicked out, you can easily update your family once you are back at the gate.
    – Hilmar
    Aug 25, 2017 at 20:33

Generally, the "no show" gets left behind and has forfeited his/her place on the flight. In that case, the no-show has no choice but to purchase a ticket for another flight.

  • Not always purchase: the late arrival may have been from a missed connection on the same ticket. That passenger would be accommodated on a later flight without having to pay. Apr 6, 2018 at 0:02

You are safe as soon as you get the boarding pass. At least outside the US. I hear that in the US you can be dragged screaming and kicking out of your seat. But in the rest of the world, once you have your boarding pass and a seat assigned to you, you're good to go.

As for the person who was a no-show, or rather, in your scenario, a very late show, there are a few possibilities:

  1. This person arrived after check-in closed. Next flight, brother.
  2. This person arrived just before check-in closed. Depending on a few parameters, this person might be able to get a boarding pass, or, again, be left on the ground, crying and throwing a tantrum :-)
  3. This person knew that it was too late, and went directly to the counters for the next flight, and was probably put on the waiting list.

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