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What is the difference between a passenger being on hold or being on standby?

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A passenger being on-hold, doesn’t have a clear meaning, it could be the passenger is held at security for investigations or at the gate for border control.

A passenger on standby:

On most modern airlines, flying standby occurs when a passenger travels on a flight without a prior reservation for that specific flight. ... They will then attempt to travel standby on the earlier flight, and failing that, proceed to take their booked flight. This is referred to in the industry as "go-show".

(Source)

Note: Most airlines don’t allow this anymore unless for employees.

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    Flying standby on earlier flights is still pretty common in Asia, I do this regularly on Singapore Airlines and Garuda. – lambshaanxy Aug 26 '19 at 22:39
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“On hold” means the airline is holding the reservation for you for whatever reason (Usually waiting payment confirmation, but could also be a change in flights).

“Standby” occurs when a passenger travels on a flight without a prior reservation for that specific flight. For example:

  • A missed flight may require a passenger to fly standby on the next flight to the same destination, as they now lack a reservation.
  • A passenger may arrive at the airport early (whether accidentally or on purpose) and wish to take an earlier flight listed for that day. They will then attempt to travel standby on the earlier flight, and failing that, proceed to take their booked flight. This is referred to in the industry as "go-show
  • Upgrades.
  • In some cases, when a flight compartment is overbooked, an airline will designate all passengers who do not have a seat assignment as "standby" at some time prior to boarding. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standby_(air_travel)

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