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I've heard unverified stories of people who wait around at airports until there is a vacant spot on a flight where they want to go, and then get on for insanely cheap. I would also imagine that it is theoretically possible to hitch a flight with a non-commercial plane where you want to go. I'm thinking international fares in the double digit range.

Of course, the kind of travel I'm imagining would not be comfortable or convenient. I'm thinking things that might be borderline "stowaway", but legal and ethical. I don't mean flight search websites, promotional deals, or other obvious ways of flying cheap.

Does anyone have any experience or ideas on how I could travel like this?

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The first thing you mention is often called a standby flight. You turn up at an airport, go to the airline desk, tell them where you want to go. Then, if passengers do not turn up for the flight and they don't have time to resell the seat, they may let you fly for a heavily discounted fare just to fill the plane. Expect to be waiting around, but this is a great option if you have time but limited money, such as a young traveller or backpacker.

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    I was under the understanding that airports don't do this anymore. Can anyone confirm having luck with this option in the last couple of years? – Jo Sprague Jul 10 '13 at 15:29
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    JAL still does dirt-cheap standbys, but for under-21s only: jal.co.jp/en/dom/rates/rule/r_skymate.html – jpatokal Jan 22 '15 at 11:12

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