Several websites tell me that "nobody" will let you fly "standby" except as a change to a fare already bought. Is there anyone that will still sell a cheap "next unsold seat" fare?

I'm retired and have no problem hanging out an an airport for a few days to save money. But it's not saving if it's regular plus change fee.

  • 1
    Where in the world are you starting from? And what kind of airlines are you looking to fly? The "general" rules for a European budget airline are likely to be rather different to the "general" rules for a full-service US airline on a US-domestic flight, for example
    – Gagravarr
    Mar 22, 2016 at 15:09
  • From lots of places. The kind that don't cost much. OK, getting serious: I am retired, and intend to relocate one or more times per year until someone forces me against my will into a nursing home. Generally, I start well in advance to find a good price. But this time, for a lot of reasons, I still don't have a USA to Spain ticket and it's less than a month till I've committed to be there. And if the fare is higher than what's in the bank at the time, it takes at least a week to pull from the retirement account.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 22, 2016 at 15:23
  • 2
    Great question. It seems likely that one reason for the demise of standby tickets is that airlines are operating much closer to capacity than they did historically. This has presumably been made possible in part by computers and the internet. Another factor may be the trend in the industry toward charging for everything.
    – phoog
    Mar 22, 2016 at 15:44
  • Unless you live right next to an airport, there would be lots of money spent on traveling back-and-forth as well.
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 22, 2016 at 16:12
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    @JoErNanO: I am RSDIT--Retired, Slightly Dangerous If Trapped.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 22, 2016 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Most airlines eliminate cheaper seats as you get closer to departure. The vast majority of last minute bookings are business travelers who will pay whatever it takes to get there when they need to. So no real motivation to sell discounted seats (especially since last minute for business needs can truly be last minute).

The route you are looking, USA to southern Europe, will be busy in spring, so the cheapest seats are likely selling well already. You could try a broad search, say til 1 June, find the cheapest ticket and then try to standby for an earlier departure. Or two, just bite the bullet and book the best fare for the dates you want to go. But "standby fares" went the way of the dinosaurs with paper tickets ;-)

  • I don't need an earlier departure. If I have already bought a ticket, I'm certainly not going to pay extra to change the date/time. That was the whole point of the question. I thought it was worth asking whether "nobody" was true, since there are also plenty of pages claiming that one-way always costs more than round-trip and I know that is not true.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 23, 2016 at 20:23
  • To add to my comment, in looking for the ticket I bought today one-way to Spain, I paid US$755 for it. Best round-trip I could find with several search engines was four digits. Interestingly, the same flight on the airline's site was $1497 (and first class was $19997—no typo, twenty thousand!)
    – WGroleau
    Mar 27, 2016 at 0:10
  • @WGroleau - glad you found a good fare. But one does have to wonder how you got it for half the price quoted on the airline's website. The internet is littered with posts by folks who thought they got a killer deal only to discover later they were ripped off by the third party. I would check direct with the airline to make sure you have a valid, paid for booking.
    – user13044
    Mar 27, 2016 at 2:22
  • Found it via Kayak, but of course they redirected me to another site, Pay Less Flights, probably an aggregator. Made my seat selections on the aa.com site. First leg, only one seat left that wasn't extra charge. Second, three. But the PHL-BCN flight had many. Good point about paying attention, though. I've passed up a few "good deals" after looking around the website offering them. And I almost paid too much for a train out of BCN because one site had the fares in £ and the other in €.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 27, 2016 at 2:53
  • Interesting that according to American Airlines, I paid only $280 for the trip. So "Pay Less Flights" made $495. I did make them work a bit, though. They had to call me to warn me about the risks of one-way travel, and they had to manually correct the reservation because their website's Javascript insisted that my first name and my e-mail were invalid. (My first name is only one letter and my e-mail's TLD is "Email.") And I had to call to find out it was American Airlines because the website said it was MCUS which i didn't think had flights on those routes.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 27, 2016 at 3:13

Standby fares are still a thing in the land of the future that time passed by: Japan! In particular, Solaseed Air offers a Visit Japan fare where any flight is just ¥10500 if you're willing to show up at the airport and take your chances:


Now I'm not entirely sure why you'd want to use this, given that both JAL and ANA offer regular "book and fully confirm in advance" tickets on all flights for ¥10800 with their respective Visit Japan fares, but hey, you did say anywhere...

  • Indeed. "standby" isn't justified for a savings of three dollars!
    – WGroleau
    Mar 27, 2016 at 6:33
  • Pricing like this is usually a ploy to make travelers feel they're smarter than the business. "Double fries for $5 versus regular for $4.9? I take two!"
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 27, 2016 at 8:27

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