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Trying to get on a flight as a standby passenger can be a stressful experience. You never know for sure whether you’ll get that last-minute empty seat or end up stuck in the airport.

The number of standby passengers who eventually get on planes varies greatly depending on the flight, airline, season, and other factors.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Between 50%-60% of standby passengers typically get confirmed and flown per flight, but it can range from 0% to 100%. Your odds are best on early, direct flights and when flying with status on the airline.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dig into the data and statistics on exactly how many standby passengers get on flights.

You’ll understand how airlines manage standby lists, learn the best practices for maximizing your odds, and get insights into waitlisting and becoming a confirmed passenger.

How Airlines Manage Standby Lists

When it comes to managing standby lists, airlines employ various strategies to ensure a smooth and efficient boarding process. Let’s take a closer look at some of the methods they use:

Prioritizing elite status flyers

Airlines often give priority to their elite status flyers when it comes to offering standby seats.

These frequent flyers, who have achieved a certain level of loyalty, are usually given preferential treatment and are more likely to secure a seat on a standby basis.

This not only rewards their loyalty but also helps to maintain customer satisfaction.

Accounting for passenger no-shows

One common practice airlines use to manage standby lists is to account for passenger no-shows.

Airlines know that not all passengers who have booked a flight will actually show up at the airport.

Therefore, they carefully analyze historical data and passenger behavior patterns to determine the likelihood of no-shows.

This allows them to accurately estimate the number of available seats for standby passengers.

Overbooking practices

Overbooking is another strategy airlines use to manage standby lists.

By intentionally selling more tickets than the number of available seats, airlines aim to maximize their revenue and fill every seat on the flight.

However, this practice can sometimes lead to situations where there are more passengers than available seats.

In such cases, airlines will rely on standby lists to accommodate those passengers who couldn’t be accommodated with a confirmed seat.

Regional jet limitations

Regional jets, which are smaller aircraft used for shorter flights, often have limited seating capacity. This can pose challenges when it comes to managing standby lists.

Since regional jets have fewer seats, the chances of standby passengers getting on a flight may be lower compared to larger aircraft.

Airlines take this into consideration and may prioritize standby passengers based on factors such as elite status or the time of their booking.

Factors That Impact Standby Success Rates

When it comes to standby travel, there are several factors that can significantly impact the success rates of passengers getting on flights.

Understanding these factors can help travelers make more informed decisions when opting for standby flights.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors:

Time of day and day of week

The time of day and day of the week can greatly influence the chances of getting on a standby flight.

Typically, early morning and late-night flights tend to have more open seats, making it easier for standby passengers to secure a spot.

Similarly, weekdays, especially Tuesdays and Wednesdays, often have lower passenger loads compared to weekends.

This means that those who are flexible with their travel plans and can choose off-peak times may have a higher chance of success.

Peak travel seasons

During peak travel seasons, such as holidays and school breaks, standby success rates can be significantly lower. This is because airlines tend to have fewer empty seats, with many flights operating at full capacity.

It’s important to keep this in mind when considering standby travel during busy periods, as the chances of getting on a flight may be slim.

Planning ahead and booking confirmed flights well in advance may be a more reliable option during these times.

Direct vs connecting flights

The type of flight, whether direct or connecting, can also impact standby success rates.

Direct flights generally have fewer available seats compared to connecting flights. This is because direct flights are often in high demand, especially for popular routes.

On the other hand, connecting flights may offer more options and flexibility for standby passengers, as they have multiple flights to choose from.

It’s worth considering this factor when deciding between direct and connecting flights for standby travel.

Aircraft size constraints

The size of the aircraft plays a significant role in standby success rates as well. Smaller aircraft, such as regional jets, have fewer seats available compared to larger planes.

This means that standby passengers may have a higher chance of getting on a flight if it’s operated by a larger aircraft.

However, it’s important to note that the availability of larger aircraft on a specific route can vary, so it’s always best to check with the airline for the most up-to-date information.

By taking into account these factors, travelers can have a better understanding of the variables that influence standby success rates.

Remember, while standby travel can offer certain advantages, it’s essential to have a backup plan in case the desired flight is not available.

Researching airline policies, staying informed about flight availability, and being flexible with travel plans can increase the chances of successfully flying standby.

Historical Data on Standby Passenger Numbers

Pre-pandemic statistics

Before the pandemic hit, airlines used to have a significant number of standby passengers on their flights.

These passengers were individuals who did not have a confirmed seat reservation but hoped to secure a seat if there were any available.

2021 pandemic travel trends

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on travel, including the number of standby passengers.

With travel restrictions, reduced flight schedules, and capacity limitations, the concept of standby travel underwent a major shift.

During 2021, airlines experienced a dramatic decline in the number of standby passengers.

Many airlines suspended their standby policies altogether, focusing on accommodating passengers with confirmed reservations and ensuring compliance with health and safety protocols.

This meant that the chances of standby passengers getting on flights were significantly reduced, if not eliminated entirely.

2022: recovery and challenges

As airlines navigate the recovery phase and adapt to the changing travel landscape, the future of standby travel remains uncertain.

While some airlines have reintroduced standby policies, the number of standby passengers remains relatively low compared to pre-pandemic levels.

This can be attributed to a combination of factors, including reduced flight frequencies, continued capacity limitations, and changing passenger preferences.

Additionally, the unpredictability of travel restrictions and the ongoing threat of new variants pose challenges for both airlines and standby passengers.

It’s important to note that the availability of standby seats can vary greatly depending on the airline, route, and time of travel.

While standby travel may present an opportunity for flexible travelers, it is crucial to have a backup plan in case a standby seat is not available.

Checking airline websites, contacting customer service, and staying updated on travel advisories can provide valuable information for those considering standby travel.

Tips to Maximize Your Odds as a Standby Passenger

Being a standby passenger can be an exciting and cost-effective way to travel, but it can also be a bit unpredictable.

However, there are several strategies you can employ to increase your chances of getting on a flight. Here are some tips to maximize your odds as a standby passenger:

Aim for early flights

One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting on a flight as a standby passenger is to aim for early flights.

Early morning flights tend to have fewer passengers, which means there may be more available seats for standby passengers.

Additionally, airlines often add extra flights during peak travel times, so looking for flights that depart early in the morning can give you more options.

Fly on less busy days

If you have the flexibility to choose when you travel, try to fly on less busy days.

Weekdays, especially Tuesdays and Wednesdays, tend to have fewer passengers compared to weekends. This can increase your chances of securing a seat as a standby passenger.

Additionally, flying during off-peak travel seasons can also improve your odds.

Have elite status

Having elite status with an airline can significantly improve your chances of getting on a flight as a standby passenger.

Elite status often comes with perks such as priority boarding, which can give you an advantage when it comes to securing a seat.

If you frequently travel with a specific airline, consider joining their loyalty program and working towards elite status.

Consider a flexible ticket

When booking your ticket, consider opting for a flexible fare. Flexible tickets allow you to change your flight without incurring hefty fees, which can be beneficial if you are a standby passenger.

Having the ability to switch to a different flight at the last minute can increase your chances of getting on a flight.

Ask to be waitlisted

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask the airline if you can be waitlisted for a flight. Waitlisting means that you are placed on a list and notified if a seat becomes available.

While there is no guarantee that you will get on the flight, being waitlisted can give you another opportunity to secure a seat as a standby passenger.

Remember, being a standby passenger requires flexibility and patience. While these tips can improve your odds, there is still a level of uncertainty involved.

But with a little planning and a bit of luck, you may just find yourself jetting off to your destination as a standby passenger!

Understanding Waitlisting, Standby, and Confirmed Status

When it comes to air travel, there are often situations where passengers find themselves on a waitlist or standby for a flight.

Understanding the differences between these statuses and how they work can be crucial for travelers hoping to secure a seat on a fully booked flight.

Let’s take a detailed look at waitlisting, standby, and confirmed statuses.

Waitlist vs Standby Differences

Waitlisting and standby are two separate processes that airlines use to manage oversold flights or accommodate passengers with flexible travel plans.

Waitlisting typically occurs when a flight is fully booked, and passengers are placed on a list in case seats become available due to cancellations or changes.

Standby, on the other hand, involves showing up at the airport without a confirmed ticket and hoping to secure a seat if there are no-shows or last-minute cancellations.

While waitlisting is often done in advance, usually online or through customer service, standby is typically done at the airport on the day of travel.

It’s important to note that being on a waitlist does not guarantee a seat, whereas being on standby increases the chances of getting on the flight but is still subject to availability.

How Waitlisting Works

When a flight is fully booked, airlines may offer passengers the option to join a waitlist. This involves providing your contact information and preferences, such as desired travel dates and alternative flight options.

If a seat becomes available, the airline will typically contact waitlisted passengers in the order they were added to the list.

It’s important to check your emails or phone frequently to respond promptly and secure the available seat.

Some airlines may prioritize waitlisted passengers based on factors such as loyalty status, fare class, or the time of joining the waitlist.

Understanding these priorities can help you gauge your chances of getting a seat and make informed decisions about your travel plans.

Priorities for Clearing Lists

When it comes to clearing waitlists, airlines often have specific priorities in place. These priorities may vary depending on the airline, but they typically include factors such as:

  • Loyalty program status
  • Fare class
  • Time of joining the waitlist
  • Passenger type (e.g., disabled, unaccompanied minors)

Passengers with higher loyalty program status or those booked in higher fare classes often have a better chance of being cleared from the waitlist.

It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the airline’s policies and priorities to understand your position on the list.

Being Flexible on Routing

When you’re on a waitlist, being flexible with your travel plans can significantly increase your chances of getting on a flight.

Airlines may offer alternative routes or connections that have available seats, even if they are not your preferred option.

Being open to these alternatives can help you secure a seat and reach your destination more quickly.

It’s also worth noting that some airlines may allow passengers to purchase a confirmed ticket on a different flight while remaining on the waitlist for their preferred flight.

This option provides added flexibility and increases the likelihood of securing a seat.

Understanding the intricacies of waitlisting, standby, and confirmed statuses can empower travelers to navigate oversold flights more effectively.

By knowing the differences, how waitlisting works, the priorities for clearing lists, and being flexible on routing, passengers can increase their chances of getting on the flight they desire.


As a standby passenger, it can be hard to predict your exact chances of getting on a given flight.

By understanding how airlines manage standby lists, careful timing of flights, having airline status, and utilizing waitlisting, you can significantly increase your odds.

While there are never any guarantees, arming yourself with data and best practices makes being a standby or waitlisted passenger far less stressful.

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