American Airlines Has The Least Useful Standby Policy. Now It Will Be The Most Annoying, Too.

American Airlines promotes itself as the world’s largest airline, with the most hub cities. That should be a convenience that gives customers lots of options to get where they’re going. Except American’s policies don’t allow it.

When a customer wants to standby or change to an earlier flight, they aren’t allowed to change connecting cities. That means if they are flying in or out of a small airport that has only a single flight through a given hub, they cannot make same day changes at all. They can’t change the number of segments they’re flying, or switch from a connection to a non-stop.

These were all changes that were put into place when US Airways management took over, worrying that someone might save money and cost them revenue by booking a cheaper flight and changing to something more expensive. These are also policies that are out of step with competitors United and Delta.

When American Airlines dropped most change fees in fall 2020 they also introduced free standby.

Previously only elite frequent flyers could do this, while non-status customers could pay a fee to be confirmed on an earlier flight if confirmed space was available for a same day change.

Starting this Friday, March 1 you must be an AAdvantage member to take advantage of free standby. So that’s a new restriction on standby, though of course people can join the program at the airport.

What wasn’t previously announced, though, but American is now telling customers is that they won’t be able to get added to the standby list by a customer service agent or gate agent. Standby requests will be self-serve only:

Even if you’re an elite frequent flyer with a oneworld or joint business venture airline, you’re going to need to download the American Airlines app (or use the American Airlines website) to request standby – unless you’re an American Airlines Platinum Pro or higher or oneworld emerald in which case you can still request at the gate.

This feels petty to me, but no more so than limiting same day standby and same day confirmed changes to the same connecting hubs and refusing to through-check bags on separate American Airlines tickets when spending extra to buy an American Airlines fight because award space wasn’t available for a connection to a non-oneworld partner airline.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Loyalty to AA is rewarded like death by a thousand cuts. for example, we fly/spend to accumulate Loyalty Points and earn SWUs, only to discover no inventory for SWU upgrades but plenty of offers to pay for an upgrade to first/business. Assigning paying travelers to non-functioning seats while upgrading non-revs into first (per JT Genter). Lackadaisical service from top to bottom, including outsourcing customer service, laying off experienced representatives, and slow walking contract negotiations which leads to FAs who are wearing “We Are Ready” lanyards. Increasing bag fees to ridiculous levels. The corporate greed here is sickening–and this company can’t even make a profit FLYING planes! Does AA want to be “American Spirit” or an industry leader? It’s clear to me. Flying this airline into the ground with short-sighted financial decisions that drive business customers elsewhere is not the solution.

  2. AA IT and app are horrendous. Unless they have completed a major overhaul without telling us, this functionality is going to cause a lot more problems for people and agents turning people away. Management is so disconnected from its clients and delusional if they believe this is helpful other than to shave fractions of fractions of a cent.

  3. American wants premium revenue while providing low cost carrier service.

    You’ve gotta give them credit for recognizing their execution of the present model doesn’t work so they must find something that does.

  4. It will take an agent longer to explain this policy to not help the customer standing in front of them than it would to simply click the appropriate button on their terminal. So much for efficiency.

  5. The actions of American Airlines do nothing to promote or reward loyalty. They perceive most of their passengers as a captive crowd who fly the airline because they live in a hub city and have few choices OR they are an infrequent flyer who doesn’t deserve AA’s attention. I’m a lifetime platinum who at one time would fly only AA or its One World partners, but that was before the clowns at US Air became installed at AA and took a solid airline down the toilet. I no longer blindly fly AA. Instead I fly whatever carrier suits my price/schedule and convenience. It’s refreshing to be a free agent. Most of the time I use Southwest (although I loathe the unassigned seating arrangement) however, I have recently tried United Airlines and they are a bit better than AA.

  6. How long will the board tolerate moronic leadership at AA.

    Other than LP, have they done anything right? (Beyond better on time at the expense of psssengers)?

  7. That’s going to come off really well when an elite member is at a gate requesting the GA for something that used to take them two seconds to do, and the GA replies that they wish they could help but they can’t…u gotta go through the app.

  8. The wonderful AA app that’s pretty much worthless for self-help in an IROP…. and standby where they’ve told me, having bought a First Class ticket, I clear onto another flight and they tell me they can’t put me in First even though it has 8 open seats and nobody on the upgrade list. Awesome.

    The standby functionality sucks as it is. I use it with some frequency living in CLT (as an AS MVP75k) on certain markets where I may make it to grab an earlier flight to somewhere short haul/high frequency. Seldom does the app notify you that you’ve been cleared… and it isn’t intuitive to look, especially if you’ve been listed on multiple flights (like in an IROP), where you’ve got to go search the flight status and bring up the waitlist that way. Never have had the new boarding pass show up in the app…. so always have to go to the agent to have them print one anyway.

    I would hope they still let Admirals Club agents help with this… to date even with the various cuts, the great agents there have been a saving grace and paid for the credit card fee/membership several times over.

  9. @NedsKid That’s a great question regarding if this also will affect club agents’ ability to assist with standby. I unfortunately think that yes is the most likely answer.

  10. Where do you see this? says to request online or in the app, but not “only”. As a former AA employee, I agree it’s a silly concept, but I’d be shocked if airport agents can’t do it anymore. Unless something drastic has changed since I’ve been gone, there are 3 ways in QIK (and 1 extra in native Sabre) to add someone to the list. Even if the “automated” way is gone, the manual ones should be around, as that’s how they would add you as involuntary standby (like a misconnect or cancel where the next flight is full). Plus the “automated”/app way didn’t work much of the time (award tickets, standing by for only one flight in a connecting pair, etc.) Now, if there’s a memo, I’d believe it as a policy restriction, but the system should definitely allow it. Also, UA does not allow routing changes on standby either, so I’d be surprised if DL did. This isn’t immediately clear on the website but is hidden in the FAQ. For what it’s worth, AA’s limitation seems to be more technical vs. policy – we couldn’t even do it in IROPS without involuntarily reissuing the ticket, long story short. Ironically enough, we could fairly easily change someone’s confirmed routing, at least for domestic flights.

  11. Another “fun” AA fact that @NedsKid reminded me of, that shouldn’t be a secret, but I haven’t seen it published. From the perspective of Sabre/gate agents, there are no upgrade nor standby lists. They are really combined into one thing called the priority list, with upgrades coming before standby. The stupidly unfriendly part of this is when a confirmed first class passenger tries to standby, they are below upgrades on the list. So, a gold status member on the flight would clear into first before an executive platinum who paid for first class on a different flight. In practice, many agents should just confirm you into first on your new flight vs. standby. This is only officially allowed (for free) if your same fare class is available, but in practice it’s super easy to do as long as first isn’t sold out.

  12. DesertGate – we want the airline to be liquidated so that Doug Parker’s former America West tribe of demons are gone. Whatever it takes at this point. They’re running it into the ground by choice. it doesn’t have to be like this

  13. The whining of adults (entitled children is more like it) is really getting old. I find the AA app solid. It’s head and shoulders above most others with SWA and UA getting good marks. DL and Alaska have terrible apps. I get upgrades (EP) on most every flight when I’ve booked Y, non-revs do not get in FC above upgrades. Working DH pilots do, when there are seats open, it’s in their contract just like DL and UA DH Pilots. Use the app, request your standby and hope for the best. Planes are full, so you should plan on your cheap ticket on the flight you booked and get on with life, or pay for the flight you really want.

  14. What about elderly people who have no idea how to use electronic devices? This seems like a terrible customer service move. Some people only fly once every few years. They need help just getting in and out of the airport let aloan all the other steps needed to adjust a flight.

  15. I’m surprised anyone ever could standby on a different routing.

    Going from, say, SAN to DFW to RIC may not actually be the same fare as SAN to PHX to RIC. The website will construct the lowest from origin to destination at whatever is the lowest so, the SAN-PHX-RIC lowest fare may be the sum of the SAN-PHX local fare plus the PHX-RIC fare and be lower than the SAN-DFW-RIC point to point fare.

    If you then change your routing, even to standby, to travel SAN-DFW-RIC at what would be the higher SAN-RIC fare, you’ve gotten something you didn’t pay for.

    You can’t stand for a SAN-DFW flght if your flight coupon is SAN-PHX

    Moreover, to change routing requires the ticket to be exchanged which requires human involvement, which is something the airlines are avoiding at all costs, so to speak.

  16. Doug Parker to customers: The flogging will continue until morale improves.

  17. Not sure about DL, but you can definitely change routing cities as well as standby for a nonstop flight [when your confirmed flight has stops] with UA.

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