American Airlines followed United Airlines with its elimination of change fees on domestic and short haul international flights, excluding for customers who purchase basic economy fares.
Packaged in with that change was allowing free standby travel for everyone. If you show up at the airport earlier and there’s space on an earlier flight, you’ll be able to travel for free. Previously only elite frequent flyers could do this. (Non-elites could pay a fee to be confirmed on an earlier flight if confirmed space was available for a same day change.)
There’s still a benefit to being an elite frequent flyer when it comes to standing by for another flight on American Airlines, however – and it’s not just that as an elite you’re higher up on the priority list to get a seat when you want one.
American sent out a memo to customer care agents detailing the new standby program, and elites do have more flexibility than general members. Specifically, if you do not have elite status you cannot standby for an earlier flight after you’ve checked bags.
Frustratingly American Airlines still requires you to follow the same routing if you’re taking connecting flights. If you were connecting in Charlotte to get home, you can’t connect in Dallas Fort-Worth instead. That’s an even bigger problem than usual now that the airline is only operating half of its normal flights – there are fewer standby options. However even once full travel resumes, it undermines American’s competitive advantage of being the world’s largest airline. What’s the point from a customer’s standpoint of having 9 hubs if you can’t use them to get where you’re going?