American Introduced No Charge Standby For All Customers, But The Elite Standby Benefit Is Still Better

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?

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. It is super frustrating that you have to follow the same routing. Even more frustrating is that you can’t change to a co-terminal in cities with multiple airports, especially if they’re generally going to charge for a standby or SDFC anyway. Does anyone know the reasoning behind this?

  2. It just shows how foolish the management is. I’m sure there’s some revenue-based reason for it but it just goes to show how foolish these people truly are. They think they are so smart but in reality nothing could be more frustrating to their elite then telling them that they must wait for 6 hours because they have to connect in Charlotte instead of O’Hare.

  3. I find this helpful on routes like LAX-JFK where there are lots of regular flights, but it’s very annoying to have to wait in MIA for a flight to JFK when there are earlier flights with empty seats leaving for LGA and/or EWR. AA should fix this, especially since I’m anticipating much more connecting in MIA to and from S. America this year.

  4. It is to the airline’s advantage to let the passenger travel in an otherwise empty seat on an earlier flight, as it not only avoids wasting that seat after the gate closes, but releases a seat on a later flight that the airline might need for a missed connection or any other reason. United used to do this – one time out of ORD I was allowed to take an earlier flight to DCA when I was ticketed initially on a later flight to BWI.

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