Is American Airlines Eliminating Free Standby?

In the airline industry ‘permanent’ only means ‘until we change our mind.’ Several permanent changes were made to airline policies during the pandemic, like the elimination of change fees on most non-basic economy fares. We’ll see how long these last.

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

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.)

The change still required traveling on the same routing. American’s standby and same day change benefits have been less generous than competitors since US Airways management took over. And non-status members cannot standby after checking bags.

Word is circling that the free standby benefit for non-status passengers may be ending. This is being reported by aviation watchdog JonNYC,

I had separately heard from someone internal at American that free same day standby for non-status customers could end in September. I reached out to American for comment on Thursday but they did not respond.

Update Tuesday June 14: An airline spokesperson offers, “American has no plans to implement change fees for same-day standby flight changes.”

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. Hi Gary — when you say “And non-status members cannot standby after checking bags,” does that mean elite status members can do this? Do bags get rerouted if so? Thank you!

  2. Until they allow you to change the routing, AA’s benefit is better than nothing, but not much.

  3. “If you show up at the airport earlier and there’s space on an earlier flight, you’ll be able to travel for free.”

    you should probably edit that to say “If you show up at the airport earlier and there’s space on an earlier flight, you’ll be able to travel for no additional fees”

  4. Chris thanks for clarifying or there may be a huge issue with gate storming.

  5. These revenue standbys are gaming the system. They buy the cheapest seat at a time they really don’t want to travel and show up for the more expensive (and desirable time slot) and standby with no financial penalty! Yet the company, who would trip over a dollar to save a penny, won’t start charging for this blatant scam. Stop saying we need to watch every penny when you are losing money on this every day!

  6. T. Smith: It is not gaming the system to buy a ticket and standby for an earlier flight. If the flight is full, then the standby passenger will not get on. You can not buy an inconvenient ticket and not be prepared to take that flight. – I plan to fly standby on United with an award ticket. It would have cost me twice at many points to get a good time. Maybe I will have to wait 9 hours in the airport. Maybe I will get out sooner on standby, but I certainly don’t think I am gaming the system. If anything the airlines game the system by advertising low fares or low award flights and make them at impossible times.

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