Have you ever tried to find the absolute best and cheapest airline ticket?
In your search, you’ve probably come across sites that aggregate and compare ticket prices from all the major ticket sites as well as the airlines themselves, but there’s a problem with relying on these sites: these kinds of price-aggregation sites are not always the best way to get a cheap airplane ticket.
In fact, by using one of those sites, you miss out on an opportunity for an even bigger discount.
A lesser-known alternative to these sites is to purchase a standby ticket, which can be profoundly less expensive. AirTech.com, established in 1993, is probably the most well-known standby ticket hub. AirTech has been featured in the LA Times, National Geographic, and Lonely Planet because they’re pretty awesome.
Why are they awesome? Because they sell transatlantic flight tickets from Europe to the USA and vice versa (and even flights to Hawaii) at probably the cheapest prices you can find. You see, taking a standby flight can be MUCH cheaper than any other option. You may be wondering, “How do you fly standby?” “How do standby tickets work?” “How much are standby tickets?” “Are they really cheaper?” etc. Well, today I’m going to cover all of that so that you understand the concept before you buy one. So get ready: we’re going to cover how to fly on standby. (That even rhymes!)
How a Standby Ticket Works
- Purchase a standby ticket from AirTech.com or directly from the airline.
- Receive a range of dates that your flight may leave. Usually this is a 4-day window. (So flexibility is required.)
- Confirm your ticket by calling the airline the night before the day of your intended departure.
- Arrive at the airport early: at least 1 hour early, 2 hours early for international flights. (Keep in mind there is a chance you could be bumped to another flight, such is the nature of standby, so be open to finding accommodations for the day after, just in case.)
- Don’t check in any luggage unless absolutely necessary. There’s a chance your bags will leave on a different plane than you do (though to the same destination). You’ll be reunited with them eventually, but it’s better to take a carry on. Plus, travelling light lends itself to a more relaxed trip overall.
- Go to and listen for your name to be called at your airline’s gate. (It’s always a good idea to double-check the gate info on your ticket, too.)
- Board the plane feeling awesome that you saved a lot of money.
You Gotta Want It
Basically, flying standby means your ticket is fulfilled when an extra seat is available on a plane to your destination. That means being ready to jump on a flight at most times during the day and sometimes having to wait until the next day. So a standby ticket requires you to be flexible. To guarantee you’ll get a flight, AirTech gives you a 4-day window, though it’s extremely rare to have to wait 4 days.
When you do finally settle on a date and departure city, be mindful of the comments listed under Airtech’s “seat availability” page. Sometimes (and this is rare) tax is not included in the ticket price displayed, and is an extra charge. This is indicated in the comments under the price at Airtech’s site. The departure cities are also limited to the cities listed on the site, but if you save a few hundred dollars (or if you’re already living in a departure city) this can still be the smartest option. Be aware of the pros and cons, and you can save a lot of money.
Research Pays Off!
Depending on your situation, travelling standby can definitely be the cheapest option, especially if you’re staying with a friend in the area or live near the airport. A prime example of savings is the difference between a ticket from Minneapolis, MN to Amsterdam. During an off-season like September the best price you could get from a ticket aggregator (like Kayak.com) is $618. The trip on the same day costs $359 on AirTech.com.
While standby tickets aren’t the answer to every situation, they are an option you shouldn’t overlook. With research, you could very well save hundreds of dollars.
But what if you’re flying over land? Going by plane might not be the most cost-effective option. If you’re travelling over land, you may find this article especially helpful: How to Get Paid to Travel 1,000 miles (How to Leverage Craigslist)
Also, since there are some excellent books on saving money when flying, I’ve taken the time and created a Standby Flight Resources list over at the Byteful Shop that contains my handpicked shortlist for some of the very best books on saving money when flying. I’m mentioning them here because they go into much greater detail than I’m able to in a blog post, and as you can see on the shop’s page, I’ve written a short description for each of them to explain why each one is worth looking into.
Now Go, and Embrace your Freedom!