How to fly STANDBY as a Non Rev passenger

Life On Standby


You want to fly for free or, as veteran standbys call it, “non-rev?” You can either get a job at an airline or make friends with an airline employee.

Flying stand by becomes a way of life for people like me. In 2010, I spent three days at the airport in Honolulu. I was flying stand by and there were no empty seats. The only catch has been that I have to wait until minutes before the aircraft door is shut to find out if I’ll be called onto the plane or not. Hope and patience are requirements with a little bit of luck.

One of the perquisites that the airline industry provides to its employees is free or discounted travelzed fare”. You can fly for literally nothing on most airlines and as an employee you can choose a Travel Buddy, Significant other, and/or Domestic Partner. If you’re married your spouse and children get the benefit as your parents do too. Most airline employees can now designate whomever they wish as their “significant other,” without any proof of a relationship.

Flying standby isn’t as easy as you think; you must know-how to survive the complicated procedure of flying standby. There are 2 STANDBY types… Flying standby generally means you have purchased a ticket already, but want to get on an earlier flight, or you have missed your flight and want to catch a later one.


   2  Types

  • The first type of standby traveler is the tourist standby traveler. This person purchased a confirmed ticket for a flight but needs to catch another flight without having to pay a transfer fee.
  • The second type is airline representative standby travelers. In this case, you are flying under special considerations for being a Family member, Dependent, Companion, Significant Other ”S/O”, and/or Domestic Partner “D/P” of an airline employee. Airline employees have different agreements with other airlines and may fly free depending on the agreements and/or by paying international taxes and fees to go on other carriers as a non-revenue passenger.


You must be patient, flexible with just a carry-on and the uncertainty that there are no guarantees. Although this route of travel can work out well and possibly save you money, it can also be time consuming and is unpredictable.

When traveling as a non-rev, you should really know when it will be ok to travel. Otherwise, you will end up in Stand-by hell…waiting for days to get where you want to go. I end up telling my friends that it’s cheaper to buy a ticket than it is to fly stand-by because often times, they get stuck and have to pay on overly priced hotel room or sleep at the airport, like me.

Flying standby simply means flying (Space Available “S/A”) waiting for a seat to become available on an airplane and being willing to jump on that flight at any time. Those who fly standby typically do not have a scheduled time or date for their destination. Travelers like me understand that there are no guarantees of a seat opening up and may have to wait for a later flight. There is even the chance that they cannot fly out until the following day. Chances are better for you getting on a flight if you try for the first flight of the day. If you do not make it on that flight, you will get “rolled over” to the next one.

Keep in mind that others can have priority over standby flyers. Connecting passengers and airline employees and crew who must get to their destination for work purposes will be given any open seats first. Also, standby passengers are more likely to get a seat on the day of a major holiday such as Thanksgiving. It’s less likely that there will be open seats the day before or the weekend after a holiday because more people travel on those days.

  • Traveling standby enables you to get to your destination, even if you miss your flight. In some cases, you may even be able to catch an earlier flight if you arrive at the airport early and seats are available. It is important to remember that you must put your name on the standby list in person at the ticket counter.
  • In most cases, you have to be dressed in professional attire to fly standby. This is especially true if you are flying standby our behavior reflects upon the employee. Besides paying attention to your attire, you have to consider the amount of luggage you have. When you travel standby, it is best if you bring only carry-on luggage as it is difficult to coordinate checked baggage on the short notice required to travel standby.
  • If you didn’t make the flight you wanted to get on, ask the agent at the main desk if he can roll your name over to the next flight. This is where dressing well and being polite comes in handy. Agents can be difficult, but they can also be very helpful if you are courteous and patient. Chances are, you will get on another flight later that day. If not, there’s always tomorrow.
  • Keep in mind that every airline is different and have different rules in regulations. Travel conditions vary from carrier to carrier and are specified in each airline’s agreements. These conditions include eligibility, dress code, flight listing, minimum service requirements, embargo periods, applicable fares, and restrictions



What is Non Rev?

Non-Revenue Space Available (NRSA)

Personal travel by an employee or other pass-holder that is on a standby / space available basis without a reserved seat that can be bumped by revenue passengers and many not displace a revenue passenger. These seats are assigned only after all revenue passengers are accommodated (unless the flight load is light). This type of travel may be used for commuting crew who live in a city other than their company base and may not be used by any pass-holder for the purpose of business travel. These passes are subject to taxes and processing fees and the cabin of service depends on availability in the cabins for which the pass-holder chooses to list, with extra fees associated with travel in premium cabins. NRSA travel does not earn any flight miles but if we could I would have be a platinum elite member.

NRSA travelers may board when they receive a boarding pass if they’ve been called. Boarding passes may be issued at a kiosk, by the Gate Agent before boarding begins, or by the Gate Agent during or near the end of boarding, depending on the flight load.

  • NRSA passengers are eligible to list (standby) for premium cabins, but will only be accommodated after all revenue passenger requests have been accommodated. Travel in premium cabins is subject to additional taxes and fees.
  • Those traveling on NRSA passes are entitled to one carry-on bag, one personal item, and two free checked bags, but are still subject to excess, overweight, and oversize baggage fees.


What is a ZED?

ZED was formed in 1994 to simplify leisure travel arrangements for airline employees and families travelling on another carrier. The system of ID fares (ID90, ID50, etc.) was based on a percentage discount off the published full fare price for a route given a specific origin and destination for each ticket. To allow for more predictable fares, easier interline trip planning and ticketing, ZED created travel zones with specific pricing.

  • ID90 – Industry / Interline Discount – bilateral interline ticket specifically negotiated between AA and another airline at a 90% discount off the full fare price, plus tax and service charges. Available, generally in limited quantities each year, to AA employees, their spouses, and their dependent children for personal travel on other airlines
  • ZED – Zonal Employee Discount – ticket available to AA employees, spouses, and dependent children for personal travel on other airlines (or employees of other airlines for travel on AA), subject to mileage-based service fees
  • The Basics of a ZED Fare
  • 3 fare levels (high, medium, low)
  • 9 mileage bands (1 -9)
  • 2 reservation statuses (space available, confirmed space)

Generally these agreements offer flat rate service charges based on the nonstop mileage of each ticketed segment. These are referred to as Zonal Employee Discount (ZED) fares and are available for unlimited travel by the employee/retiree, spouse/Company-recognized Domestic Partner(DP), and dependent children under 23. In some cases, travel is also extended to the employee’s or retiree’s parents, Registered Companion(RC), but on a limited basis.





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