Thursday, April 08, 2010

How to Travel Standby

This post describes your travel day when going standby.

At this point I’ve already added your information and you’ve gotten the email titled “Your Travel Information”.  It lists your flights similar to this:

——————————————————————————————
  PNR: BSJANA
——————————————————————————————

1.1LASTNAME/FIRSTNAME
1   3524Y 09APR F CLEDFW MM1   340P 530P /E
    /OPERATED BY AMERICAN EAGLE
2   708Y 12APR M DFWLGA MM1   810A 1245P /E
3   4587Y 12APR M LGACLE MM1   250P 435P /E
    /OPERATED BY AMERICAN EAGLE

It’s a little hard to read but basically this example says you’re flying on AA 3524 on April 9th, from Cleveland to Dallas Fort Worth at 3:40 local time.  You arrive at 5:30pm local time at Dallas.  There is an hour time change, so that flight is booked at about 2 and a half hours. 

The next two have a different date, but work just the same.  That’s the flight(s) home.  You will need to remember the PNR Number, also called a “Record Locator”.  I like to store the email on my phone, but you could print out the email too.

So now the travel day comes along.  If this was a normal flight, you could check yourself in up to 24 hours online.  But it’s not, and if you try it won’t work.  It’s a standby flight and so I will be checking you in myself.  You don’t have to worry about it.  Just show up to the airport when you need to.

So when do you need to show up to the airport?  That’s really up to you but it won’t let you check in on the machines until 4 hours before departure time.  So in the example case, the earliest you should show up would be 11:40am. 

Flights start boarding 30 minutes before departure time, and you should give yourself 20-ish minutes for the security line.  Add another 10 for the ticket counter line and that’s about an hour before the plane leaves.  So i f it’s supposed to leave at 3:40, I’d recommend being dropped off or parked at the airport by 2:40pm at the latest. 

As you walk into the airport, head to the American Airlines desk.  It’s best to use the self checkin machines.  On standby you are allowed to check 2 bags for free, but they must weigh less than 50lbs or you will be charged.  The checkin computer will look like this, and you will select the top right button “Reprint and other options” under the “Already Checked in” area.  I will have checked you in already, so you are just printing a card to get through security. 
It will then ask you how you want to find your flight info.  You can slide in a credit card, swipe your passport, etc, but I think the easiest way is to press the “Record Locator” button. 
It’ll pop up a keyboard and you can type the 6 Letter Record Locator it emailed you.  It’ll then confirm your flight number/time and ask if you want to check bags.  If you do, take them up to the counter when it’s done asking questions.  When you’ve told it how many bags to check and stuff, it’ll tell you what gate the flight leaves from and print out a card for you.

This card is called a “Priority Verification” card, and it probably won’t have a seat number on it.  Sometimes, if the flight is relatively empty, it will print out a boarding pass right then for you.  The way you will know is if it lists a seat number.  If it has a seat listed, you’re pretty much set from there.  But we will assume it does not have a seat listed.

The Priority Verification card will allow you to go through security.  Take it and your photo ID to security and go through.  See tsa.gov for security info. 

Head over to the flight’s gate.  Sometimes there is a monitor there that will show the standby list, sometimes not.  People are listed in an order of priority.  As seats are available, the gate agents will call names of people and give them the real boarding ticket.  Once you have a ticket with a seat number, you are set and you’ll just board when they call for you.  If the gate agents look busy, the best thing you can do is NOT BOTHER THEM about standby stuff.  They won’t forget about you.  If things are pretty quiet though, and there’s no line, you can ask them if they can print the ticket for you yet.

If it gets to the point where most passengers are already on the airplane, you can ask how it looks, but be respectful.  The last 10 minutes before a flight leaves are a very stressful time for them.  In general, chocolate bars make excellent bribes.  smile

If you have to connect to another flight, once you’ve gotten to the second airport just head over to the new gate and repeat the process.

Call me if you have any questions.

Posted by eclipse on 04/08 at 03:33 PM

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