How to Fly Standby on Delta Airlines

Is it an art form? A science? Or just a lot of good luck charms and mysticism?

Personally I believe in the last option…

It’s not shocking that I have far more experience regarding the logistics of flying down under than I do domestically in my own country. For domestic travel I’ve been flying Southwest Airlines exclusively for the last few years, mostly because of the flexibility in their booking and re-booking options. For overseas travel I’ve used Qantas and Air New Zealand, and Jetstar (a subsidiary of Qantas) for travel between and within Australia and New Zealand. I am planning to travel the rest of the world in coming years, especially Japan and Europe, and am looking at other options for affordable travel with flexible options.

Airlines such as Delta can not only get me to just about any city or country in the world, but also have rather luxurious First or Business class sections on most of their flights, especially those overseas. My grand fantasy was to be able to use a Delta Buddy Pass to fly a red-eye from Seattle to New York City, on any date that I wished, in a comfortable, fully-reclinable first class seat and get fantastic rest so I could greet the early morning sunshine and the hustle and bustle of a fresh new day in Manhattan. The world would be at my finger tips, and I would be right there ready to conquer it. Like a boss.

My good friend and fellow outdoor-enthusiast, Danielle, the one who procured said buddy pass, is by now very used to my fantastic and glamorous views regarding my life, but didn’t want to burst my bubble right away. Unfortunately the buddy pass was not Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket I had been dreaming of. Instead of being greeted with cocktails and red carpets, I barely got to New York at all that night. I got a window seat, but I forgot my pillow and how cold airplane walls get, so I slept horribly and felt miserable and stiff when I arrived. Since my father had driven out to Long Island the morning before (so much for flexibility with my travel plans), I had to spend another hour and a half alone in transit getting out to see my relatives instead of bursting with energy and romping around in the busiest city in the country like it was my playground. Oh, and it was raining.

On the way back to Seattle I wasn’t able to get on the 9:30am or the 12:30pm flights from Albany to Detroit, but fortunately I got the very last seat on my only option from Detroit to Seattle. I had never been so happy to sit in a middle seat for five hours straight in all my life. I suppose my travel plans weren’t as flexible as I originally thought. I just wanted to wait until the last minute to confirm them. I clearly went about this all wrong, and I intend to learn from my experiences and do it the right way next time!

Rules for Success Regarding Standby Delta Travel:

1. Obtain Buddy Pass from close friend who is willing to check standby lists any time between 5am and midnight to see if going to the airport is even worth your while.

2. Dress well, look presentable and be polite.

3. Do not carry excess luggage. If possible, try not to check bags.

4. Don’t fly to Atlanta, unless your final destination is Atlanta.

5. Do not fly out of any airport from which you can see cows and pastures – this normally is an indication of smaller planes, and thus fewer total seats leaving the airport on any given day.

6. Try to have several exit strategies before leaving your home airport, to avoid having to pay for a hotel in a hub city.

7. Carry a good luck charm at all times. Personally I use a good luck lady bug that my mom gave me before I went to New Zealand.

8. Always be flexible with travel dates and/or destinations. If all other flights are overbooked, be willing to fly to Brazil. Hey, life is an adventure.

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