United Airlines announced it will eliminate traditional free standby in favor of a paid model. Travelers will now have the option of paying $50 for unconfirmed same-day standby, or $75 for a confirmed same-day seat on an alternate flight. The change affects tickets purchased on or after April 10 for travel on or after April 28.
The unconfirmed seat option is pretty similar to traditional standby, with the obvious exception of the $50 fee. Passengers put their name on the standby list for their desired flight, and only pay the fee if they make it onboard.
The confirmed option is similar to programs other airlines have implemented in place of old-fashioned standby. You'll have to call United or visit an airport ticket desk or self-service kiosk and request a confirmed standby seat on an alternate United flight (same routing, etc., as your scheduled flight) within three hours of the time of your request. If a seat is available, you're all set—once you pay your $75.
Elite frequent flyers and travelers flying on fully refundable tickets are exempt from paying the fees.
As our sister site, Airfarewatchdog, points out, traditional standby's slow march toward oblivion is nearly complete. Most airlines have ditched standby in favor of a paid, confirmed option. In fact, only AirTran offers free, unconditional same-day standby. JetBlue has a free option, but limits travelers to only the flight prior to their ticketed flight. US Airways will let you standby for free only if the flight you want is full. If there's an open seat, you'll pay $50.
Readers, is standby something you wish airlines would preserve? Have you flown standby much in the past?