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Standby Flights for Students from Airtran U

Standby flights with Airtran U are perfect for last minute student airfare

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AirTran 737-700
Bill Abbott @wbaiv flickr.com Creative Commons License
Airtran's standby flights, student discount airfares called Airtran U (the standby flights program used to be called X Fares), are a great opportunity to save money on last minute student airfare. Ever had to make air travel plans at the last minute? Then you know that purchasing an airfare on the same day that you must travel is generally the most expensive way to go (although that trend is changing with some airlines). If you're a student 18-22 years old, trying standby flights with Airtran can be cheaper.

An airfare check made on May 9, 2012 using Travelocity's search engine for a regular Boston-Pittsburgh ticket purchased on May 9 for travel that day turned up a $436 one-way fare. Wow.

Standby flights using Airtran's standby tickets are $60 or $90 one way to or from most cities the airline serves, and $120 to or from San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, or Denver. Better.

Airtran Standby Flights Downsides

  • An Airtran U fare is good for one segment; a segment is defined as one takeoff and one landing. Thus, if you must make a connection, your standby flight will consist of two segments and your ticket price for two $60 segments will be $120. See the Airtran route map to determine whether your travel will require a connection (routes colored red denote a direct flight).

  • You'll be traveling standby, which means you may not make the flight you want.

How Airtran U Standby Flights Work

1. Try for Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday.

2. Go to the airport and be at the Airtran ticket counter two hours before the flight you want to take and ask if you can buy a standby ticket; you are not buying a confirmed seat.

2. Head for the correct gate at least 30 minutes before scheduled departure and identify yourself to the check-in agents as a standby passenger.

3. After all regularly ticketed passengers have been boarded, you can get on the plane if there is a seat open (coach only). Listen for your name to be called!

Standby flight downsides in general

  • If you want or need a connecting flight, you will have to repeat the above process at that airport.

  • When traveling standby, you may have to wait hours for a flight with an open seat and that risk doubles with a connecting flight. Tip: choose the earliest flight possible as your first choice so that you'll have several more flights with which to take your chances that day.

  • You can't check luggage, a special drag with TSA rules limiting liquids and gels you can carry on, but at least you won't lose your luggage. You may bring one carry on bag and one personal item such as a camera, coat or laptop and one carry on bag on your Airtran standby flight. Learn how to pack for airport security.

Your money will be refunded if you never get a seat. Get more details at Airtran U.

As a bonus, you can also get frequent flyer credit from Airtran for standby tickets.

The Airtran U Fine Print

  • Bring a valid government issued ID to prove that you are between 18 and 24 years of age
  • Blackout dates in 2012:
    • Standby flights are available beginning April 23, 2012
    • May 25 and 28
    • June 30
    • July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29
    • August 5
    • November 21, 24 and 26
    • December: Airtran U student standby flights will end for the year on December 13th, 2012 (the last flights will be December 14) and return in January, 2012
  • Airfares quoted above do not include taxes and surcharges

See complete rules at the Airtran U website.

The Airtran U Bottom Line

Airtran U's standby flights are a great opportunity to save money on last minute travel, but probably shouldn't be used as part of a (routine) student travel itinerary, in part because of the sheer hassle factor -- you may be able to match Airtran U standby flights prices with other airlines' sales and deals, which can be reserved in advance (see student airfare finders to the right). Good luck!

"If you actually look like your passport photo, you aren't well enough to travel." --Sir Vivian Fuchs
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