US Airways Has A Terrible Standby Policy: Things You Learn The Hard Way

Filed Under: American, US Airways

I’d like to think I’m fairly in tune with what’s going on in the merger between American and US Airways. Both because I cover it in great detail on the blog, and because I fly ~200,000 miles per year on the combined airlines. I get the operational differences between the two airlines, and how you can’t book codeshare flights if you want to upgrade.

And I get that the airlines are on separate reservations systems, which is the biggest hurdle remaining in the merger (and that will be solved later this year).

But I was caught off guard today, which is entirely my fault. Because I made an assumption. And as my high school science teacher said “you know, an assumption is just making an “ass” of “u” and “me.”

As of 2015, AAdvantage added complimentary same day confirmed changes as an Executive Platinum perk. In my opinion this was an area where American was really playing catch up, since Alaska, Delta, United, etc., all have considerably more generous same day confirmed change policies.


Well, I was scheduled to fly US Airways today, and wanted to change around flights. I saw there was availability on the later flight I wanted to take, and phoned up the US Airways Executive Platinum desk. I told the agent I wanted to make a same day confirmed change, and she said “we don’t have that.”

I was puzzled, since I thought this was an Executive Platinum benefit which applied on both American and US Airways. After she explained the rules to me I said “okay that’s fine, I’ll just standby for the later flight then.” She said “you can’t do that either, you can just standby for an earlier flight.”

That truly puzzled me, so I dug into US Airways’ standby and same day change policy. The only sort of flight changes which they allow are under the MoveUp program:

We allow you to move up to an earlier flight on the day of departure on US Airways flights. You must be at the airport to MoveUp. The MoveUp fee is $75 for flights within the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada. It’s $150 to move up on flights to/from Europe, Israel and/or South America.

You can move up for $75/$150 if the flight is:

  • Within 6 hours of your original scheduled departure
  • On the same day (departing after 3 AM) with the same number of stops
  • All flights have open seats (if you have connecting flights)

Flights that depart after midnight and before 3 AM count as the previous day.

We waive the MoveUp fee for AAdvantage elite status members. However, the same rules apply: the flight must be within 6 hours of your original scheduled departure, and on the same day with the same number of stops.


So to recap:

  • Rather than allowing same day changes, US Airways only lets you make a confirmed change to a flight up to six hours before your original flight
  • This can only be done at the airport, and not over the phone or online, which kind of eliminates much of the benefit of making a confirmed change
  • You can’t even standby for a flight which departs more than six hours earlier or even a minute after your original departure


Bottom line

That’s a really customer-unfriendly policy, though ultimately it’s on me for not reading the terms carefully. And I figure if it’s something I didn’t know, there are at least some other people out there who didn’t know either.

I’m still trying to decide whether to pay the $200 to make the change, or if I should try out the “flat tire” rule in this instance, and hope they’ll book me on the next flight.

I guess this is another thing I’m looking forward to with both American and US Airways getting on the same reservations system later this year.

Am I the only one who had no clue US Airways’ same day change policy was so bad?

  1. This must be throw back Friday….a value added post and not drivel about a duckie or a giddy FA.

  2. I fly US Airways twice a week every week and I was really looking forward to the new stand-by/move up changes with the integration, but as you pointed out…the standby policy for US still is miserable. The ability to only confirm space at the airport on an earlier flight is ridiculous and makes no sense…if the availability is there why cant the top elites save themselves the time and change over the phone….I completely agree with you. Here’s to hoping the final merger details will take place soon!

  3. It is interesting that while the policy is less generous in some ways, the fact that you can use it on overseas flights is actually much more generous; AFAIK none of the other airlines let you same-day change on flights to Europe. Granted, many flights to Europe don’t have that many daily options (especially on US Airways), but it’s still something.

  4. So it looks as though Mark becomes the first two-time winner of my Best Comment of the Day prize. Congratulations!

  5. Hi Lucky,

    I booked a Oneworld award using my AAdvantage miles (CGK-HKG-LAX-JFK-DCA) in First Class, but I couldn’t find any saver award (Z) on JFK-DCA leg, so the agent booked me in coach (T) for that leg. Once ticketed, is it possible standby on the departure date in case the first class saver award becomes available on the same flight or even the earlier flight?


  6. US used to have a more generous Move Up policy but I don’t recall it ever permitting planned standby for later flights.

    If AA lets elites SDFC to a later flight on standby how does this work if you don’t get on? Rolling standby until a seat opens up? I can see the benefit of SDFC to a confirmed seat on a later flight but standby on a later flight? Sounds like the risk level of a buddy pass.

  7. As Segments pointed out, the policy used to be more generous. If I recall, the changes were made because the airline felt passengers were abusing it to save money. For example, there are hourly flights between PHL and BOS. One could book the last flight of the evening which usually has low fares. Then, on the day of the flight, move up to a much earlier flight which would have originally cost much more. Same reason the number of segments needs to be the same. People would book cheaper flights with connections and then SDC onto the more expensive nonstop flight. These days with planes packed to the gills, seems like a risky move to take, though.

  8. @ al613 — For what it’s worth I ended up arriving about 30 minutes after my originally scheduled departure, and they put me on the next flight without batting an eyelash.

  9. @ Segments — If you don’t get standby the same day you’re screwed. But ultimately it’s at the passenger’s risk.

  10. @ John W — You could indeed switch to it in the event that first class space opens up. Keep in mind, however, that the route is largely operated by regional jets without a first class cabin. Maybe your flight doesn’t have a first class cabin?

  11. @ Bgriff — That’s a great point. Then again this is US Airways, so the number of international markets where they have more than one flight in a six hour period is very limited.

  12. Did I read your post right. If you’re on the 9:15pm PHL to BOS you can SDC onto the 6:15 without a problem or charge if you have AA status. However, it’s not possible if you were on the 3:15pm and a meeting ran late to SDC onto the 6:15 or 9:15?

  13. @ Bgriff

    Actually that is incorrect. United, at least, allows Same Day Change on international flights.

  14. Ben,

    That seems so strange as all the pressure would seem to be to leave early…which they happily allow. I book all my own travel now, so it’s not an issue. But, in the past and for many of my co-workers and vendors today corporate travel will only book you on a flight that leaves late enough that you could reasonably expect to make the flight if you left by 5:30. So, if it’s downtown Chicago to O’Hare 5:30 + 1 drive time at rush hour + 1 hour before departure = nothing before 7:30. So, your last meeting was at 3 folks would leave then and try to get on the early flight.

    Ahhhh, here is a thought. Leaving early is a benefit to very frequent travelers who want to get home. But, if there is a crisis or a meeting runs late folks just happily expense the costs to leave later. So, the charge for a late move is easy money for the airline.

  15. @ Lucky – I’m no expert, but I would think lying about being late for your flight to save the change fee and then writing about it on your blog (i.e. publicly admitting to defrauding the airline) is a good way to get your elite status revoked.

  16. @ Arcanum — I didn’t lie, not sure what makes you say that? “Flat tire rule” is an expression, not a literal term. I showed up at the gate and told them I missed the flight, and nicely asked if they could put me on the next one. I didn’t give a reason for having missed the flight.

  17. Lucky, I can’t believe you are debating, of course you do the flat tire rule!
    What the agents tell you over the phone with any airline is BS, the airport agents can do anything they want!
    You might get a stickler but chances are they will either just confirm you on the later flight or put you on standby. You can also just say you thought the rules were the same as AA which allows elites to standby on later flights.
    You may have jinxed yourself a little bit though because they may have noted your PNR that you were advised of the policy.
    You must not have had your coffee or gin and tonic today! lol 🙂

  18. Some people are trying to protect an airline more then an airline wants to protect itself 🙂

  19. Arcanum,
    Do you actually think that US is paying analysts to sit around and find potential lies on blogs, cross reference that to reservations, conduct investigations, and revoke FF status? How many employees and FTE’s would that take, and how would that improve the bottom line?
    How would they prove wsomeone lied?
    Would they net net more money if they kicked Lucky out than if they left him in based on his spend and travel pattern?
    How would you justify kicking someone out based on a lie and the opportunity cost of the future lost revenue just to, what, prove a point? Businesses don’t think that wauy, and businesses aren’t very smart anyway.
    So we’re just imagining a cube farm of AA agents whose job it is to bust people that lie on blogs?

    It sounds good in theory but the devil is in the details.

  20. Also, you guys, if you did not get on standby lets say on the last flight of the day, the airport could confirm you or put you on standby for the following day. This is not part of the official rules but its something a gate agent at any carrier can do if they want too. If they like you they can do it, and if they don’t they can quote you the rules.
    Also some gate agents more than others feel big brother is watching what they do in the computer.
    You could get one ghate agent who will not do it and then 2 gates away a gate agent willing to do it.
    So again, figuratively, hang up and call back if you don’t get the answer you want.
    Any sort of rule, policy, or guideline is subject to the individual interpretation of whomever you are dealing with. Airlines have such complicated rules that you can easily have multiple interpretations by different agents.

    They are much more likely to bend the rules for you at the airport, any call center is strict they are monitored like prisoners in supermax, calls recorded, calls timed, etc, etc.

    But at the airport they may help you because they like you or even they have a grudge against managements rules.

    If you get them to like you they can do almost anything.

  21. They have more customer unfriendly policies than that… Left me the option of being stuck 6 hours from home over night or stranded in a city on the west coast 500 miles from home cancelling my last leg – neither included compensation for a hotel. All because of a maintenance issue on their plane! I was at the airport in time to catch a Delta flight but nobody was at the US Airways counter for over 30 min and then they told me it was too late to get me on the Delta flight. I will never fly them again until they are fully integrated.

  22. They don’t need analysts when internet friends are able to email off everything already for them. Hopefully one of the benefits of the merger is getting axed by US Airways and having that carry over as well!

  23. Most airlines have firm rules forbidding the time change of a discounted fare to a later flight. It defeats the point of selling higher priced fares that allow changes if discounted fares have a back door similar privilege.

  24. The policy is different – but i can’t see why it’s so terrible? It will fade away once USAirways folds into American.

    There is no original fare bucket requirement as is needed on other airlines? If you there is a seat on the plane, you can move up to it.

    American charged all passengers for same-day confirmed changes until this year. Now, top tier elites get it waived, but it’s a small portion of passengers. On US – all elites get it waived. More restrictive confirmed stand-by policy on US – but likely what most travellers find most useful. If they get to the airport early, they can say, “put me on the next flight to vegas”. Moving later, helps if you are running late, but US does allow the flat tire rule. But most likely the people that are using the later confirmed or confirmed much earlier are trying to avoid paying for a more expensive ticket that was offered at that time. American charged for it, so the ticket difference needed to be more than the same day confirmed change for it be worth it.

  25. You mention the “Flat tire rule,” As you probably know several years ago there was a rule that stipulated if you showed at the airport counter within two hours of your departure, the airline was obliged to put you on the next available flight that had a seat to your destination, but I am not certain if that rule has changed since the deregulation of airline travel that has evolved over the last 20 years. I was a younger flyer nerd like you in the ’90s and vaguely recall it was a CAB rule 240 or something like that? I’ve asked a number of airport counter staff over the years if this rule still applies (usually I ask these airlines that want to charge for the same practice) and no on seems to know. Can you or any of your readers fill in the blanks on this? I think this is an important clarification to make.

  26. @ Brad — It’s my understanding that this isn’t a published right anymore, so I’m taking some liberties with the term. My point is that in general if you show up at the airport a bit late they’ll generally try to accommodate you on the next flight.

  27. This is not True American airlines same-day change confirmed if you purchase one of the cheaper first class seats you are not allowed to enter a first class seat that is not the exact same fare

    I just tried it a few minutes ago and they would not let me said there wasn’t “any room”
    Even though there was 3 seats

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