How to Use Air Canada Same-Day Airport Standby

One option available to travellers booked on eligible Air Canada fares is same-day airport standby.

This feature lets travellers waitlist for an earlier flight than the one on which they originally booked.

If you need to get to your destination earlier, this can be a very useful option to take advantage of, especially since it doesn’t cost anything extra.

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What Is Air Canada Same-Day Airport Standby?

Air Canada same-day airport standby is the ability to fly on an earlier Air Canada flight than the one you were originally booked on at no additional cost.

It’s subject to availability, and may be restricted to certain routes depending on the fare purchased. However, if you’re eligible, it applies to all passengers, regardless of Aeroplan Elite Status.

Flying on an earlier flight requires there to be multiple flights between two particular cities in a day. After all, it’d be impossible to standby for an earlier flight that doesn’t exist.

The routes for which you can standby depend on the original fare purchased, and you can find the availability outlined on the fare breakdown chart for your origin and destination.

All cash fares except for Economy (Basic) fares are eligible for same-day standby, but some are restricted to certain routes, as we’ll discuss below.

For tickets booked with Aeroplan points, you can standby for earlier flights, too. Since Aeroplan tickets aren’t available in Economy (Basic), you’re able to stand by with all fares, although some are restricted to certain routes only.

In the charts, note that free same-day standby in the Economy (Standard), Economy (Flex), Premium Economy (Lowest), and Business Class (Lowest) fare categories is restricted to “select routes” only.

In these fare categories, standby is only allowed on three particular travel corridors with many scheduled flights per day:

  • Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa
  • Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary
  • Toronto and New York (Newark, JFK, LaGuardia)

Since there are multiple flights each day between each of the above cities, this means you can stand by for an earlier flight between Toronto and New York, Toronto and Montreal, or Vancouver and Edmonton, as well as the other cities within each grouping. 

There’s no additional fee for same-day airport standby between these cities, so doing so won’t put an unwelcome dent in your wallet.

Note that with the aforementioned fares, you cannot stand by for an earlier cross-country, transborder (besides Toronto–New York), or international flight.

For those, you’d need to have purchased an Economy (Comfort), Economy (Latitude), Premium Economy (Flexible), or Business Class (Flexible) fare.

With these higher fares, you’d be able to stand by for an earlier flight on any route in Air Canada’s network, again at no cost. This means that if you were originally booked on an evening flight from Vancouver to Toronto, you could waitlist for an earlier flight, although this is subject to availability.

It’s worth noting that most people stick to the flight that they originally booked, but it can be useful for someone to catch an earlier flight if their travel plans changed at the last minute. Doing so without any additional cost is an added bonus, even if you have to leave it up to the last minute.

A very important note is that same-day standby is not available if you’ve already checked your bags. So, if you plan on standing by for an earlier flight, it’s best to do so without any checked luggage.

How to Stand By for an Earlier Flight

Once you’ve decided that you’d like to waitlist for an earlier flight, you can begin the process as you check-in for your flight. You can do this both on the Air Canada App and on an internet browser.

On the check-in menu, select “Standby early”. You’ll be shown a list of available flights for standby.

Simply select a flight and then click on “Confirm”. 

At this point, your name will be added to the waitlist for the flight. If you have Aeroplan Elite Status and/or an Aeroplan co-branded credit card such as the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card, your position on the waitlist will be higher than someone without status or an Aeroplan credit card. 

Once check-in closes for the flight, either at 45 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights or at 60 minutes prior to departure for international flights, the waitlist will begin to clear. At this point, all passengers who were on the waitlist for a ticket or for an upgrade will be processed through Air Canada’s system to determine if they receive their waitlisted flight or upgrade.

If your spot on the waitlist clears, you’ll receive a new boarding pass, either from the gate agent or via the app. You must be present at the gate to receive your new boarding pass, should one be available.

After your name is cleared off the waitlist and a new boarding pass is generated, you’ll be removed from your original flight.

Therefore, if you’ve confirmed your intention to stand by for an earlier flight, you must be at the airport in time for that flight. If not, you risk losing your spot on your original booking, which could put you in an uncomfortable situation.

Is Same-Day Airport Standby a Useful Benefit?

In some situations, same-day airport standby a useful benefit for travellers on Air Canada flights, especially as it doesn’t cost anything extra.

Air Canada passengers can make use of same-day airport standby

For the restricted routes and fares, since there are many (often hourly) flights between each of the cities, getting to your destination earlier may accommodate an unexpected business dinner or allow you to get home to family sooner. 

For the flexible fares, since you paid for the highest fare to begin with, you have access to the most flexibility with your ticket. In the event that there are multiple flights available between your city pair, such as between Toronto and Vancouver or between Toronto and London, same-day standby affords you the opportunity to get to your destination sooner at no extra cost.

Same-day standby could save you money or points, too. If you booked a later flight due to a lower cost, but then wind up waitlisting and confirming an earlier, more expensive, flight, you’d have wound up with your ideal flight without necessarily paying more for it. 

On the other hand, taking advantage of same-day airport standby carries the risk of being stuck at the airport for longer than you’d like if there isn’t any space available on your waitlisted flight. Since you need to be at the gate to receive your boarding pass, this could result in fruitlessly pacing back and forth between the lounge and the gate.

If you subscribe to ExpertFlyer, or by keeping an eye on the Air Canada app, you can gauge your odds by monitoring the flight load prior to departure. If you see plenty of seats available on a flight, your odds of a successful same-day airport standby will be better than if the flight is nearing capacity. 

Conclusion

Same-day airport standby is an option to take an earlier Air Canada flight on the planned day of your departure. It’s available on specific Air Canada routes, depending on which fare you originally booked into.

On an eligible route and fare class, the option is available to all Air Canada passengers and not just those with Aeroplan Elite Status, although having status will give you a better chance of confirming your waitlisted standby seat at the gate.

While its applications are limited to certain routes or to more expensive fares, being able to change your flight at the last minute for no cost is indeed a valuable benefit.