I recently flew from Toronto to Ottawa and back in a single day to visit some friends. On the way back, I had the opportunity to stand by for an earlier return flight free of charge, which is something I had always wanted to try.
Let’s have a look at Air Canada’s same-day standby feature and how you can make use of it on Air Canada flights.
What Is Same-Day Standby?
Same-day standby is the ability to fly on an earlier flight than the one you were originally booked on at no additional cost. It is subject to availability and may be restricted to certain routes depending on the fare purchased, but 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 would be difficult to wait for an earlier flight that doesn’t exist.
The routes for which you can stand by depend on the original fare purchased.
For cash fares, all fares except for Economy (Basic) fares are eligible for same-day standby, but some are restricted to certain routes.
For tickets booked with Aeroplan points, you can stand by 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 and LaGuardia)
Since there are multiple flights each day between each of the above cities, this means you can standby 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 is no additional fee for same-day 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 (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.
I imagine that most people stick to the flight that was originally booked, but I can see how it would 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.
An 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 will 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, your name will be called by a gate agent and you will receive a new boarding pass. You must be present at the gate to receive your new boarding pass, should one be available.
After your name is cleared off of the waitlist and a new boarding pass is generated, you will 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 Standby a Useful Benefit?
Personally, I’ve only availed myself of the same-day standby feature once, which is the motivation for writing this article. In my situation, we had planned to fly from Toronto to Ottawa in the morning and return on one of the last flights in the evening after spending the day with friends.
Our plans changed when we found out that my wife’s family had planned a dinner with other family members that evening, so we wouldn’t be able to gather. I recalled that same-day standby was possible on our route, which we had booked on a Standard Economy fare using Aeroplan points, so I thought I’d look into it when we checked in for the first outbound flight.
In our case, it worked out well because there was plenty of space on an earlier return flight from Ottawa to Toronto. I also enjoy Super Elite status and have a co-branded credit card, so even if the flight was close to full, I’d have a good chance at being near the top of the waitlist.
In other situations, I can see this being a useful benefit for travellers on Air Canada flights, especially as it doesn’t cost anything extra.
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 have paid the highest fare, 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 or dynamic pricing, 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 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, you’d be better able to 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 standby will be better than if the flight is nearing capacity.
Same-day standby is an option to take an earlier Air Canada flight on the same day. 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. I was glad to have made use of it recently, although I don’t foresee myself using it all too often.
What do you think of same-day standby? Has it ever gotten you to your destination earlier for something important?