Delta’s now allowing non-elites to stand by for an earlier flight for free

Aug 4, 2021

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What a lovely mid-week surprise! Effective immediately, Delta flyers can stand by for an earlier flight — completely free of charge.

Delta Air Lines already discontinued most change fees, but a difference in fare may apply. If you’re looking to move flights within a few days of departure, your new pick could be significantly more expensive, potentially costing you hundreds of dollars in additional airfare.

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As of today, flyers have a new free option at their disposal. Previously, general members and Silver Medallion elites had to pay $75 to stand by for an earlier flight — now, Delta’s no longer charging fee.

Related: Delta permanently drops nearly every change fee and more

As the airline explains, “the new flight must depart the same day, and standby requests or a confirmed change must be made within 24 hours of departure. Customers can make their same-day travel change directly within the Fly Delta app or delta.com.”

Note that the free standby feature will not appear if the new flight you’re selecting has seats available in the same fare class you originally booked. If that’s the case, you’ll only be able to select a confirmed seat on the new flight.

For most travelers, a confirmed change carries a $75 fee, though it’s waived for Diamond, Platinum and Gold elites.

With limited premium-cabin availability, you may find it easier to stand by for economy than business or first class. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

While Delta is often the first U.S. legacy carrier to implement policy changes (with American Airlines and United following), that isn’t the case this time around. Both American and United already offer free standby — American began on Oct. 1, 2020, and United flyers have been standing by for free since the beginning of this year.

American and United have the upper hand when it comes to flexibility, too — both airlines allow basic economy flyers to stand by for an earlier flight, but that isn’t the case with this new Delta policy. Note that Delta basic economy flyers do have the option to change their flights through the end of 2021, though a difference in fare may apply.

Some carriers have route restrictions as well. American and Delta only offer standby on flights within the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example. Some otherwise eligible routes only have one flight each day, so there may not be an earlier option available domestically, as well.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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