Southwest Airlines is making a change to the way its complimentary standby option works for A-List and A-List Preferred members. The original policy, launched 6 months ago, allowed for free changes within two hours of the original departure time:
Free same-day standby will be provided for A-List and A-List Preferred Members traveling within two hours prior to their original flight departure time, between the same city pairs, on the original date of travel, where space is available.
My sources (unofficial, but I believe to be accurate) tell me that the two-hour rule, a significant limitation of the original plan, will be dropped on March 8, 2017.
At that point the option for free standby will be available at any time on the same day of travel. There will still be a limit in that the free standby only applies for departures PRIOR to the original booking, but it is still a significant improvement on the old policy. This is a real enhancement by the company, not an “enhancement” that airlines are known for these days.
I did some analysis when Southwest’s free standby program launched and only about 25% of the flights on the schedule had a viable standby option:
On Monday, September 19, 2016 Southwest Airlines has 3,710 flights scheduled covering 1,236 routes (I’m counting A->B and B->A separately since the flight times will vary between them, affecting standby options). Of those, 399 routes are only flown once daily so they are immediately eliminated from consideration. That leaves 837 other routes to consider. Of these only 232 have multiple flights spaced within the 120 minute window that allows for standby travel. That’s only 18.77% of routes where the new benefit is viable at all. Those 232 routes have a combined total of 908 flights a traveler could be booked on and conceivably catch an earlier flight for free, nearly 25% of the flights in the system. The 232 routes cover 52 departure airports.
Removing the 2-hour limitation will open that up significantly and put Southwest closer to the other US carriers with similar standby policies. Plus, still no change fees outside the same-day standby policy, something most other airlines do not offer to their elites, much less every passenger.
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