American’s Spin On Ending Same Day Standby Earns the Cranky Jackass Award

Earlier this week, American decided to stop offering free same day standby to customers who aren’t elite members in the AAdvantage program. While I’m sure some are steaming over the move, I’m not. It actually makes sense to me. I’m just pissed that they’ve decided to treat 06_09_12 jackasstheir customers like two year olds with their incredibly stupid spin. And for that, they get the not-so-coveted Cranky Jackass award.

The press release announcing the change was entitled, “American Airlines Streamlines its Airport Processes.” Usually a vague message like that means they threw a bunch of stuff into one release, hiding the bad news at the bottom. I think that’s what they teach in the College of Spin. If there was such a place, it would undoubtedly be located in a beautiful mountainous environment with grand vistas of panoramic wintry wonders (Siberia). But that’s not what happened here.

The entire release was focused solely on the fact that you can no longer standby for earlier flights on the day of travel unless you’re an elite member. You now have to pay $50 for a confirmed seat, if it’s available. Taking away this option does, in fact, “streamline” airport processes, but does I'm an Idiotthe customer care about that? No. They care about the changing benefits, and they’re not going to be fooled by that headline. Gimme a friggin’ break. Do I look that stupid to you?

Wait, don’t answer that. That wasn’t one of my finer moments.

But here’s the point. I completely understand why you’re doing this. I’m sure too many people were taking advantage of the same day standby option to avoid paying higher fares. Sure, you book the 6p flight and standby for the early morning flight. Or you book the redeye and fly during the day. That’s money out of your pocket and into the pocket of the consumer. I may not like it, as a non-elite flier, but I get it.

So don’t feed me a line of crap about how American is doing this “as part of its efforts to streamline processes and the customer experience during flight departure. . . . ” Clearly that’s a benefit to you as well, but I don’t care what the benefit is to you. I care what the impact is for me. Please stop treating me like a child and tell me why you’re doing this. I want to see this headline:

“American Airlines Starts Charging for Same Day Standby Because You Bastards Won’t Pay Enough for a Ticket”

Now that would be refreshing.

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23 Comments on "American’s Spin On Ending Same Day Standby Earns the Cranky Jackass Award"

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A Cranky Jack well earned. I do agree with you, why feed us with all the extra bull? “Streamlined the airport blah blah blah…”

David SF eastbay
As I get older in this world I understand more that when a big company says they are doing something “wonderful for our customers”, “listening to our customers”, or “making something easier for our customers” you know it means they are only doing something that will make and/or save them money. The airlines want you to pay for everything now in what (mostly) used to be part of the ticket. Will your local restaurant start doing the same? The dinner is $8.95, if served on a plate that will be $3.00 extra, want a fork/knife/spoon that’s $2.00 to rent or… Read more »

Yes, AA’s press release lies to our faces, but I’m afraid that this is par for the course. They could take out the seats in the plane and then announce that “AA is helping fight obesity by allowing passengers the freedom to stand for their flight!”

Jack from
I, for one, am pretty upset about this, together with the recent fee hikes for luggage and blankets… Seems they’re out to screw with the long-standing customers who aren’t elite (I don’t fly enough, and being based outside of the US, I don’t get miles with my credit card). Yes, still best loyalty program that I can use. No, not the nicest airline anymore. BTW, if you seriously have enough free time to stand by for (possibly) the whole day because you want to fly that time rather than the redeye, you have too much time on your hands. Might… Read more »


Well as a Chicago based flyer who is required to fly United for work most of the time, this really takes American out of consideration for me for my personal flights. While I might lean slightly toward United for personal because of my elite status (and the available upgrades), many times American would be less expensive, so I’d go for American. But now if they take my flexibility away, it’s unlikely I’ll fly American at all. So, after all of this, United wins…


P.S. Nice photo Cranky – love the orange ear plugs


Thanks for the info, and for the great deconstruction of the press release. I forwarded your comments to my Marketing/Communications major daughter as a real-life example of what-not-to-do!


Cranky? Or Adam Sandler?

Anyone have any idea how many people do this anyways? My sense is this has little to do with people gaming the system (avoiding higher fares but standing-by) but rather just raising revenue from fees. The sad part is that it flies directly in the face of core airline economics. A seat has near zero marginal cost, so if someone gets an empty seat (by definition since it’s stand-by) on an earlier flight, that is effectively freeing AA to sell (or otherwise fill) that seat they vacated on the later flight. In other words, that is a net benefit for… Read more »
Is there an open nominating process for the Cranky Jackass Award? If so, I would like to nominate United for an e-mail I got today (they have it posted here:,,53364,00.html?_&vs_campaign=DOTOnTimeEmail). The title was “United is number one at getting you there on time”. You then read, well, there really only #1 of the old-school carriers (please ignore those whippersnappers at Alaska and JetBlue!). Oh, and it was for one month. Oh, and if you look at the numbers differently, US Air actually beat us ( Now I’m not sure it fits all of the Cranky Jackass criteria, but it… Read more »
It’s a friggin’ press release. They are all spin. Not worth getting upset about that fact, IMO, unless you want to get upset each and every time you read a press release. As for the actual change: I don’t think it’s a bad thing. AFAIK, “no fee leader” WN does not offer free standby either — you have to buy up to full-fare or something. Ultimately, you the consumer have to decide what the benefit of flying earlier is worth to you. When WN wanted $120 to fly me two hours earlier from ONT to SJC once, I passed.
Evan has said it… An empty seat for a 9am flight is ‘unsaleable’ by 8.30am (I am being very generous here since boarding has started). Standby passengers are (should be) the last to get on so the seat remain ‘unsold’ until the last minute. Letting the standby passengers fly ‘earlier’ vacates a seat at 6pm (or any other flight after 9am) which can be sold. Perhaps at a higher price as the ’emergency’ buyer might be desperate! For some frequent (on the hour) destinations, sending some pax off on earlier flights & others on later flights means they could even… Read more »
It is a necessary change due to people gaming the system and adding to delays a the airport and gates. Most airlines now operate with only one agent to board a flight and two if they are real lucky. Just watch any gate prior to a flight and the workload on the agents is ridiculous. Every conceivable request from 1/2 the passengers comes their way and they are trying to dispatch an aircraft. Any changes need to incur a cost. Perhaps this will cut down on work load at the airport and help ensure these flights get out on time.… Read more »

I use standby frequently on business trips on United. Schedule the latest return flight and try to catch an earlier one at the airport. I have always been able to get on an earlier flight from DEN to IAD. This change would definitely affect which airline I would book for work given that I want the flexibility.

Although I’m sure United and the others will match the policy.


AA doesn’t have a blog? This came from PRNewswire? In which century does this airline operate?

@Evan, @coldtusker: Allowing a person to standby on an early flight is helpful only if the airline sells the seat that is freed up. Otherwise it doesn’t help the airline (other than generating goodwill). The airline has to weigh the expected return from future sales against the expected return from change fees. Ideally, from an airline’s perspective, it should be doing revenue management up to the last minute, so for example it can charge me for standing by if there is a lot of space on my later flight, but offer it for free if my later flight is oversold… Read more »

[…] so caught up in our passions, we forget they’re not shared by everyone else on earth.  Today Cranky Flier awarded American Airlines the Cranky Jackass Award for instituting a $50 fee for same day standby.  AA is one the major carriers from Bradley […]

The Traveling Optimist
I wonder if the 80/20 rule still applies: 80% of revenue from 20% of the customers, those 20% being the high-mileage road warriors. If it does, then up to 80% of the customer base is exposed to this $50 fee. Boil off the once-a-day international flights may help some but it still seems a fairly large potential revenue opportunity assuming at least half of those customers would take an earlier flight if their plans allowed it. At the end of the day, I agree wholeheartedly with Ron. Waive the fee if the ticketed flight is oversold and an earlier flight… Read more »

Agreed- they “stretched” a little to far with their positive spin on this new move even though I totally understand why they are doing this… the entire standby system has been a mess for sometime.

David M

The ability to jump on an earlier flight for free if I got to the airport in time was one of the reasons I often preferred to take an American Eagle ERJ over a Southwest 737 on the SAN-SJC route. Often times, mostly southbound, I’d arrive at SJC in time to hop on the flight before mine and be able to get home that much sooner. Eagle has dropped the route so it’s no longer a consideration, but it was one of American’s advantages.


There has to be another side to the story. I’m wondering what rationale AA’s PR department had for focusing on making the airport experience so streamlined.

I agree with you 100% – I don’t see what AA has to hide, but perhaps they were afraid of something.

I fly American all the time and I am Platinum…but not Exec. Platinum. I make most early standby return flights due to status…only Friday afternoon flights will I stand in DFW for three early flights to Austin and finally settle for my eventual seated ticket. Every time an Exec. Plantinum walks up to the counter and checks in…they bump me back one spot. If I had a way to guarantee a seat to fly home early for $50, I’d take it just so I don’t have to play the waiting game and get bumped by higher status. Thus, AA is… Read more »
To finish the last post…therefore the people that AA will be making the most $50 confirmed standbys will be their most loyal customers…the Exec Platinum and Platinum. All standby seats on 95% full planes will now be bought for $50. The Advantage status flyers will not want to risk being bumped by the infrequent flyer. Having status on AA has just taken a HUGE hit by diminishing a once nice feature of flying AA. Flying standby on AA has just been prostituted to the first person willing to pony up $50 until the standby seats are taken. (Someone at AA… Read more »