Playing the Standby Game on Lufthansa

The airline employee standby game is fun, but it can be frustrating too. Unlike standing by as a revenue passenger with top tier elite status on United, where you can generally count on being accommodated on whatever flight you want to standby for, this is not the case with airline employees (and their friends...), who are among the last to clear.

Friday afternoon I was trying to get from Frankfurt to Dublin on Lufthansa on standby—key word, trying. The loads did not look bad earlier in the day—an A321 with 185 seats overbooked by three with three waitlisted and six standing by.  So a colleague and I proceeded to the Senator Lounge about an hour before the flight, thinking our chance to make the flight was pretty good.

As a side note, travelers on staff/ID tickets with Lufthansa Miles & More HON, Senator, or Frequent Traveler status are permitted lounge access even when standing by. Star Gold members from other programs are not granted access.

Back to the story. We get to the gate just before boarding has started and find the waitlist is now 29 people deep. I am number 18 on the list so it doesn’t look good. We add our names to the jump seat list and I run into a friendly Irish-American Lufthansa FA I sat next to on my Lufthansa flight to Dublin last June. She doesn’t remember me (oy vey) but I remembered her—what a flirt she was to the crew and gate agents and how she was a woman who seemed to get what she wanted.

She was below me on the waitlist, but I leaned over to my colleague and said, “Mark my words. She will get on this flight.” She was having a nice chat with some of her other colleagues standing by for seats and perched only a few feet from podium, trying to include the Lufthansa Flight Manager (essentially the head gate agent) in her conversation.

In the end, she got a seat and my friend and I did not. Of course.

Now I’m not complaining—it could have been that the waitlist screen was just displaying priority incorrectly. But I have to doubt it. As I have mentioned before, for all the talk of Lufthansa and rules, Lufthansa is often willing to bend them when necessary and here it seems the gate agent was taking care of her own.

So I spent the next four hours back in the Senator Lounge. My colleague was able to catch an Aer Lingus flight that departed about an hour before the late Lufthansa flight, but I am glad I held back—the Lufthansa flight, though also overbooked, went out with open seats and I scored an exit row and an open seat next to me. While my friend paid 2EUR for a bottle of water, I enjoyed a Greek salad and all the beverages I wanted courtesy of Lufthansa.

Meanwhile, six of my other colleagues were trying to standby for Lufty’s late flight to Beirut to attend the wedding of one of our former colleagues. Due to high loads and a weight restriction on the flight, they missed it and were unable to attend the wedding. They had already tried to catch the morning flight to BEY and failed.

That’s the sad reality of flying standby. It can be great—you can go just about anywhere in the world if you work for an airline (thanks to partner agreements), but you can never count on getting a seat. If you really need to be somewhere, it is wise to purchase a ticket because you really are at the bottom of the waitlist totem pole, as so many of us found out on Friday.


florian July 11, 2012 at 02:25 am

Interesting, LX employees are not allowed to use the lounges when travelling on an ID ticket (but then again, not all lounge wardens are aware of this...) What ID priority did you travel with? AFAIK for jump seats priority doesn't matter. So getting along well with the gate agents/crew can pay off.

@florian: I was R2. Interesting point on jump seat priority--that would explain things.

ptahcha July 11, 2012 at 08:48 am

Interesting - I always thought you need to be jump seat certified (aka FA) to NRSA in the jump seat - or maybe that's just UA specific. Since now I've thought about it, I see plenty of Southwest employees ride in the jump seat.

ChillyFly October 14, 2013 at 07:20 am

Also depends on airline policy with regards to jump seats, and which jumpseat you are referring to. UK carriers can't grant access to anyone on flight deck jumpseats any more (due to DFT rules), but usually jumpseats (or at least some of them) are at the sole discretion of the Captain. For example in my carrier the Captain has complete discretion over whether to grant use of any jumpseats, and he can also choose who travels on two of them, wherever they are on the priority.

I have on the odd occasion been told by a ground staff agent (who was a sub contractor in our uniform) that my girlfriend was unlikely to make the flight, even though I said she had a cabin jumpseat. So I simply said, "Ok, well the aircraft isn't going anywhere without me, so if you're not in the departure lounge with a seat or a jumpseat boarding card at STD - 10, then text me and I'll get off and come and get you!"

Needless to say, she got a seat. I think the cases of ground staff 'trying it on' are rare, and tends to happen more at small bases where they all know each other, and also with sub contracted ground staff who don't really care about the airline employees because they don't get any perks themselves anyway.

Annie May 19, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Is this post still alive? Will be traveling on an ID ticket and hav some questions.

Annie, happy to answer any questions you have.

Profan July 26, 2016 at 03:05 pm

Have a lifemiles award ticket rdu-iad-muc-bud. The first leg on ua got delayed so I would miss my connection on lh to muc. Got rebooked on a (6 hours) earlier flight to iad. Now will be in iad early enough to catch a lh flight to FRA or a lx to zrh. Would lh consider letting me take earlier flights (assuming there are seats)? Otherwise have a very long connection.

Thank you, Matthew.

Hi Profan,

The answer is yes - explain the situation (schedule change) and hopefully you get a good answer.

Ana August 5, 2016 at 01:35 am

I have a quick question.. I am looking to fly standby to SIN early September and have booked stby business. Do I get priority over stby economy pax? If so, does that include LH staff on stby economy? I do not work for LH and was wondering how their priorities worked. I know for business stby, any LH staff will get priority, I was just curious how my priority over stby economy would be.

Thanks a lot in advance.

Ana, you will not necessarily have priority over economy -- clearance is based upon R-proirty (for example, R1, R2) and you first clear onto the flight and once cleared are assigned a seat in the highest cabin you paid for. Thus, all LH Group standbys, even if flying economy, would likely be ahead of you on the standby list.

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