Co-terminal standby travel is possible on award travel.
Recently I booked an ANA first class award from Chicago to Tokyo Narita with a connection on Thai Airways from Narita to Bangkok in business class the following afternoon. I was looking to get to Bangkok as quickly as possible, but booked the overnight connection in Tokyo because it was the only award space available.
Ultimately, I decided to abandon the Narita to Bangkok flight and booked an Air Asia X flight to Bangkok that was only about $100. Sure, that would mean six hours in coach, but it would save me the cost/hassle of a hotel when I was jet lagged (and I like Air Asia X). I allowed myself 90 minutes to connect in Narita, not considering that I would have to switch terminals.
Small problem: my ANA flight was delayed by an hour…and I missed the Air Asia X flight.
The two tickets were not at all related so I had no recourse from ANA. I still had my “back-up” Thai Airways ticket the following afternoon, but thought I would head over to Haneda Airport and try to standby on the midnight flight to Bangkok on Thai. I figured I had about a 50-5o shot of success and therefore it was worth the gamble.
The easiest solution, of course, would have been simply to call United to make the change to the Tokyo Haneda redeye. The problem with that was there was no award space on the HND-BKK flight…none in business or first class or even economy class.
I took the bus from airport to airport (cost about $30) and arrived into Haneda around 10p, two hours before the flight. I approached the business class check-in counter, handed the agent my Narita – Bangkok boarding pass, and asked nicely if I could get on the Haneda flight instead.
He appeared a bit confused by my boarding pass, but looked up my ticket, nodded, and told me he understood what I was trying to accomplish. He held up his palms to indicate “wait” and walked over his supervisor, who was wearing a maroon coat.
They conversed for a bit, the supervisor sat down at a workstation, and moments later a boarding pass popped out for business class on the Haneda to Bangkok flight.
(Non-Exhaustive) List of Co-Termianl Airports
Co-Terminal airports are airports located within the same city or greater metropolitan area that airlines often consider the same points for ticketing purposes. Here’s several examples:
- Buenos Aires: Ezeiza (EZE) / Aeroparque (AEP)
- Chicago: Midway (MDW) / O’Hare (ORD)
- Houston: Hobby (HOU) / Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
- London: Heathrow (LHR) / Gatwick (LGW)
- Los Angeles: Los Angeles (LAX) / Burbank (BUR) / Orange County (SNA) / Ontario (ONT)
- New York: Kennedy (JFK) / LaGuardia (LGA) / Newark (EWR)
- Tokyo: Haneda (HND) / Narita (NRT)
- Washington: National (DCA) / Dulles (IAD) / Baltimore (BWI)
Changing during irregular operations (cancellations, delays) between these points are easy. Voluntary changes are less easy.
Will this work every time? Probably not, but I wanted to write about this because the rules are absolutely silent about this. Neither explicitly permitted or prohibited, co-terminal standby (and standby itself) may be useful when you’re trying to reach your final destination as quickly as possible but at the mercy of the award space available. You’ll still be at the mercy of the operating carrier, but if you’re switching between flights on the same airline I’d say your chances of success are certainly worth the effort to ask.