Five Words We Don’t Want To Hear: “Sorry, We’ve Checked In Full”

by Kerwin McKenzie on April 7, 2015

As we fly standby around the globe, there’s always five word we don’t want to hear and it’s “Sorry, we’ve checked in full.”


Lufthansa (LH) Boeing 747-8i Left Wing Los Angeles, CA (LAX)


Our hearts sink, our hopes are dashed, the kids start crying, your family starts blaming you for ruining their day and vacation and the list goes on and on. All of a sudden you are public enemy #1! Minutes before, you were on top of the world and all of a sudden, it all changed.


It gets even worst if the agent follows the conversation with “…the next flight is tomorrow and you’ll have to re-list.” Even worst if the next flight is a week away in off seasons!


So how did you get to this annoying place? How could you have let this happen to you and worst yet, your family and how do you avoid it the next time around?


Well, you have to do your research. That means checking the loads, (which I know is difficult, but help is on the way :-)), looking for alternate plans, i.e. depart from an alternate airport, choosing a different destination, changing your plans, etc.


So I’m here already, enough of making me feel bad you may be saying, how do I get out of this sticky situation? Well, if you’ve been rolled to the next flight, that’s not too bad, but then your position on the standby list may change. So here are a few things you can do to mitigate this issue in the first place. You wont be able to never make it happen, but you can try your best:


  1. Check flight loads. This goes without saying. If you are flying your own airline this is easier as you can check your Intranet before you travel as well as during your trip on your mobile phone. If you are in a local where you don’t have Internet access or you are roaming, you should get a local SIM card. You can usually get these at an airport store or a shop in the city. I’m developing some tools to help you better check loads so stayed tuned.
  2. Know your flight schedules. It’s your responsibility to know which carriers serve your route as well as the ways to get there. Sometimes it may mean taking a connecting city and sitting tight until the connecting flight, but you’ll get home rather than be #40 on the list with only 5 open seats and this is the last flight of the day. The Passrider Flight Schedule program is designed with your needs in mind, so use it.
  3. Research backup flights. If you see that it looks dismal on your intended flights, you should already have backups in mind. Also, its good to know your cut off, so if you know that you need 45 minutes to make a backup flight, then watch the time and if it does not look like you’ll make it, cut your loses and go. And don’t go back and check if you would have made it. I have a friend who does that and its just painful, so don’t do it. Stick with the decision you made based on what you knew at the time.
  4. Check alternate airports. Most passriders don’t do this and its silly not to. If you are say flying into Newark, NJ (EWR), you should also check options into JFK, LGA, ISP, HPN and even PHL based on your own airline and/or those for which you have agreements. One thing too is that if you are in Europe and trying to get to a particular airport and can’t just get any flight across the Atlantic. At least you are on the same continent as your home.
  5. Check alternate transportation methods. If the flights are full you may as well try another means. Some cities are connected via buses and trains and even ferries.
  6. Check the length of the standby list. I once listed for an American flight form Miami to San Juan on an Airbus A300-600 (so you know how long ago this was) and the agent did not tell me the length to of the standby list. Once I got to the airport I realized I was #94 on the list! I eventually got out two flights later, but I could have spent quality time with my aunt had I known. So always remember to check that little piece of information and make proper decisions accordingly.
  7. Talk to fellow passriders. Make friends at the gate. You can usually tell the passriders as they look very anxious and are checking their phones more than the average persons. Maybe you can share a ride with them, if you can drive to the next destination. Or perhaps you can split a hotel room. Use the hotel search engine to the right of this page or the hotels page to help you find a place. Of course ensure you have a good rapport before doing any of these. Or maybe you can just have coffee or dinner while you drown your sorrows about being left behind later. Misery loves company.


And even with all this, there maybe a cancellation and you are hosed.


Good luck out there. What have you found in your travels? Leave a comment below.


Delta CRJ Taking off from LaGuardia, NY (LGA)




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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar fred April 11, 2015 at 8:07 am

You left off the worst. You checked the web site, plenty of seats. Get to the airport, high enough on list to get on, then find out the plane is weight restricted and they are not taking stand bys to fill seats.


avatar Rob G. April 12, 2015 at 4:42 pm

I  Last week flying from LAX to SAN, I found that a ticket agent for XXXXXXX Airlines gave out hotel & food vouchers for 6 oversold seats….. I thought for sure that I wouldn’t get on as an “employee traveler” I started to leave to look for anther flight but it was already 10pm.    Suddenly, the agent was frantically paging 4 passengers.   He had bought off too many passengers and 4 seats remained empty.  Luckily for me, because my bedtime is 10pm, I was able to return to my home base in San Diego.


avatar John Grattan April 15, 2015 at 2:59 am

Know the dress codes. Once at MIA, bumped 3x then asked if we were ready to board, the checking supervisor told me I could not board in short pants. I offered to do a quick change, but my baggage was gone already. Had to buy
expensive long pants at the gift shop. My “airport pants” continue to remind me: DO NOt FORGET THE DRESS CODE!,


avatar Ny April 19, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Well, one more thing to add, since I had a pleasure to experience it. I was jump seating from St. Louis / STL – Albuquerque , ABQ (via Denver). When I was listed, the flight was full and there were no other pilots listed. After I was the airport, I Had more than an hour to check in. So, right at One hour, I checked in. After I checked in, another pilot also checked in. Since the flight was full, we both ended up in the cockpit. We were buckled in and ready to go, and here comes the load master and says “we have to bump one of you off. we are overweighed by 200#. So they decided, whoever checked in first, stays, So I stayed and the other pilot unfortunately was bumped off. The captain stated that this happend only once in his 25 year career. So, it’s a good idea to check in ASAP.


avatar Kerwin McKenzie April 19, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Great story :).
Must have been really important cargo.



avatar Stephen April 22, 2015 at 6:26 pm

How or can we check flight loads on flights?


avatar Kerwin McKenzie April 24, 2015 at 8:10 pm


Thanks for your comment.
Not just yet, but we are working on a solution.



avatar Judy April 24, 2015 at 7:51 pm

First rule for me (domestic flights)  is to allow enough time to get on a flight, meaning if I have to be back home by a certain day,
I allow 1-2 days for standby and any problems, delays, full flights, etc.   I also keep a list of alternate flights and connections.

Secondly, if traveling internationally, I always have a backup ZED ticket on another airline.   I research schedules ahead of time to allow getting from one airline/terminal to the next should I need to change carriers.  3-4 hours is a safe amount of time between not getting on one airline and having to get back through the system (check-in, security) etc for the other airline (assuming they are not in the same gate area).  


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