Remember Student Standby?

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967I ran across an old TWA ticket stub from March 19, 1967. I was flying from St. Louis to Cleveland on what the airlines called “Youth Fare,” but most of us dubbed “student standby.”

St. Louis to Cleveland for $16.54

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967I was able to fly from Missouri to Ohio for $16.54. I was racking my brain trying to figure out why I was going to Cleveland, then I figured out what was going on.

In March of 1967, I flew to Cleveland and probably got a ride down to Athens with one of Jim Stone’s friends so I could visit him at Ohio University to check out the school. It was a good thing I did. I had applied to OU, but I hadn’t gotten a rejection letter or an acceptance letter. Jim suggested we go by the admissions office to see what was going on.

“Your grades aren’t high enough to meet our standards,” I was told.

“Not good enough?” I countered. “I have a 3.85 average on a scale of 4.0. How smart do I have to be to get into this place?”

She pulled out my file, shuffled through the paperwork, then said, “Somebody made a mistake. You’re in.”

You were good unless you got bumped

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967The airlines were clear that your seat was safe only so long as the seat wasn’t sold to a full-fare passenger. Planes flew with lots of empty seats in those days (which is why they calculated that a half was better than a nothing), so the odds were pretty good that you were OK.

I never got bumped, but I saw others having to leave the plane. That always made me nervous because I had seen enough of those crash stories where some kid was interviewed, “Yes, I was going to be on that flight, but, at the last second, I was bumped. If that hadn’t happened, I’d have been on that smashed tin can still smoking in a cornfield in Iowa.”

I was doubly nervous when I finally became a paying customer that bumped the last standby. That was REALLY tempting fate.

When did it end?

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967I tried to find a little of the history of student standby, but didn’t run across much. The Daily Pennsylvanian had a story in 1968 that said that several airlines were phasing out the half-price standby fare, going for one charging two-thirds of the tourist class price. The trade-off was that it would be considered a reserved seat not subject to bumping.

TWA, interestingly enough, was NOT one of the airlines eliminating standby at that time.

In addition to bringing in revenue from what would otherwise be empty seats, the youth fares hooked a whole generation on flying, and airline execs were quoted as saying they hoped to build brand loyalty for future sales. “With a student fare, the student’s taste is catered to a particular airline. When he is 22, he is more likely to use that airline.”

6 Replies to “Remember Student Standby?”

  1. Ken,
    Did you end up attending Ohio University? And if you did, why? Why Ohio and not a college in Missouri or Illinois? (Unless a scholarship was involved.)
    My brother-in-law lived in Virginia but just had to attend Ohio State. (No scholarship.) Guess I just never understood attending college so far away without a scholarship.

    1. Yes, Dorothy, I transferred to Ohio University from Southeast Missouri State College in the fall of 1967. The impetus was my best high school friend, Jim Stone, who said, “If you don’t get out of Cape now, you’re going to be another Frony and stuck there for the rest of your life.”

      It was the best thing I could have done. I wasn’t that impressed with the photo courses I took, but I fell in with the staffs of the school paper and yearbook and learned more from them than any of my profs.

      Tuition in those days wasn’t like today. Plus, after starting to work for the local paper after my first year, I fought to become a resident of Ohio and qualified for in-state tuition.

      Here are some of the folks I worked with on The OU Post.

  2. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, Ken!
    Christmas, 1965, I arrived at Chicago O’Hare at the Air National Guard facility. Over at the civilian terminal, I caught a half-price military stand-by on Delta to St. Louis O’Lambert. They announced the venerable DC-7 piston/prop we were on was on its last flight, and would be retired for the arriving jets on Delta.

  3. Those student stand-by fares were the best. I went to college in Colorado, so my trips back and forth to Denver were somewhat regular as I had no car till I was a junior. TWA did a nice job, but one had to time the date and time of a flight to make sure a seat was available. I missed a few, but would always get the next one–except once. Attempting to sleep in the airport all night on the edge of three fold-down theatre type seats was futile. For all the money the program saved me, one night was worth it. The best trip was flying from Denver to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 1970 for under $20. I used Christmas money from my grandmother to have the experience of a lifetime. Wouldn’t have been possible without those TWA student fares. It was a great airline, dismantled piece by piece and ruined by twisted corporate raider, Carl Icahn. St. Louis has never been the same.

  4. I had a boyfriend in Ohio when I lived in MD. I loved student standby and all the money it saved me!!! Once I was due to fly in steerage class got bumped and ended up being placed in 1st class by stewardess…only time I have flown 1st class…aw the memories

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