First of all, let me say I amazed myself initially with the thought that I could purchase a next day ticket on Delta for $300 including all taxes and fees. The only problem of course, was that it was an evening flight and I wanted an early morning flight. The difference in price ranged from $400-$600 to score a morning flight. Of course that was way out of my price range, and thus creativity ensued.
Depending on the airline, you can fly standby on an earlier flight, or sometimes a later flight same day for free. Delta does not offer this service. No standby. None.
What it does offer is what they call "Same Day Standby". This comes at a fee of $50, and requires you to call within three hours of the desired flight to request a seat. If a seat is available, you'll be given a seat assignment and pay $50.
This may sound dandy, it did to me. In fact, I verified that there were plenty of seats available on the 5:30 a.m. flight when I purchased my ticket for 5;30 p.m. I was politely told it would probably be no problem to get on this flight.
I stay awake until 3:30 a.m. (the flight is actually for my sister leaving Kansas City and thus is an hour prior to me, which also adds to what soon becomes a fun dilemma). The polite customer service representatives that greeted me the day prior (as I verified multiple times how standby works to make sure I did not end up screwing myself) were replaced by rude representatives who were now demanding my reservation number before answering a simple question such as, "How many seats are available on Flight 5859?" They refused to give out any information without my reservation number. Every time I obliged, and would hear, "I am sorry, but there are no seats available."
The 5:30 a.m. flight was full. There was a 7:30 a.m. flight, which I would have to wait another 2 hours to call (has to be within a two hour window). Let's just say, that's about how the morning went. I managed to get about 45 minutes of sleep total, as I repeatedly attempted to call as soon as it hit within 3 hours of flight. I changed my initial approach to start verifying empty seats by acting as though I just wanted to purchase a coach seat. Still no luck.
Finally, four flight departures later, at 12:30 p.m., my sister was granted access to a seat on the flight. This brought her arrival time 5 hours earlier, which was better than a midnight arrival. In all, I saved roughly $400 with this approach, but would never, ever. . . . .ever use Delta Stand By Service again.
Too much hassle, rudeness, and ....financial cost, when you can simply say.. fly FREE with Airtran on a later flight same day as your ticket. Only issue there, is if the remaining flights of the day are full, you're out of luck and get to purchase a ticket for another day.