Breaking the Code: Delta Airlines Standby Codes

You’re at the airport standing in front of the self service kiosk that just printed out your seat request card.  It’s your first time using travel benefits and are feeling a bit stressed and excited at the same time.  You look down and inquisitively study your seat request card and notice that on the top left corner below your name it reads “Priority S3”.

“What the heck does that mean?” you wonder and pull out your smart phone ready to call the person whose benefits you’re about to fly under.  No one answers, so you do the next best thing and Google “Delta Airlines standby priority s3” and land on my blog.  You end up on this article that lists the codes by the order of importance rather than providing a concise explanation.  It helps a little or maybe not so you go on your way.

Ever since I started The World Via Standby in June 2011 I’ve noticed that the search engine terms that lead readers to my blog are often “delta standby priority codes”, “traveling with s3 priority in delta airlines”, “s3c priority delta” and “delta standby codes”.  It doesn’t surprise me at all since my blog primarily focuses on flying standby with Delta Airlines.  If your benefits come from another airline like United, the codes will be different, but the structure will be similar. I may cover them in a future post.  Without further ado here are the specifics:

S1-Emergency.  Only used if an immediate family member was met with unfortunate events and the danger of death is imminent or other dire circumstances.

S2-Priority.  A very favorable priority status.  It improves the chances of clearing the standby list. Delta employees and their immediate families are allotted six of these a year and are especially handy for transoceanic flights when you really want that Business Elite seat!

S3-Standard Travel.  The priority code that Delta employees and their immediate family members normally use.  Unlike the S2 priority code this one is limitless.

S3B-Parents, Retirees, and Nondependents. Once a Delta employee retires this will be the standby code they will be using.  Also goes for parents and non dependent children. Unfortunately, these are not free for mom and dad if they want to travel on a transoceanic flight and their child (the active employee) is married.  Also non dependent children may purchase S3B yield fares for a price.  Interestingly, parents and non dependents can be upgraded to an S3 status if they travel with their active employee family member.

S3C-  This status is used for active airline employees that are affiliated with Delta Airlines such as Skywest, Shuttle America, etc and their immediate families.

S4-Buddy Passes-  Although last in priority it’s still pretty great!  Employees get a limited amount of buddy passes a year and can give them to their extended families or friends, but like S3B it doesn’t come free.  Also traveling with the employee doesn’t make much of a difference and will still fly on S4 status.

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