Standby passengers' possession of a plane seat usually means they'll get to fly


Q: At what point does a standby passenger become a passenger with full rights? After being admitted as a standby passenger on a recent Delta flight, I was asked to relinquish my seat when a regularly ticketed passenger arrived just as the door was about to close.

A: According to Neil Monroe, a spokesman for Delta, it is unusual for a standby passenger to be asked to give up a seat once the passenger has boarded the airplane. Delta's policy dictates that a passenger with confirmed reservations must show up at least 10 minutes prior to scheduled departure or risk losing the right to a seat if the plane is full. Mr. Monroe said there are rare circumstances in which a standby passenger who has boarded might be bumped -- for example, if a regularly ticketed passenger has a series of international connections to make and cannot travel at any other time. Such decisions are made by the agent in charge at the gate.

Most other carriers, including TWA and American Airlines, have similar policies. Martin P. Heires, a spokesman for American Airlines, says a standby passenger, once boarded, has the same rights as a regularly ticketed passenger. A TWA spokesman says the airline mayyield in favor of the late passenger with a reserved ticket if the ticketed passenger also has a boarding pass. Rather than automatically asking the standby passenger to leave, the spokesmen for both airlines said the gate agent would probably ask for volunteers.

When a standby passenger on any airline is asked to relinquish a seat, the airlines are not required to offer any compensation. Hoyte Decker, assistant director of consumer affairs for the Department of Transportation, said that to qualify for compensation, a person must have confirmed reservations. Even though a standby passenger, once on board the airplane, may hold a ticket, the status block of the ticket would reflect the passenger's lack of reservations. Mr. Decker said his agency encouraged airlines to ask for volunteers who would be offered some form of compensation in return for delaying their departure.

Q: Can you supply the name of one or more organizations that arrange tours for grandparents and grandchildren?

A: Grandtravel, 6900 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 706, Chevy Chase, Md. 20815; (301) 986-0790 or (800) 247-7651, a 7-year-old company that specializes in travel for grandparents and grandchildren, is offering 16 domestic and foreign programs with about 30 departures this year. Destinations include the Netherlands, Kenya, the American Southwest and Alaska. The Australia Down Under/Outback tour, June 18 to July 4, includes visits to Melbourne, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Alice Springs.

Beginning this summer, the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York 10024, (212) 769-5700 or (800) 462-8687, will offer educational trips for children accompanied by parents or grandparents. The three destinations are Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands and Australia. Groups are accompanied by lecturers from the museum, as well as a teacher from the host country who will focus on the wildlife, geology, history and anthropology of the area.

Each of the three itineraries includes a visit to the home of a family from the region. Natural Wonders of Costa Rica, from July 8 to 17, includes visits to Santa Rosa National Park, a tropical forest home to monkeys, coatimundis and tapirs; Dundee Ranch, a hacienda, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, home to 500 butterfly species and 50 types of hummingbirds.

Vista Tours (1923 N. Carson St., Suite 105, Carson City, Nev. 89706, [800] 248-4782) has two grandparent-grandchildren itineraries. A seven-day South Dakota bus tour that includes visits to Rapid City, Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park departs on June 19, July 3 and Aug. 7.

A five-day Reno and Lake Tahoe bus tour visits Lake Tahoe, the Ponderosa Ranch, Virginia City and Donner Summit, where the Donner Party was stranded in the winter of 1846-47. There is single departure from Reno on Aug. 15.

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