You probably booked or at least paid for your electronic ticket online, so why would you stand in line at the airport to get your flight boarding pass, when you can check-in online and print your boarding pass the day before you leave for the airport?
With over 99% of all tickets now being issued electronically, most major airlines have added online check-in as a feature on their websites. Passengers with qualifying itineraries can view the latest flight information, change seat assignments, add personal information like frequent flyer numbers, contact details and/or passport numbers, and print their final boarding pass, all before packing a bag.
When/Where/How to Check In Online:
When:Â At least 1 hour, and up to 24 (sometimes 48), hours prior to flight departure
Where: Anywhere you have an internet connection and a printer
How:Â Â Â On the airline’s website. Look for a link or tab related toÂ “Check In” on the home page.
You will need:
* The airline’s record locator (aka, confirmation #), e-ticket number or other log in detail related to the passenger and/or reservation.
* Each passenger’s name exactly as it appears on his/her e-ticket
* For international flights : passport data
After a couple basic steps, including viewing the flights and filling some required information (such as passport number), there is typically an option to view and change seats. Once everything has been completed, the boarding pass can be printed on a normal paper printer.
On the day of your flight, if you are not checking luggage, just head straight to the gate, with your pre-printed boarding pass and required ID in-hand. Plan to arrive in time to clear security and be at the gate prior to the boarding cut off time.
If you are checking luggage, arrive at the airport in time to have the bags checked-in prior to the baggage cut off time (typically about 1 hour prior to departure, but varies.Â Know the baggage charges and regulations before you go). Where available, use the curbside check in, or, the “self-serve” kiosk at the airline’s check in counter.
Other “Perks” to Online Check In
You know those elusive “preferred” seats you can rarely get when you book? Most of them open up “at check in”. If you’re one of the first to check in, you may not be stuck with that middle seat.
Plus, if you plan to request an upgrade or have the opportunity to standby for an earlier return flight, your initial check-in time can give you higher priority on the upgrade and/or standby lists.
Perhaps not a perk, per-se, but in the case of an airline overbooking the flight, or an unexpectedly late-check in or tight connection, the reality is that passengers with a boarding pass are least likely to be “bumped”, or otherwise miss their flight.Â If you’ve ever been booked on a flight where there are more passengers than seats on the plane, or been stuck in line waiting to get a boarding pass, you’ll appreciate the chance to beat the odds by checking in far in advance – without having to spend extra hours at the airport.
What if you print your boarding pass and misplace it?Â – You can re-print it at home, or at the counter
Who Can’t Check In Online?
Each airline has some variation in policy, and level of technology. Generally speaking, online check-in is not available:
If you’re traveling with a lap child or if you are an unaccompanied minor
If you’re traveling to/from certain international destinations (especially if a visa is required)
If your first flight is operated by an airline other than the one the e-ticket is issued on.
For groups with more than 9 passengers
If you have a paper ticket
If your itinerary has changed since it was originally booked, or otherwise requires an agent’s service, prior to boarding.
Whether you breeze past the counter altogether or make a stop to check bags or finish up the last details, by checking in online,Â you should save yourself some time, compared to starting from zero at the ticket counter.
Already a pro at online check in?Â How about using your mobile phone or PDA to check in, and use as your boarding pass? Stay tuned as more airports, and airlines are going “go mobile”.