Good things to know when preparing for your flight: Check-In


Flight Booking and Check-In Guide

No matter where a commercial plane flies to, check-in is a crucial part of flying for commercial passengers. Airlines use check-in to log the passengers present at the airport for each flight, to take passenger luggage and put them in the airplane hold, and to issue the passengers with boarding passes, which are required to pass through security. Years ago, the only way to check-in was at the check-in desk, but today there are many options for checking in to help reduce waiting times, and make departures more convenient and stress-free. With the advent of the internet it is now possible to print off flight passes as soon as they have been purchased, or even check-in online. These methods alongside luggage drop-off points and self-service machines, means that the check-in desk can be avoided altogether. Airline service desks are synonymous with long queues and huge waiting times, and so these new ways to check-in have been praised by frequent flyers and holiday-makers alike. This guide covers the check-in options available in airports around the world, explains the details of each option and the process of checking-in, and gives advice on preparations for the night before the flight.

Check-In Counter

Every airline that flies passengers to and from airports will have their own check-in desks in the airport departures building. Larger airports may dedicate entire terminals to a single airline, such as London Heathrow Terminal 5 (British Airways). The check-in counter registers travellers for each flight, and weighs and sends off passenger luggage. Passports are required and sometimes booking information is required. It is recommended to check-in at least two hours before the flight. Airport desk check-in is the longest yet simplest way to check-in, and they also provide the chance of a free seat upgrade in some cases.

Online Check-In

Online Check-In is a fairly new technology which is the fastest and most convenient way to check-in. The traveller needs to register and book a ticket with the airline first, and then log-in to the account and provide flight and passport details to check-in. If the traveller has no luggage, then he can skip straight on through to security. If there is luggage, then the traveller can even go to the airline check-in desk, or use a quick luggage drop-off point. Online check-in provides an e-ticket which must be printed. The airline might not need to see it but security will.

Check-In Machines

Self-service check-in machines are available in many international airports to help speed up the process. The machine will need the passenger’s passport, and either the ticket purchase code or a printed e-ticket. Then the machine will let the passenger select a seat (if applicable), or offer the chance to upgrade. The machine will then print off the boarding pass. Check-in machines are provided by the airlines and not the airport, so check on the airport website to see which airlines offer self-service machines. The passenger can then proceed to security with the boarding pass after handing in their luggage.

Check-In Times

Even if online check-in or self-service check-in is used, travellers should always leave plenty of time so they can get through security and make it to the departure gate. Depending on the airport and whether the flight is domestic or international, check-in times range between 3 hours and 90 minutes. 3 hours is usually required for long haul and international flights, 2 hours for trans-continental flights, and 90 minutes for domestic flights. Many passengers arrive at the airport purposefully late to save on time, but there is always a risk in doing this if the airport is busy. If a flight is overbooked – which happens more often than it might be imagined, late arrivals to check-in risk the chance of being bumped to the next flight.

Evening Before Flight Check-In

It is important to be ready for the flight the night before so everything goes smoothly during departure. For certain circumstances including special medical considerations or flying with a pet, the passenger will need to check-in at the airline desk. For online check-in, it is best to sign in to the airline’s website and check in the night before. Make sure the e-ticket is printed off, and it is best to print off a spare in-case one gets lost. Check-in times should be noted, and it helps to note the location of any self-service luggage drop-off points in the airport.

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