Have you heard of people missing their flight, even though they arrived at the airport, before the flight’s scheduled departure? Do you know that check-in counters at airports close 60 minutes before an international flight’s departure and 45 minutes for domestic sectors?
You may have a valid flight ticket, but unless you complete the check-in procedure, you will not be able to board the flight. Additionally, international travelers have other formalities to complete. So, how early must you arrive at the airport for your flight, to complete all the procedures?
Definition of Check-in
The term check-in for a flight entails arriving at the airport, for your flight and confirming your arrival with the airline ground staff who man the check-in counters. On checking in, the staff issues the passenger a boarding pass, against their ticket.
When checking-in passengers can select their seat if they have not done so at the time of booking their ticket. If the passenger does not request a seat preference, the staff at the counter allocates one at their own discretion.
If the passenger is carrying luggage that needs to be checked-in, then this is when it needs to be done. The luggage is tagged and sent to the aircraft.
What is a Boarding Pass
The boarding pass is a document or permits that the airline issues to passengers, at the time of check-in, giving them access to board a specific flight. Among other things the boarding pass has the flight number, date and scheduled time for departure, the gate number, the seat number, and the passenger’s name endorsed on it.
The boarding pass is an important document without which a passenger cannot board a flight. These days boarding passes in the electronic form, on the smartphone or tablet are also accepted.
There are different ways to check-in –
In person, the conventional way
This method of check-in requires the passenger to be present at the check-in counter at the airport. A passenger can get checked-in for their flight, as well as check-in their luggage.
Passengers traveling abroad will have to present their passport at the time of check-in, along with a valid ticket, in their name. It can be a paper ticket or an electronic one. Airlines also accept confirmation numbers that a passenger may have received while booking the ticket online or through an agent.
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In person, at a self-check-in kiosk
Most airlines have introduced self-check-in kiosks at airports which simplifies the process and lessens the queues and the wait. The machines are easy to operate and allows passengers to also enter the number of checked-in bags.
Passengers still have to submit the luggage to the staff at the checked luggage station. Passengers boarding international flights will have to show their passports to the airline staff.
Airlines allow passengers to do an online check-in 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure. Passengers will have to hand over the checked-in luggage to the airlines, at checked luggage station or at the staffed counter at the airport. International flyers will have to show their passports as well.
Check-in and boarding timelines
Airlines have a time limit within which passengers must check-in before the scheduled departure of a flight. The deadlines can vary, but the counters close between 30 to 60 minutes before boarding begins. Which technically means that even if you have a valid ticket you’ll not be allowed to board the flight, without the mandatory check-in.
After check-in passengers proceed for the security check. With passengers of all airlines converging at the security check, the queues and the wait here can be long.
Passengers flying overseas have to go through immigration and customs, apart from the check-in and security. And these procedures need to be completed before boarding the flight. Boarding on international flights begins around 45 minutes to one hour before the scheduled departure time.
Why Airlines Close Check-In counters
If you are late and miss the check-in window, you’ll probably think of it as harassment, at the hands of the airline. Considering you are on time for the flight. But, airlines need the buffer time for procedures that go on behind the scenes. For instance, loading the luggage, complete documentation before take-off etc.
This brings us to the question of the right time to arrive at the airport, for a flight. The different procedures involved in check-in have been explained above. There are always long queues, which can cause delays. So, reaching the airport at least 2 hours for a domestic flight and 3 hours for an international flight is advisable.
Keep all the above factors in mind, and arrive at the airport on time. Three hours before the flight is ideal to complete all the formalities at the airport. Airlines, generally have specific check-in regulations and timelines. Check details of the same on your carrier’s website.
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