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Airport check in procedures

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Checking in for a flight has never been easier. Most major airlines encourage you to check in from home either online through their website or by using their app. Usually you can check in 24 hours before the scheduled departure time of your flight. During this check in procedure you will often be able to change your seats, let the airline know if you will be checking in any bags, and make any special requests (such as requesting a wheelchair). Depending on the airline you will need a printer to print out your ticket, although most airlines can now email or text your ticket to your phone. These electronic tickets are used the same as the paper tickets and can be used to get through the security checkpoints as well as to board the plane. When using the electronic tickets please make sure the screen brightness on your phone is set to its highest setting.

Some people still prefer to check in at the airport. Most airlines use a similar procedure. Electronic kiosks have mostly replaced the ticket agents. You will have to find your airline’s check in area and get into line. Finding each airline is usually not too difficult as you can look at most airport maps online and there are large signs everywhere both outside and inside the airport to help you. If you need to talk to an agent there will be someone there to help you, but otherwise most of the check in procedure at the airport is the same as if you had done it from home. I’d like to point out that some airlines (Spirit and Allegiant) charge a fee to check in at the airport.

Another way to check in at the airport is to use the curbside check in. This usually involves a porter (often called a skycap) who will help take your bags from your car to an outside counter. All the check in procedures are the same but it is often faster since it is located at the passenger drop off area. The skycaps do not work for the airline though and it is proper to tip them for this service.

If you have checked in online and you have bags to check, you can drop them off in the same check in area. Most airlines will have a different line for bag drop off.

Finally, it is important to note that almost all airlines have a minimum check in time. As a rule 45 minutes before departure seems to be the standard. Just know that in the busy summer months, it can take over an hour to check in at the airport and just as long to get through the TSA security checkpoint.

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Jay Muller

Author of The Flight Advisor