The Cans and Can’ts of Online Check-In for Your Next Flight

Online check-in was created to offer passengers the ability to check in for their flight, in advance, from virtually anywhere up to 24 hours in advance. It requires a bit of basic information (your name and booking confirmation number), and can either happen on your mobile app or on your home computer.
Generally speaking, you can choose your seat or upgrade it, pay for your checked bags, and even answer your security questions, like passport information. From there, you can print a boarding pass at home or in your office, get it emailed to you, or even sent to your airline’s mobile app. You can even check in directly on your mobile app and manage your seats and luggage there.
It’s important to note that even if online check-in is available, mobile boarding passes may not be accepted in all airports. If yours isn’t one of them, you’ll have to print your boarding pass the old-fashioned way.
Here are a few reasons thinks you should check in online.
Why Check In Online?
The benefit for airlines is savings: Saving time, saving resources, and saving you from headaches.
You can save time by not standing in line to check in or even check in on a kiosk. You can save time by not traveling with a checked bag: you can walk straight to the TSA security line. Your mobile boarding pass and your ID are all you need to get past security and right to your seat.
Do you need to check your luggage though? No problem, use curbside check-in and drop your luggage with the Sky Cap. (Don’t forget to tip them $2 per bag.)
You can also reserve your seat if you didn’t already select it when you bought your ticket. That not only helps you get the seat you want and you could even end up in an earlier boarding group.
To do this, look up your reservation on the airline website and look at the seating chart. Next open , and pull up your flight and corresponding seating chart. SeatGuru will show you several things and recommendations (seats that offer extra leg room, seats that are close to restrooms, etc.). These should help with your seat choice.
(If possible, do this as far in advance as you can. And keep in mind that you can do this step much earlier if you book your ticket on the airline website; you can choose it right then, rather than waiting until 24 hours before your flight.)
When CAN’T I Use Online Check-In?
According to the Smarter Travel article, there are a few instances when you can’t use online check-in.
You could be traveling in a large group who booked their tickets all at once. Or your first flight is not operated by the airline, but with a codeshare partner that doesn’t offer online check-in. You need special assistance or service, such as using a wheelchair or assistance for a child traveling alone. Or you were selected for secondary TSA screening. Or even because your airline doesn’t have your passport on file for an international flight.
The reality is that while online check-in may save time at the airport, it doesn’t mean you can put it off until the last minute. You still need to be at your gate and ready to board by the airline’s deadline.
Most airlines also have deadline for checking your bags baggage, so make sure you follow them. Two hours is generally a safe timeframe, so even if you’ve checked in online, get there early enough to check your bags.
Do you use online check-in? Why or why not? What would make you start using it more? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.
Photo credit: mtcv (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons)