It’s safe to say no one likes to spend their time in an airport line waiting to check-in. And as people’s lives become busier than ever before, the idea of hauling one’s bags to an airport hours before a flight leaves only to wait around in queues in less than appealing.
Nowadays online check-in has made this issue a lot easier to manage as travellers can check-in online before arriving at the airport and simply dropped off any checked luggage before heading to the gate.
Depending on the carrier, passengers may can also choose their meal options, add details about baggage quantities and most importantly select their preferred seating.
The good news is that just about every major airline offers this online check-in as an option nowadays, however, there are circumstances where travellers won’t be able to check in this way and will need to be sure to get to the airport early to secure your spot the good old-fashioned way.
To check in, you typically need to provide your name and booking confirmation number, however each airline’s online check-in process is a little different. Most airlines permit online check-in up to a few days before departure.
Checking in online helps speed things up at the airport and if you’re not checking luggage and have printed out your boarding pass, you can go straight to the security checkpoint and skip the queue altogether.
“We encourage our customers to check in online, that way they can avoid queues and have more time to relax before boarding,” a Qantas spokesperson told Starts at 60.
However, Qantas recognises that there will always be people who prefer checking in the traditional way, adding: “That’s why we have customer service team members available to assist.”
More importantly, it is cheaper to use online services with some airlines, as it helps the carrier save money of paper costs. In fact, some airlines, such as UK carrier Ryanair and Hungarian low-cost airline Wizzair, will charge you anywhere from AU$15 to AU$100 to check in at the airport.
However, one of the main benefits of online check-in is the chance to choose your own seat.
“Online check-in also allows you to select your seat free of charge to avoid disappointment and being separated from your travel friends or family,” Travel at 60 consultant David Wilkinson said.
Online check-in also reduces your chance of being bumped off an oversold flight as the airline already knows you’re intending to fly and helps the airline be on time – a big bonus for carriers as they’re handed hefty fines for not arriving and departing on time.
Checking in online may speed things up at the airport, but that doesn’t mean you can show up minutes before your flight is scheduled. In fact, many low-cost carriers are less likely wait for a passenger who checked in online.
“If you are not at the gate prior to the specific time they will close the gates and you are required to purchase a new ticket,” David explains.
If you’re planning on checking in luggage, you still need to join the queue for bag drop off, however it tends to be a lot faster than the regular line. And even though one of the biggest benefits of online check-in is choosing your own seat, the airline can still change your seat selection even after you check in, David says.
Another important thing to note before making your airport plans is that online check-in isn’t available for every traveller. You might be forced to check in at the airport if you’re part of a large group, you need wheelchair access or have a child travelling alone.
“The majority of our customers use online check-in, however in some exceptions, we ask travellers to approach the counter,” a Jetstar spokesperson says. “Some of these cases are parents travelling with an infant, customers on flights to or from the US, or if you’ve requested specific assistance.”