All you need to know about online check-in

What is online check-in?

How does online check in work? And what is the point of checking in online for a flight? What are the benefits of web check in? In short, online check-in is a process when you confirm that you will be taking your flight. It’s done via the Internet. One of the top reasons why many people do it, is that often it helps you to save time and money, but these aren’t the only benefits.

Why it's always a very good idea to wait until airport check in starts? Even if you have already checked in online. We talk about that below.

Read on to learn more about online check-in.

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What is online check-in?

What does it mean to check in for a flight?

It’s a process of registering for your flight that you have booked. First, you have bought a ticket / booked a flight. Now you are confirming that you’ll be taking that flight. The process is done on the website of the airline or via their mobile app which you can download on App Store or Google Play. Mostly it’s done a day or two before the actual flight. You can check-in online from your home, office or elsewhere where you have an internet connection.

If you check in online what do you do at the airport? If you are travelling with carry on only and don’t have check-in luggage, you can proceed through airport security.

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Why it’s better to wait until airport check-in starts?

Airport check-in usually starts 2-3 hours before the departure.

Our tip for you is to wait until it starts, before proceeding through airport procedures. Even if you have already checked in online, and you don’t have luggage to check in, it’s still better to wait until airport check-in starts. Why? Just in case your flight is cancelled last-minute, and you have to go back and check-in once again. Wait also if your flight is delayed.

Start of airport check-in is a sign that most likely everything will go as planned.

Man in a hotel room

Online check-in: Basics

There are a few things you should know about airline online check in process.

  1. You can’t check-in anytime you want. How long before a flight can you check in? Most airlines allow their passengers to check-in just a day or two before the departure.
  2. You must check-in on time. Otherwise the airline may deny boarding, if you didn’t check-in on time. In most cases online check-in closes 6 to 2 hours before departure. If you have missed it, you can still check in at the airport.
  3. Airport check-in may cost extra. Yes, some budget airlines charge extra for airport counter check-in. So don’t put it off for too long. Don’t miss it.
  4. It’s possible both with domestic and international flights. Can you check in online for international flights? Yes, as long as it’s available, sometimes it just isn’t available.
  5. Sometimes online check-in isn’t available. There are times when you will not be able to check in online. Mostly it happens with online check in for international flights, in some situations it just isn’t available, and you have to check in at the airport (for free).
  6. Don’t forget about a boarding pass. When you arrive at the airport, you must have a boarding pass with you, especially if you are travelling with budget airlines. If you don’t have it, and you want to print it at the counter, your airline may charge you for printing your boarding pass. For example, Ryanair’s “Boarding Card Reissue Fee” is €/£20. Crazy, right?
  7. In 2021 you don’t have to have a printed boarding pass anymore. Unless notified otherwise. You can download a mobile boarding pass on your phone or use the airline’s app with all your travel information and the boarding pass. Most airlines will be able to scan your boarding pass directly off your screen. 

Writing on black keyboard

Benefits of web check in

Do you have to check in online?

No, but it can make your life easier. Here’s how:

1. You can choose your seat

With budget airlines it’s especially important.

If you are travelling with a traditional full service airline, you are allowed to choose your seat free of charge at the time of check-in. Unfortunately, budget airlines do not allow this luxury. The seat is assigned randomly. If you want to choose your seat, you have to pay. This is one of the ways budget airlines make money.

That’s why it’s important to check-in early if you have an overnight flight and you plan to sleep on the plane. The ultimate early check-in benefit is having more seats to choose from.

2. It’s time-saving

One of the top benefits of web check in - it saves your time.

More often than not, there are long queues at check-in counters.

Checking in online allows you to skip check-in counters and save some time. Unfortunately, very often that’s only true if you are travelling with a carry-on only. Because not all airlines have separate baggage drop counters. If there is one, though, head there and you’ll save time. And if you don’t have any luggage to check in, and you have checked in online, head straight to the security check.

3. It helps you save money

Online check-in is available for free.

While airport check in with many budget airlines isn’t.

Many budget airlines don’t offer free check-in at the check-in counter at the airport. Often the fees are ridiculous. For example, Ryanair charges whopping €55 per passenger. Also, you can add additional luggage to your reservation during the online check-in. It’s cheaper than buying additional luggage at the airport check-in desk.

4. It’s more safe

Last but not least, online check-in is more safe.

If there is one thing that all this COVID pandemic has taught us, then it’s this that sometimes having less human contact is better. Why stand in queues if you can easily skip them, right? You don’t have to hand your passport either, or to receive a paper boarding pass.

Checking online and mobile boarding passes reduce unnecessary contact.

View from a KLM airplane in the air

How to check in online for a flight

Checking in online or via an app, step by step.

  1. Visit the online check-in page of your airline. Just click on the “Online Check-In” button on the homepage of your airline. Google if you can’t find it yourself.
  2. Enter requested information. Mostly it’s your last name and the booking reference / number.
  3. Select the passengers you would like to check in. If you are flying together with someone, and you have booked this flight together, you can check in also these other people. They don’t have to be your family members.
  4. Add passport / ID details if you haven’t done it already.
  5. Choose your seat.
  6. Choose extra baggage and a meal, if needed.

If you have a connecting flight, you may check-in for your next flight as well. Unless it’s not too early (online check-in is not open yet). Once you have completed the check-in process, your boarding pass or passes will be available for download.

Check-in using an app

Go to App Store or Google Play to download your airline’s app.

Just type the name of your airline and the app will pop up for you to download. When in doubts see the description of the app and reviews, to find out if it’s the official app. Then follow the instructions above. Mostly the process is exactly the same in the app as it’s online.

Airport flight information screen

When online check-in is not possible?

There are times when online check-in is not available.

Here are a few of these situations:

  • It’s too early to check-in. Online check-in for most airlines opens 48 or 24 hours before departure. Sometimes it’s a few days before departure.
  • It’s too late. You have missed it. But don’t you worry, you may still be able to check-in at the airport. Check-in deadlines range from 180 minutes to 30 minutes prior to departure. Call your origin airport and find out what is the deadline.
  • You have requested special assistance.
  • You are using the unaccompanied minor service.
  • You are travelling from a destination where online check-in is not available.
  • It's a codeshare flight, and the first flight of your itinerary is operated by a partner airline.

Online check-in: Top airlines in Europe

Here's where you can check in with these airlines.

In 2021, they are top airlines operating in Europe.

Have a safe journey! And don't forget to check in online.