There is one very simple thing that you can go for your next flight that will help you save tons of time at the airport and make your trip easier: don't forget about online check-in.
When I was flying to Sofia, I got to the airport 2 hours early, only to find a staggering lineup at the check-in counter, which ended up taking me more than an hour to clear. You know what I should’ve done? Checking in online.
Why do Airlines Like when You Check-In Online?
It helps them save money by reducing costs: they need less paper, less staff at the check-in counter at the airport and save a lot of time (hence, money). And this should matter to you too: it allows them to offer cheaper fares!
This is why low-cost airlines such as easyjet, Wizzair and Ryanair have made it mandatory to check-in online. And if you're interested in saving money on airfare, you should do it.
Some airlines will make you pay a fine if you haven’t checked-in online or if you don’t have a printed copy of your boarding pass. For instance, Wizzair will charge you anywhere between 10 and 30€ for checking-in at the airport rather than online, and up to 50€ per passenger if your boarding pass isn’t printed out.
They can also suggest you additional advantages for the comfort of your trip, from extra luggage to booking a hotel at your destination. Check out the type of carry-on that you're allowed to bring for some of the major airlines right here.
It also lets them know that you are very likely to show up, meaning that they won’t sell your seat to someone else. You're much less likely to be denied boarding by checking-in online. Plus, if you cancel your reservation, a new seat is immediately available online.
Why is it Good for You as Well?
You can check-in from anywhere you want, as long as you can connect to the internet and go to the airline’s website. You can also do it using your smartphone, and although the responsiveness of some airlines’ websites can be improved, the increasing popularity of airline apps seems to solve that.
And it comes with two major advantages.
Online check-in saves you time
You will save a lot of time at the airport. A lot. Especially if you're only traveling with a carry-on and no checked luggage. If you're checking-in online, travel without a checked bag and go to the airport with your printed boarding pass (or a digital copy on your phone), you can go straight to the gate and skip the counter. No need to come too early at the airport!
And you and I both know that waiting lines (for check-in and airport security) are what makes you waste most time at the airport. Most airlines will let you check-in online as early as 24h before the flight and their systems work around the clock. They will send you an email to remind you about it, so make sure that you don't forget!
Online check-in gives you a chance to improve your flight
One thing I really like is that you can choose your seat during online check-in: I know I love my window seat for the view! If you'd rather enjoy having access to the bathroom easily, pick an aisle seat.
The thing is that you won't be able to choose if you're checking-in at the airport only, so do it online. The earlier you check-in online, the greater the choice of available seats. Although there are usually seats which you can book for free, airlines and especially low-costs may have a number (if not all) of them reserved for booking at an extra-fee.
What should you be careful about?
In order to check-in online you will need your flight details, your PNR (or booking number) and your passport number, if you are on an international flight. You also need to know the number of bags you’ll be checking in.
Even if you’re planning on bringing a piece of luggage with you, online check-in is still a better option as you just need to drop it off at the designated counter, which tends to move faster than the regular line. No need to waste time at the regular line where people both check-in and drop their bags.
What if you can’t print your boarding pass? Even if you don’t have a printer, you can still check-in online and get your copy at the airport. If you have a smartphone, certain airlines will also be able to scan it directly off your screen. Even if you don’t have a paper copy of your boarding pass, your seat is safe.
What you DON'T want is to be denied boarding because you couldn't check-in on time. Not only the airline staff wouldn't let you board the plane: you wouldn't be eligible to a compensation for boarding denial, because it would be regarded as your responsibility.
Final Words on Online-Check-In
Online check-in will definitely make you appreciate your trip even more and help you leave with your mind at ease. The good news is that almost all major airlines offer this option nowadays!
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