What Is Check In?

What is check in? Before getting on an airplane, a passenger needs to go through a process called check-in. Before getting on an airplane, a passenger needs to go through a process called check-in. Most...

Before getting on an airplane, a passenger needs to go through a process called check-in. Most airlines print a suggested time for arriving before your flight in order to give you plenty of time to get through check-in and security. If it is during a holiday or other peak time, you may want to add a little more time just to be sure. "Check-in is the process by which you obtain your boarding card - the document which allows you to board the aircraft," says Paula Berg of Southwest Airlines.

Most passengers head to the check-in counter in the airline's terminal building. This counter has service personnel to assist in the process. These lines can be long as anyone who is checking luggage or other restricted items must go through. A photo ID must be shown if you are eighteen years or older. This is usually sufficient for a domestic flight. International flights may also require a passport and immunization forms depending on the country you are visiting. At the check-in counter, there are scales to weigh your luggage. Baggage limits vary from airline to airline and sometimes by season, so check before arriving at the airport. Once past this, you are issued a boarding pass, which will get you through the security checkpoint.

If you are not checking luggage, there are a couple of faster options for getting your tickets and boarding pass. Some airlines offer kiosks where you enter your information and insert a credit card and your tickets and pass are printed off right there for you. "Many airlines also offer check-in via self-serve kiosks at the airport, which can also save you time at the airport. Be prepared to swipe your credit card or enter your confirmation number to obtain your boarding card at a kiosk," says Paula Berg. Frequent flyer cards may also be required to use these features. They can be in the terminal building or at curbside. In some situations, you can even register over the Internet. Some kiosks and web check-in sites have agents available for you to check baggage. "Many airlines now offer online check-in, which will allow you to obtain your boarding card prior to your arrival at the airport and, if you don't have luggage to check, can save you a stop at the airport. Simply visit your airline's website, enter your name and confirmation number, print your boarding card, and whala...you're checked in!" said Paula Berg.

Some airlines try to take advantage of the fact that some customers make a reservation but fail to arrive for the flight and forget to call to cancel. A process called overbooking means the airline reserves more seats than are actually available on the airplane in an attempt to avoid flying an airplane with only a few passengers. If more people show up with a confirmed ticket than seats are available, volunteers are solicited to give up their seat in return for compensation. Compensation varies from airline to situation, but you can get details at the airport counters.

"If you're not yet comfortable with "do-it-yourself" check-in, or if your airline doesn't offer self-serve options, you will need to visit your airline's main ticket counter when you arrive at the airport. When you approach the counter, have your identification and any other documentation ready to present to the agent. He or she will tag and check your luggage, issue your boarding document, direct you to the terminal and gate you will be departing from, and advise you of the status of your flight. If you have any questions, or require any special assistance (i.e. preboarding or wheelchair assistance), be sure to let the agent know," said Paula Berg, spokesperson for Southwest Airlines.

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