The option for online check-in is becoming more common amongst many airlines worldwide. Online check-in speeds up the passenger boarding process, reduces overhead costs for airlines, and is more convenient for passengers because they spend less time waiting in queues at the airport.
Despite all these benefits, there are times when checking in online is not an option for the passenger. There are a few reasons you may not be able to check in online for your flight. This article will focus on seven possible reasons this might happen, along with potential solutions.
7 Reasons Why Airlines Don’t Allow Checking in Online
1. The Online Check-in Isn’t Open Yet
Usually, online check-in is opened 48-24 hours before the flight. If you try to check in beforehand, you will not get the choice to do so because the system won’t be available yet. You just have to wait it out and check again. You should be able to find out when the check-in opens by checking the booking confirmation email you received. In any case, try to check in as early as possible because sometimes airlines overlook flights, which means you might miss your spot.
2. You’re Traveling on an International Flight
Usually, you must check in at the airport for international flights because the airline needs to check your passport, visas (if needed), and other documents to board the plane. Some airlines now do this online, by asking you to upload proper documentation, but most still require checking-in at the airport.
It is always advised to arrive early for International flights because they usually involve longer steps from when you arrive at the airport until you board the plane. Security could also be tighter depending on the rules and regulations of the country you are traveling to or transiting. Arriving 2-4 hours before your flight is usually enough, depending on how busy the airport is.
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3. The Airline Needs to Check Some Travel Documents In-Person
Sometimes airlines require you to bring your documents for an in-person checkup for various reasons. This could be because of mismatching information, unclear or missing documents, or the airline’s website flagging you in particular. During the pandemic, airlines might also need to check various Covid-19-related documentation, such as negative PCR tests and vaccination cards.
Don’t stress it if you are refused the option to check in online. Show up earlier than usual at the airport with all the documents you may need and clear any possible misunderstandings.
4. You Got Assigned a Random Security Check
When selected for random security checks, you will have your luggage, documents, and carry-on checked by security officers for no apparent reason before you are allowed to check-in. Random security checks are not rare and could happen to anyone.
5. You’ve Been Specifically Flagged for an In-Person Security Check
Unlike a random security check, this time, the airline has flagged you in particular and ordered an in-person security check. There could be various reasons to be selected, such as:
- Missing or unclear documents
- TSA might flag you for “Secondary Security Screening Selection,” also known as SSSS. TSA doesn’t disclose criteria for this list, but it can be due to various reasons, such as your nationality, political activity, etc.
- Booking a flight at the last minute
In this case, you should arrive at the airport 2-3 hours early to get enough time for the in-person security check.
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6. The Airline Has Overbooked Your Flight
You are expected to check in online and pick your seat 48-24 hours prior to your flight. If your airline website does not allow you to check in online within the 24-48 hours window, chances are your flight has already been fully booked. Airlines in America tend to overbook flights because they expect a few passengers to cancel, postpone, or miss the flight. They do this because they want to maximize their earnings by having a completely full flight.
If this happens in the European Union, you are eligible to ask for compensation of up to 600 Euros. Essentially, because of this law, airlines don’t really overbook flights in Europe because it’s too expensive for them. Don’t hesitate to contact your airline to ask for any form of compensation or have your flight moved to another day.
7. You’ve Booked Your Flight Through a Travel Agent
Sometimes you won’t be able to check in yourself on the website of the airline you are traveling with without acquiring the reservation number the agent used to book your flights. To avoid this problem, make sure you ask for the reservation number and any additional information from your travel agent beforehand. In any case, you should reach out to your travel agent and ask for directions on how you can check in online.
Will I Need to Pay Additional Fees When Checking In at the Airport?
Some airlines do require additional fees if you check in at the airport when you had the option to check in online. However, if your only option was to check in at the airport, it is unlikely for your airline to charge you additional fees.
It’s probably best to get a confirmation from your airline that you aren’t able to check in online because if it’s a technical error on your end, the airline might ask you to pay additional fees. And the airport check-in fees are usually pretty expensive, ranging between 20-50$ per person.
Do I Need to Arrive at the Airport Earlier and What Should I Do When I Get There?
TSA advises passengers to arrive at the airport 2 hours in advance for domestic flights and 3 hours for International flights. Usually, if you’ve already checked in online, you can arrive 30 minutes later. It’s also a good idea to check the airline’s website to see if there are any announcements for passengers to arrive earlier because there can be a long queue at the check-in desks or the security. During the pandemic, most airports are understaffed, so the queues can get very long.
Once you check in and drop off your checked luggage, you’ll need to go through security, where the airport security will scan you for any banned items on flights. What you do next depends on how long time you have left to board the flight. Essentially, you need to find out at which gate your flight departs from and when the gate closes (usually, 30 minutes before scheduled departure).
If you have 30 minutes or more until your gate closes, you can go shop in duty-free stores, grab something to eat in the airport restaurants, go chill in a lounge, read a book, or do whatever else you prefer.
Online check-in has many benefits, but being unable to do so shouldn’t ruin your travel plans. Finding out the reason for the online check-in ban could take some time or stress you out, but once you get to the bottom of it, you should be good to go. Always remember, it doesn’t hurt to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours early, regardless of whether you checked in online or not.