I always thought that the point of "checking in" to a flight was so that the airline knew you were at the airport and would most likely board the plane.

But nowadays you can check in by computer or smartphone, which is great -- but you can do so as much as 24 hours before the flight. That's before you even go to bed the night before the flight, let alone arrive at the airport.

If there's a emergency, or even very bad traffic, that makes you miss your flight, won't it be in the last few hours? What good is checking in so far in advance?

EDIT: And almost as soon as I finished typing my question, I saw this: What is the purpose of check-in before flying?

  • 2
    A few airlines eg easyJet allow checkin up to 30 days beforehand
    – Traveller
    Aug 16, 2018 at 7:07
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    Usually, you can also cancel the check-in online. If you're sitting in a taxi in nightmare traffic, and realize you can't make it, you have the option of cancelling it.
    – user67108
    Aug 16, 2018 at 7:34
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    Note that at some airports, the boarding pass scanners at security, the lounge, the gate, etc... are all networked, so they can determine whether you didn't show up at all and they can give away your seat or whether they should page you and try to find you. Aug 16, 2018 at 7:36
  • What do you mean for "check-in"? Just confirming your flight (so you can do it online) or giving also baggage? In later case it depends. On some airports you cannot give baggage until 2 hours before flight (e.g. LCY), but on home airports of various arilines, you can gives baggage 24-30 hours before flight. Aug 16, 2018 at 8:22
  • For an IATA member airline, the flight coupon is only available for airport control approximately thirty hours before departure. At this time, the airport can take control of the coupon and therefore it is now technically possible to check in.
    – Calchas
    Aug 16, 2018 at 11:36

2 Answers 2


Think of check-in as having morphed in meaning a little. Now it's more like say, committing to the flight, saying "yes I'll be there, lock it in".

Saying that, I've checked in for a flight with 45 min to go, and then with 15 min to go, realised I couldn't travel, and cancelled my check in. It just helps them with numbers.

Another factor is loading. Some flights in Australia, for example, might be an overloaded 737, and then they switch in a larger A330. Check in rates if lower than normal, give them an indication that perhaps it won't be full and a 330 isn't required. (This is hypothetical, but I've seen tails/regos change mere minutes before a flight too)

*Source - I've flown a lot this year for work, contracting at an airline.

  • It's as if it's sort-of morphed to include the old "reconfirm" that we used to have to do 72 hours in advance of a flight (or the airline could, and sometimes would, cancel your reservation). Aug 17, 2018 at 18:21

It's a good question.

The answer is that "check-in" simply no longer means what you accurately point out it literally means.

We live in a marketing-driven era and language-meaning-and-logic is subjugated to catchy terms and marketing implications.

(Note that even if you do use modern "check-in", you have to, well "actually check-in" your bags if you have any. Note that they are now shifting that term to an exciting! new marketing term ... "drop-off". In the next 20 or 30 years they'll probably move "drop off!" to the thing presently called "check-in" ... and they'll have to think of another term for "literal check-in"!)

It's likely that in the future the process of {what is presently called} "check-in" will just be eliminated: when you "buy a ticket", the airline will at that point just build in the process where they (incredibly) try to charge you more for a seat, and you have to eula security questions, etc, i.e. the process that is currently presented as "check-in".

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