What is the minimum time to check-in for an international flight with United Airlines where the first leg is domestic?

I read on https://www.seatguru.com/airlines/United_Airlines/checkin.php (mirror):

The minimum time to check-in for a United Airlines (UA) flight is:

  • 30 minutes before scheduled departure time for US domestic flights
  • 60 minutes before scheduled departure time for international flights to/from the US

I'm not sure whether the deadline to check-in at the counter is 30 minutes or 60 minutes since the first since the first leg of my flight is domestic.

Also, this contradicts the information given at https://www.flysanjose.com/airlines/united (mirror):

Minimum Check-In Time: 30 minutes before scheduled departure

My flight is SFO, US --(UA 540)--> IAH, US --(UA 854)--> LIM, Peru. Flights UA 540 and UA 854 are taken on the same day, and were booked at the same time via the United Airlines website.

  • 30 minutes before departure of your first segment is more than 60 minutes prior to your second segment, unless you're boarding a time machine. – Michael Hampton Dec 10 '19 at 22:42
  • @MichaelHampton Or if the first leg is a 53-second flight :-) But I'd prefer the time machine. – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 10 '19 at 22:44

The International check-in cut-off of 60 minutes applies ONLY before the departure time of the international flight in your itinerary.

If your itinerary consists of a domestic flight followed by an international flight, then the domestic check-in cut-off applies to the domestic flight.

The 60 minute cut-off for international flights primarily exists due to US Government requirements that required the airline to provide the Government with information on all passengers on the flight no later than 60 minutes before departure - thus the airlines require you to be checked in by that time.

Note that although 30 minutes is the check-in cut-off time for a domestic flight, many airlines/airports will have an earlier baggage drop-off time if you are checking bags. United lists their times on their website, but in most cases check-in with bags is required at least 45 minutes before departure.

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  • ok ok, no mirror :) thanks for the answer! – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 11 '19 at 3:58
  • Mirrors for a page like that are dangerous as they potentially provide out-of-date information – Doc Dec 11 '19 at 3:58

A 30 minute check in cutoff only means that the counter will be open, NOT that you are actually guaranteed to make the flight. In either case you need to be at the gate 15 minutes before departure. If you need more than 15 minutes to get through security and to get to the gate you'll be out of luck regardless of check in time.

30 minute also will not allow you to check luggage.

Whether the 30-minute or the 60-minute cut off applies depends on where exactly the document check happens and what specific doc check is required. If you really want to be sure, you should call United or your specific flight.

It's typically much easier and safer to check in online. If you have no checked luggage, you can skip the check in counter alltogther

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  • "Whether the 30-minute or the 60-minute cut off applies depends on where exactly the document check happens and what specific doc check is required. " -> As specified in the question, the check-in happens at the United Airlines counter at SFO. Typically check-in deadlines are mentioned somewhere online, because airlines don't want each customer to call them to ask about it. – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 10 '19 at 23:36
  • "It's typically much easier and safer to check in online. " -> I tried and it's not possible in my case: the United Airlines website is asking me to check in at the counter. – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 10 '19 at 23:37
  • "30 minute also will not allow you to check luggage." -> Is that true for only international flights, or domestic flights as well? – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 10 '19 at 23:38
  • @FranckDernoncourt I was once denied checking into a US domestic flight because I attempted to check in with luggage 50 minutes before the flight. I was told the minimum was 60 minutes with luggage so that the luggage has time to transit through the system. And this was at a small airport. – Peter M Dec 11 '19 at 0:24
  • @PeterM was it United Airlines? Definitely bag drop can have its own deadline, e.g. What is the baggage drop deadline for Eva Air at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) for international flights? – Franck Dernoncourt Dec 11 '19 at 0:26

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