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I read on https://twitter.com/RichardBarrow/status/1247761807839657984?s=20:

In addition, for repatriation flights, you often have to check in extra early like 3-4 hours beforehand.

Why does one often have to check in extra early, i.e. 3-4 hours early, before the flight departure for repatriation flights?


I have crossposted the question at:

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The additional check in time is needed for all the extra paperwork. Repatriation flights are organized and approved by governments to help return citizens to their country of origin. They can't let anyone on board who is simply willing to pay the fare. They must check and double check your passport, citizenship status, etc. Moreover, scheduling a repatriation flight is not the same as regular commercial flight operation. The planes often arrive empty, without a regular gate to occupy, without a regular slot to fly and the whole operation can be changed at the last-minute. If you really want to get on the flight then it's best to be there extra early to deal with the unexpected.

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    Also, it makes sense that if your country is going through all the hassle of organizing a flight at this moment, to try to ensure that the travellers will not arrive at the last minute. And I guess right now there airports only have minimal staff, so operations are slow (they will not keep the personal needed to service an airplane in 15 minutes just to have them stand idle the rest of the day, they will keep the minimum personal even if that means that the procedure takes longer). – SJuan76 Apr 9 at 17:09
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    If you're curious, you can see a bit of footage from a repatriation flight organized by the US government from Kathmandu at twitter.com/USAmbNepal/status/1246765484936056832 and it's not the main point of the video but you see a lot of extra desks and steps run by people for whom this isn't their main job and they can process only so many people at a time, so it takes a while to get through everybody. – mlc Apr 9 at 17:35
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    "They must check and double checking your passport, citizenship status, etc." aren't airlines doing that whenever someone checks in? – Franck Dernoncourt Apr 9 at 21:47
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    @FranckDernoncourt the airlines are normally checking your passport / Visa with Timatic which is an automated system that works the travel rules out for you. Timatic is not going to give the answer to "can this person get on this repatriation flight". – abligh Apr 10 at 4:51
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    Also, repatriation flights are unique. If you miss your regular flight, you can just book the next plane which goes in a few hours (or the next day). If you miss your repatriation flight, there might be no other such flight for the foreseeable future. – vsz Apr 10 at 5:49
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In addition to jcklopp's excellent answer, the other reason they want you there early is that they absolutely do not want you to miss this flight. Repatriation flights are "last chance" flights, and there are two nightmare scenarios that they want to avoid at all costs. One is where they have to delay the flight to wait for someone who hasn't arrived, possibly requiring new permissions from the departure country and possibly endangering the people who actually made it on time. They so dislike this that they probably won't do it, leading to nightmare scenario 2 where someone who should have been evacuated is left behind in a dangerous place. Almost by definition repatriation flights are coming from places where travelling to an airport is going to be more difficult than usual, so aiming to arrive very early gives and extra buffer against being late.

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As an employee in an airline that is currently operating many repatriation flights, I can confirm both answers from @jcklopp and @DJClayworth and add one more reason, that is the health briefing.

Repatriation flights related to the COVID-19 situation have very special health precautions and passengers must be briefed in advance before boarding. This includes masks and gloves distribution, seating policy (one seat must be empty between passengers, etc.) and lavatory usage, food distribution and collection. Also, identifying potentially infected passengers.

Most of these temporary precautions must be adhered to once onboard, otherwise, there is no use of them, so passengers will be briefed by the ground staff in advance, which makes the boarding takes a little extra time than usual.

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