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For example, let's take the case of flight Qatar Airways QR 738, which departs from SFO airport.

Searching the flight number on Google will indicate the departure terminal, not the check-in counter aisle:

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The SFO official map doesn't mention Qatar Airways:

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How can I know ahead of time in which aisle the check-in counter will be located at the airport? (Ahead of time = anytime before reaching the airport, so that I can minimize walking time to reach the proper aisle).

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  • I have a vague recollection that in some international terminals in the US, airlines don't "own" any particular check-in counters (like they do in the domestic terminals), and the counters for a particular flight check-in are only assigned a few hours before check-in actually begins. But I can't quickly find any corroborating evidence for this, either in general or specifically for SFO. – Michael Seifert Mar 23 at 12:14
  • @MichaelSeifert This is very variable, not only in the US but also abroad. At hubs and larger bases airlines can have entire terminals assigned to them (but then they may have different areas for different flight), while in smaller (for the airline) destinations they will outsource check-in and possibly get different positions each day (there is usually some stability in that, though, as it simplifies things for everyone). – jcaron Mar 23 at 13:40
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    Some airports show all information available on the various displays inside the terminals on their website's flight status info including check-in area, but that doesn't seem to be the case of SFO (they only give the gate, and it's currently no available). It's not on flightstats either, not even in the event timeline. Your best option may be to call them, either the airline or the airport. – jcaron Mar 23 at 13:52
  • @jcaron noted, thanks! – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 23 at 13:55
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Go there a day earlier and check it out in person. There is a 90% that it will be in the same place the next day.

This depends a lot on the airline and the airport but unless the airline has a major presence in the airport, it's allocated dynamically. As long as the flight schedules don't change much, the allocation doesn't change that often but it DOES change.

You can try calling the airport or the airline but chances are they want know (or care) either.

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