I'm new to international travel and I'm trying to understand the general check-in process at airports.

During self-check-in for baggage, does anyone check the baggage contents and measure its weight and dimensions? If I understand correctly, at the self-check-in kiosks one just needs to print the boarding pass and the bag tags (and attach it to their bags). However, I don't understand where the baggage contents would be checked or its weight/dimensions would be measured.

For instance, one might be carrying restricted items in their bag or their baggage might be overweight.

  • 2
    See travel.stackexchange.com/questions/166410/… for a few details about common procedures for checking luggage.
    – jcaron
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:29
  • As seen in the existing answers, there may not be a proper way to tell you how it will be unless you tell us which Airport(s) you are checking in at. That said. For everybody there is a first time for everything regarding air travel. Things will happen, and you will probably be fine. Make it easy on yourself by planning a lot of time for your first flight - whenever you move from place A to B in an airport, or have to do some activity there. It's better to be bored out of your mind, than having an extremely stressful first flight.
    – AnoE
    Jun 25, 2021 at 11:19
  • the answer is simply "yes". it's that simple. at the point where you drop off self-check-in-bags there's a human with a scale. (it's utterly inconceivable, for many reasons, they'd just let you "leave it in a pile somewhere", like kids on a school trip going on a bus!)
    – Fattie
    Jun 25, 2021 at 12:36

4 Answers 4


check the baggage contents and measure its weight and dimensions

To generate a tag for your bag you will need to place your bag(s) on a scale which weighs it and checks against your ticket and airline restrictions. So overweight bags will be flagged there and then and you might be redirected to the manual check in.

Bags are put through an x-ray after the bags have been checked in inside the baggage terminals hidden from your view. So if anything is flagged you will know about it before you board and the flight takes off, when the security and the airline personnel will come searching for you.

A checked bag does need a tag to ensure it gets to the correct planes/destination.  And to get that tag, you need to go to a clerk or machine with a scale.  A carry-on may or may not be measured and weighed—depends on the airline and/or the attitudes of the gate people.

  • Thanks, this helps. So the x-ray will be done after I drop the bag at the baggage drop belt?
    – user94562
    Jun 24, 2021 at 15:44
  • 1
    The baggage tag is not printed at home, or even at the kiosk. You only get the boarding pass this way. You then take the boarding pass and your check-in bags to a baggage drop counter where a staff person will weigh, attach the baggage tag, and give you the "receipt" (a small sticker with matching number to the tag on the bag). Jun 24, 2021 at 16:59
  • 3
    If the airline has a mechanism to print your bag tags at home (or the permanent bag tags some airlines are now offering to frequent flyers), they will still have some kind of point where bags are accepted, either staffed or machine. Someone's looking out that untagged bags, unsuitable items, trash, and so on aren't introduced to the baggage system. While I can't speak for every check-in counter at every airport in the world, that area is likely to have a scale. Self check-in doesn't bypass the weighting and security screening process; it just shifts around the entry point to that process. Jun 24, 2021 at 17:36
  • 5
    @Aganju There are thousands of airports in the world and probably hundreds of different procedures. I'm pretty certain things work as you described in your place, but I've also seen it work as described by DumbCoder in Germany, Canada and the US. Plus, I know a mid-sized airport in Germany that does not have machines for printing luggage tags (only for check-in) and a small-sized one that has no automated kiosks at all...
    – Sabine
    Jun 25, 2021 at 6:35
  • 1
    @Aganju google.com/search?q=self+service+bag+drop Jun 25, 2021 at 14:15

The machines have a scale built in and the bar limits the size of the bag.

Special baggages (overweight, oversize, special items) need to be handled at the staffed counter.

In China specifically (the photo you linked), you would need to wait for a few minutes for the security pre-check. If it passes, you will get the baggage tag (the small one for your use at destination). If not, you will be called to the security office for a manual check of the baggage.

As the warning on the screen indicates, if it contains harmful material and it is found out later (after the pre-check, there can be a more detailed check), the security may removed the relevant items (and you will be responsible for any consequent delay or costs).

Other countries may be different (you may get your receipt immediate but later be called by the announcement to the security).

  • Ah, thanks. And do you know what happens if I self-check-in online (rather than at an airport kiosk) and print the baggage tag myself beforehand? Who will measure the weight/dimensions of the baggage in that case?
    – user94562
    Jun 24, 2021 at 15:59
  • I never heard you can print bagage tags at home, but if you can you will find that they check the bagage when you hand it in (to a person or a machine) or soon after, as described in the answers.
    – Willeke
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:15
  • @S.D. I don't believe you can print the baggage tag, at least for China. You'd need an adhesive heat printer for that (otherwise how would you attach the tag on the in a conforming way?).
    – xngtng
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:21
  • @Willeke I believe I’ve already had the option to print at home (on Air France I think), but as I couldn’t guess how you could possibly use those I never actually tried. I didn’t attempt to find out more, though.
    – jcaron
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:27
  • 1
    @Willeke Well, here's an example.
    – user94562
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:29

This really depends on the machine as they are a relatively new development. I have heard of some that do measure size but never seen one. All of them measure weight and they will show the weight as the baggage is placed on the platform. You also scan you boarding pass to activate the platform which makes is possible to check against your baggage allowance.

In fact, if you scan your boarding pass with more pieces the machine shows an error and does not carry away the luggage. This can happen accidentally when travelling with a family when at a check-in counter, they often label all pieces with one passenger's name but the machine requires each one to use their allowance.

The one time my luggage exceeded the weight limit, the machine printed me a sticker instead of the usual tag. I had to bring it to the check-in, pay the excess fee and get back to the machine that printed the tag and labelled it as excess weight, perhaps to warn baggage handlers.

  • It's good to know that if you pack your bag too heavily, you may be able to pay a fee and still bring it. That's a lot less bad than if you couldn't bring it.
    – user253751
    Jun 25, 2021 at 21:27
  • Yes. It does depend on the airline though. There is usually an allowance and option to pay for extra up to a certain limit but on some flights with small planes, sometimes there is no option and you have to improvise.
    – Itai
    Jun 26, 2021 at 3:40
  • A friend was told to buy/use an extra bags and check two bag in (free on his ticket at the time) as the one bag he had was over the weight limit. Buying a new bag at the airport was cheaper than the fee for a serious overweight bag. That was a human who told him, not a machine.
    – Willeke
    Jun 28, 2021 at 20:21
  • Machines don't give advice! And indeed, it is always cheaper to use your allowance than paying for extra but there's not always the opportunity to improvise. I frequently pack a duffel bag inside one suitcase for cases like that as I travel on different flights within a trip.
    – Itai
    Jun 28, 2021 at 20:27

OP, the basic misconception is this:

If I understand correctly, at the self-check-in kiosks one just needs to print the boarding pass and the bag tags (and attach it to their bags)

Even if you just "leave it on a machine", there will be a human there to eyeball each bag for ridiculous dimensions, obvious problems etc.

  • It is called "self service bag drop". google.com/search?q=self+service+bag+drop Jun 25, 2021 at 14:12
  • Yes, there's a human there. It's self-service with human supervision.
    – Fattie
    Jun 25, 2021 at 14:18
  • 1
    There's a human present somewhere in the check in area, but you never "give your luggage to a human". You do, in fact, put it on a conveyor-chute thing. Jun 25, 2021 at 14:35
  • sure thing, @user3067860 the basic misconception of the OP is that no human will check it
    – Fattie
    Jun 25, 2021 at 17:17
  • These days a lot of the checking is done by machines and the people in the area only step in when the machine beeps for attention.
    – Willeke
    Jun 26, 2021 at 12:31

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