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I was looking at some VivaAerobús flight ticket and read that one may check in up to ten days prior to the flight departure:

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(And the seat can be chosen when purchasing the ticket: "free regular seat selection" in the screenshot).

What's the point of checking-in several days before a flight?


Closevoters: the ability to check in early is part of the more expensive flight ticket option, therefore I wonder whether there exists some objective reason to check in early. It's not an opinion-based question.

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  • 7
    Seat selection/allocation opportunity?
    – littleadv
    Dec 21, 2021 at 23:28
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    @littleadv good point, I forgot to mention in this case that the seat can be chosen when purchasing the ticket. Dec 21, 2021 at 23:31
  • 1
    Perhaps you get free seat selection when you check in, so you have priority over people who can check in only 8 hours before, but not before people who pay for seat selection.
    – xngtng
    Dec 22, 2021 at 0:08
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    It can come down to personal preference. For example, I like to check-in for a flight as early as possible.
    – Xnero
    Dec 22, 2021 at 1:02
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    I've been wondering for a while what the whole check-in process actually achieves. I used to think that it meant the airline knew you were present at the airport, but that's obviously no longer the case. What does the airline do at check-in time that they couldn't do at the time you purchase your ticket? Dec 24, 2021 at 1:12

4 Answers 4

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One big one: Many airlines use time of check in as a tie-breaker when it comes to issuing upgrades or clearing stand by lists.

Source: worked at an airline, and quora.

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  • Can you also get first choice of seating? Like if you want the very front row Dec 22, 2021 at 8:14
  • @vikingsteve depends on the airline. One I worked at had a points system for upgrades, depending on what you paid, your FF status, check in time, etc. Generally if upgraded, take what you can get :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Dec 22, 2021 at 20:33
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Perhaps not really of benefit to the smartphone generation, but being able to check in 10 days in advance may allow many customers to check in for both outward and return flights at the same time. One then doesn't need to worry about getting internet access, printing boarding passes etc while away from home. For travellers of a certain age and disposition this may be a worthwhile benefit.

Edited to add: In this particular case, the 'cheaper' alternative is online checkin opening 4 or 8 hours in advance of departure. This is inconveniently short, particularly for morning flights or (thanks @GiacomoCatenazzi) if passengers are already in transit.

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    Also in the smartphone age when you're going on a trip somewhere you're not sure you will have Internet access outside the airport (remote hiking, or expensive roaming, etc.)
    – Tom
    Dec 22, 2021 at 9:05
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    Or if this is a connecting flight. 8 hours are not much if you are departing e.g. from Europe. Dec 22, 2021 at 14:15
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi … but surely if you can check-in for the first flight you can check-in for the connecting flights (on the same ticket) at least that’s my experience Dec 23, 2021 at 23:38
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    This wouldn't have worked for me when I had a trip to Vancouver (I was there for 14 days), but I would have loved to have been able to check in for the return flight before I went; it was my first ever ticket-only flight (all the others had been packages) and I simply forgot to check in for the return leg while I was there. I turned up to the airport to find I was on standby (even though I'd selected a seat when I booked). I was a little nervous until boarding, when it turned out there were approximately three seats available for every passenger (thank heavens for unpopular flights).
    – Spratty
    Dec 24, 2021 at 9:55
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Airlines regularly oversell their capacity (i.e. issue more tickets than the can carry passengers). This is economically sensible because statistically there are several no shows per flight. But in the nature of statistics, sometimes more people turn up than they have seats for (in which case you won't be able to select a seat at check-in). In the US in particular, you will see the gate staff offering money in order to move to a later flight when this happens. But sometimes people are selected who do not volunteer. On many airlines, if you have checked in and have already been assigned a seat, you are safe (or safer) from this process. So this is a way to reduce the risk of being bumped.

Also, on many airlines you can select a seat at check-in, and therefore the earlier you do it, the better choice of seats you get.

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    @FedericoPoloni On a large plane, the number of "early checkins" may be an indicator of how many no-shows. Making up numbers: If a plane holds 300 people and statistically 2% of early check-ins don't show up and 5% of late check-ins don't show up, then if a given flight is nominally sold out and has 100 early check-ins then they could estimate 100 x 0.02 = 2 + 200 x 0.05 = 10 = 12 total no-shows and put an additional 12 seats up for last minute sale. If they have 200 early check-ins then 200 x 0.02 = 4 + 100 x 0.05 = 5 = 9 total expected no-shows and they'll only put up 9 seats for sale. Dec 22, 2021 at 13:24
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    @FedericoPoloni if they oversell by (e.g.) 5%, then it only takes 5% of people not to check in early for this not to be a problem. And early check-in only moves when the problem would occur (from the airlines point of view), rather than producing more problems.
    – abligh
    Dec 22, 2021 at 14:15
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    Keep in mind that the incremental cost of an actual passenger is extremely low - some paperwork, a tiny bit of fuel, a bag of peanuts (maybe). The plane costs the same (same crew, almost the same fuel, plus all fixed costs of owning/operating the plane) whether it flies 1/2 full or totally full. (It may cost a bit less if it flies nearly empty because if they know in advance then they may be able to have smaller cabin crew - though if they're needed for a full return flight then there is no difference). So the last few seats, even if discounted, are arguably the most profitable. Dec 22, 2021 at 14:36
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    Check the cancellation policy, if any. It may be much less flexible "after check-in". So that early check-in may increase your confidence in getting a seat, at the expense of reducing your ability to make changes. Basically, locks in both you and the airline.
    – CCTO
    Dec 22, 2021 at 16:11
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    @FedericoPoloni There's actually a common misconception: overbooking is not as much to handle last minute no-shows but to handle cancellations. People typically book in advance (weeks-months) then cancel/reschedule close (week-days), therefore you're stuck with seats you can't sell. So you oversell months in advance and hopefully people will cancel leading up. People don't check-in if they're uncertain whether they will take a flight as they often lose the right to refund/reschedule, so it acts as an indicator of intent.
    – user71659
    Dec 24, 2021 at 19:18
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For me it's good because I can check-in while I'm thinking about it.

It's just a bit more convenient and gets it out of the way.

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