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If I'll be in Vancouver, Canada at about 10am, and my Air Canada flight to San Diego doesn't leave until about 8:45pm, would I typically be allowed to check in (with luggage) and clear security in the morning or early afternoon for an evening flight? (specifically asking about Vancouver Airport YVR, flight to the US)

I apparently have lounge access so would be nice to be able to make use of it rather than just sitting around at the airport waiting to be able to clear security.

To be clear, I'm not flying into Vancouver on that day, will just be finished up and checked out and ready to head to the airport.

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    Usually checking in early is limited by airline counter opening hours, but for Air Canada at YVR I presume this won't be a problem. May 28, 2023 at 6:02
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    Usually, lounge access is limited to like 4 hours before flight. But I can't find the info for AC's lounge May 28, 2023 at 7:07
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    As well as check-in and lounge access, sometimes there are also limits on when baggage drop opens (e.g. if you check in online), but this also might be less of an issue for Air Canada in Vancouver than for budget airlines. Have you checked the booking, airport, and airline information, or tried to contact the airline (e.g. via social media)?
    – Stuart F
    May 28, 2023 at 10:33
  • @NicolasFormichella: That's pretty normal for paid access like "Priority Pass" but I don't think I've ever seen that restriction if access is based on status or class of service.
    – Hilmar
    May 28, 2023 at 12:31

2 Answers 2

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Most airlines have rules about this but they are not well documented and it often varies "by mood of the day".

In my experience, the most likely scenario is: "if there is an open counter now that will stay open until your flight officially opens" they will check you in and take your luggage. In some cases they don't have to, but they still will do it.

Most likely Air Canada at YVR will accept your bags in the morning without blinking an eye, but you won't know for sure until you get there.

In many cases this is constrained by "when does the airline open the counter". I've certainly seen cases where the airline implores you to show up 3 hours before departure but only open the check in counter 2 hours before, which can be a frustrating experience. However, that's not going to be a problem with AC in YVR.

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    In addition to the concerns you list above, sometimes US border preclearance has rules for when you are allowed to go through it before your flight. In a quick look, I was unable to find anything relevant for Vancouver airport but that's precisely the question being asked here.
    – mlc
    May 28, 2023 at 20:35
  • @mlc thanks for raising preclearance - I had forgotten about that when I asked my question
    – Midavalo
    May 29, 2023 at 15:27
  • Ended up changing my flight time so leave a lot earlier and checkin time won't be an issue (for this trip at least)
    – Midavalo
    May 29, 2023 at 15:28
  • There is a non-trivial chance that your bags will go on an earlier non-stop to your final destination even if you don't. May 31, 2023 at 22:40
  • Well I'm in the exact same situation again today, so will be able to test it out. Was unable to change flight without significant expense today
    – Midavalo
    Sep 4, 2023 at 15:10
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This exact situation happened to me again yesterday, so I'll post what happened for me this time.

I was unable to get a same-day change on the app (which is what I got last time) so I turned up at the airport around 11am.

I went to the open Air Canada check-in area (there were a lot of AC counters open), however they were checking details at the check-in entry and would not allow anyone in until 4 hours before flight. The lady there (in an Air Canada uniform) told me to come back at 4:30pm.

So, no I wasn't allowed to check-in and leave luggage more than 4 hours early even at the Air Canada check-in at Vancouver Airport - at least not the day I tried (it may well come down to whether they are guarding the check-in entry or if that guard is happy for you to leave luggage early).

As the lady was sending me on my way, however, I did ask if it was possible to get an earlier flight. She was able to get me onto the 2pm flight (that would have been $300 extra had I tried it on the app) for no extra charge, so I still managed to leave my luggage early and got home before my original flight was even due to take off.

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