Back in the old days, you checked in for a flight when you arrived at the airport. The airline then could see that someone was missing, and give your seat to someone else. Now, if I check in for a flight online 24 hours early, the airline doesn't know if I'm sitting at the gate waiting to get on the plane, or sitting in traffic trying to get to the airport.

My question is, if I elect to check in online before I get to the airport, and then I don't get on the plane, what happens to me? Will they let me board the next flight? Will they make me pay a change fee? Will they throw away my ticket and make me buy a new one?

If a general answer is not possible, let's say this is for a U.S. domestic flight on Delta.

  • 1
    It'll depend on the airline, and will be in your terms of sale and carriage agreements.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jul 4, 2014 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


Checking in but not boarding the plane is a "no show" in industry lingo. There's no Delta-wide "policy" on what happens next, this will depend entirely on the small print in your fare rules. Broadly speaking, assuming you've got a non-refundable fare:

Domestic flights: You'll get credit worth the value of your ticket, minus a change fee (typically $200). So if your fare was under $200, you lose it all. There may also be an additional condition requiring that any new ticket you purchase with the credit cost at least as much as the original.

International flights will typically contain the following boilerplate in the rules:


...which means what it says, ie. you're screwed. So either call ahead and change your flight, or hope that wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments at the Delta counter helps.

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    Is there a difference between "checking-in and not flying" and "not checking in at all"?
    – Ben Miller
    Sep 23, 2014 at 11:59
  • 1
    Usually no, since a missed flight is a missed flight, but this may depend on the airline and the fare rules. It's easier to call the airline at the last moment to change a flight you haven't checked-in for though. Sep 23, 2014 at 12:03
  • @ben-miller It only has an effect on the value of the refund .... which depends on your ticket rules. Aug 8, 2016 at 9:49
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    @BenMiller-RememberMonica In the "not checking in at all" case the airline is more likely to give your seat to a standby passenger earlier on.
    – WBT
    Oct 14, 2021 at 19:45

A lot will depend on Delta's policy, the load factors of other flights that day, and the mood of the gate agent. I've tried it the other way (earlier flight) and the gate agent checked the load on my original flight, saying if it was overbooked they would take me on the early flight. It wasn't, so my choices were wait or pay the usual change fee.

Low-cost carriers are usually NOT accommodating. Miss your flight -> too bad.

  • 2
    Delta is not an LCC. Also, I think the main point of this question was to find a policy or official source on the matter. The mood of the gate agent doesn't change a thing if the policy is in your favor. Jul 4, 2014 at 1:24

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