It seems to take an inordinate amount of time for them to select my name from a list of people who have booked the flight and press enter. Surely it can't be any more complicated than that can it?

  • 3
    of course it is. How many bags are you checking? What ID did you show and how can the person prove they saw it? (Often they swipe my passport.) Are there notes on your file to tell you something or to have you show something? Has something happened to your flight (it's already closed, it has a smaller plane now) that this person will take care of right now, instead of leaving you to discover and solve it at the gate? Did you pay for something? Can they charge you for something? There's a lot going on. Oct 3, 2014 at 17:23
  • Sorry, should have added I'm in the UK and it usually takes about 5 minutes
    – Original10
    Oct 3, 2014 at 17:49
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    I definitely think it's software-related and some airlines have better designed ones than the others.
    – mkennedy
    Oct 3, 2014 at 19:58
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    Most of the time is usually spent talking to me, looking at my ID, weighing and tagging luggage, etc. Have you really seen people looking at their screen or waiting for something for several minutes?
    – Relaxed
    Oct 3, 2014 at 20:05
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    It is rare that I do an online check-in in less than 5 minutes (starting with entering data till boarding passes are printed/sent to my phone). Data entry takes time, and I don't even need to talk to myself while doing it.
    – Jonas
    Oct 5, 2014 at 20:25

3 Answers 3


Normally they don't "select my name from a list", they enter the data you give them: your name, destination, flight number (any or all) and the system looks up your booking. The counter agent then reviews your booking, checking destination, special requests, booking notes. And then they start to check you in. Seat preselected? Save some time. Not preselected? Then the agent has to look up what is available and assign one. How many bags? Any special handling (fragile, oversized, over weight)? More data to be entered. Traveling internationally? Check Timatic, then check for needed documents.

There can be a lot that needs doing. Of course if you aren't checking bags, picked your seat ahead of time online and are flying domestically, then check in can be quick and painless. Or you can check in online and simply go to the bag drop line.

  • Not preselected? Then the agent has to look up what is available and assign one. This part could be easily automated. As well as autocompleting most of the details when you fill in your name and there is only one match. Jan 1, 2016 at 11:04
  • The whole idea of checking in with an agent is to avoid automation, to be able ask if they have a seat by a window near the restrooms and without someone assigned to the middle seat. If you want automation use online check in or the kiosk.
    – user13044
    Jan 2, 2016 at 1:35

Back in the good old days you would arrive at the airport, walk directly from the parking lot to the aircraft, the co-pilot would heave your bags into the hold, the steward would take your ticket and you climb up the stairs.

Then air travel became popular. Cancellations, rebookings, overbookings etc. meant the pre-departure arrival time had to increase. Airports grew to the size of small towns so now it takes 20 minutes to walk to your gate. The rest should be obvious.

If you are talking strictly counter time rather than total car-park-to-pushback time, my experiences have been it takes just long enough to scan my boarding pass and put the tag on my suitcase. I cannot picture any way it could be faster without my complaining about being rushed.

Two things you can do to cut the counter time down:

  • use the airline's online check-in service the day before. This also reduces your chances of being bumped. If you don't have any checked bags you can bypass the checkin counter completely
  • buy a better ticket. First class passengers have dedicated counters and at some airports dedicated buildings / security / passport control / private car to the gate.
  • and then there's the hunting for missing passengers in the acres upon acres of shopping malls that fill the departure areas of most airports...
    – jwenting
    Oct 6, 2014 at 8:14
  • Most airlines now provide a dedicated queue for online checked in passengers as well. Oct 7, 2014 at 13:10
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    Almost none of this addresses the question, which is clearly about time at the checkin desk and nothing else. The first two paragraphs are completely irrelevant. The third paragraph makes it clear that you're talking about some different experience to what the asker has had. The first bullet is the only part that's relevant. The suggestion of buying a first-class ticket just to save a few minutes at the checkin desk is, frankly, ludicrous. Jan 1, 2016 at 5:44

The exact steps vary based on the type of flight (international, domestic), but the agent has to check the following:

  1. Your ID matches who you are.
  2. Your flight is actually opened for booking.
  3. Your reservation is still valid.
  4. The conditions of your fare.
  5. Are you authorized to travel? (visa check, passport expiry check, ID validity check)
  6. If you are checking bags, the bags have to be checked for physical condition, dimension, weight.
  7. Baggage tags have to be printed and assigned to you, attached to the bags.
  8. If you have selected a particular seat, the agent has to make sure the same seat is available for you or not.
  9. Print your boarding pass.
  10. Explain your gate and your boarding window.
  11. Thank you

All the above assume you don't have any last minute requests like an upgrade or to have your travel partner be seated next to you or request an isle or window seat, excess baggage, etc.

Considering all the above, I say we should cut them a break and that they do a remarkable job trying to make this process a little less frustrating.

  • I don't think OP is complaining about the agents. They are complaining about the software and the UI design. Jan 1, 2016 at 11:06
  • For instance, 2., 3., 4., 8., 9 could be done automatically by the software, without the need for human intervention apart from entering the passenger's details. Jan 1, 2016 at 11:07

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