This is the scenario:

I have tickets booked for a 13:40 scheduled flight with Emirates. I need to check bags in so plan to be at the airport at the advised 2 hours before flight departure (11:40) but I look ahead and see my plane is delayed and not scheduled for departure until 16:40.

Can I arrive at the airport at 14:40 to check-in or should I knowingly arrive at the airport a full 5 hours before the revised departure time?

Footnote: The reason of the delay is that the inbound flight which will become be my outbound flight after turnaround is delayed in arriving at my departure airport.

  • 2
    The flight might not be late even if it were delayed. The airline can have the plane fly faster to ensure it arrives on time or not as late. – Andy Mar 28 '15 at 15:57
  • Easiest: call the airline at the airport office. That's you best chance of getting good information. – Hilmar Mar 29 '15 at 18:49
  • I should have seen this thread last night . Just missed a local flight all because of not showing up on original boarding time even though the flight was delayed ... cost me 130$ but well, it is what it is.... – Fahad Mar 3 at 7:40
  • I suppose, from the airline's perspective, if a group of flights were delayed due to weather, whereas later flights were not delayed because the weather cleared up, you'd end up with a bunch of flights leaving all at the same time. If you could delay check-in, this would mean a lot more passengers than planned all arriving to check in at the same time, which could cause check-in delays. – Kyralessa Mar 8 at 9:20

No you can't turn up late to check-in on a delayed flight, unless the check-in closing time is delayed along with the departure time. Note that usually this is not the case.

The check-in closing time is set relative to the scheduled departure, and usually remains the same, regardless of whether the flight is delayed or not. Hence if you show up at the airport late for check-in, even though you still have plenty of time before boarding due to the flight being delayed, you will be considered as a no-show. This happened to me a few years back on a snowy day in which all inbound and outbound flights to/from LHR were delayed.

Several websites and forums mention this (see here and here). However I believe this webpage from Air Berlin to be more authoritative:

We are unable to check in passengers arriving at the check-in desk after the check-in deadline. These passengers lose their entitlement to be carried on the flight and do not have any right of reimbursement, issue of a credit note or free rebooking. This check-in deadline will remain the same even if the departure of the flight is delayed.

(Emphasis mine)

Other airlines, including Emirates and British Airways, carry no mention of whether the check-in deadline can be modified, probably because they assume that when flights are delayed the check-in closing time does not vary. However they do mention that arriving late for check-in will cause you to be denied boarding in their Terms of Carriage. Emirates (in PDF) says:

6.3 You must comply with the applicable Check-in Deadline. We have the right to cancel your reservation if you do not comply with the Check-in Deadline or, if no Check-in Deadline has been indicated, you fail to check-in prior to closing of check-in for your flight. See also Article 5.7.

British Airways says:

6c) You must check in by the check-in deadline

If you do not complete the check-in process by the check-in deadline, we may decide to cancel your reservation and not carry you. By completing the check-in process we mean that you have received your boarding pass for your flight.

  • 5
    @MeNoTalk Yes that would make sense in an ideal world. From personal experience I have never seen a check-in closing time postponed due to a delayed flight. The reason could very well be that land personnel won't work extra time because the flight is delayed. So they do their job as planned and let you become someone else's problem. This makes even more sense in airports where land personnel is not employed by the airline. In my case the fight was delayed 4h well before the plane arrived at lhr and the check-in deadline was not postponed. – JoErNanO Mar 27 '15 at 16:24
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    Does this mean in-person checking, or is online checkin OK? – DJClayworth Mar 27 '15 at 17:25
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    (+1) Good to know! This does beg the question why some airlines send you SMS about delays, though. It seems that in most cases, you can't really act on them in any meaningful way (maybe if you checked in online and only have hand luggage?). – Relaxed Mar 27 '15 at 19:02
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    Delayed flight departure times are considered "estimated" departure times, not fixed. Pilots will try to make up time in flight, ground crews will try to turn the plane around quicker. Assuming that you have two more hours to ftd, may leave you standing at the gate after the plane departs. – user13044 Mar 27 '15 at 19:10
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    @DJClayworth Since online check-in does effectively qualify as a regular check-in then I would assume yes. Haven't tried it though. Plus you must consider baggage drop closes at the same time as check-in. – JoErNanO Mar 27 '15 at 20:06

The check-in time has no relation to the flight being delayed. The counter will close on time, even if the flight never departs on time.

This is because there are other things that need to happen for the flight to leave that are dependent on the check-in desk:

  1. Passenger manifest.
  2. Seat reservations/upgrades/changes.
  3. Luggage has to be tagged, the tags have to be entered in the system.
  4. Luggage has to be scanned and transported to the loading bay.
  5. Luggage may need to be loaded onto freight containers.
  6. Passengers may have to pass through immigration.
  7. There might be travel time (walking time) to the gate.

All that needs to happen; irrespective of the length of the delay.

There are other considerations too. At most airports; check-in desks are manned by rotating third-party (ie, non airline employee) staff. So the airline has a limited period in which to check-in passengers, before another set of crew sets up on the same station.

At some locations, the physical counters are restricted as well.

Granted, this isn't a problem if you are departing from Dubai and are on Emirates since they have a dedicated terminal (so all counters are checking in Emirates flights), but the flight itself may not be open (or be closed) for booking (in the reservation systems).

In short, do not gamble with timing.


In your particular case you might know when the flight leaves because it's unlikely another plane materializes but in general you need to be quite vigilant: it happened to me that the delay was decreased! Say, you show up for a flight to leave at 1pm, the flight now shows at 3pm but then it boards at 2pm and leaves at 2:30pm. You need to be vigilant with these things.

  • 1
    I've had it happen to me twice recently that the departure time was delayed for multiple hours and then subsequently reset back to the original time. – David Z Mar 28 '15 at 9:12

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