I’m assuming that you’ll be booking your ticket online. It could be on one of the popular flight aggregator websites or, perhaps, you book your ticket on the actual airline’s website. Either way, you’ll have the e-ticket or notification in your email. Sure, that will get you into the airport and allow you to check in (along with your passport) for your flight, but I’m here to urge you to take it one step further and actually check in online the night (or day) before your flight.
I NEVER used to do this. Why would I? You still have to get in line at the airport and check your bag in, right? Of course, if you only have a carry-on bag then you may be able to get your boarding pass online and then print it out in advance of your trip to the airport, but how many times do you fly (especially internationally) with just a carry-on bag? Since you have to get in line anyways, my reasoning went, why bother wasting time checking in ahead of time? Furthermore, since I live and travel abroad, mostly in developing countries, I don’t have easy access to a printer (to print out my boarding pass), nor is there a Kinkos down the street.
However, my opinion drastically changed upon a recent trip to the airport, and I’ll share that experience with you.
Traveling from Bangkok in Thailand to Manila in the Philippines (where I’m currently living), I got to the airport a little more than three hours early. The airport hotel where I stayed that night encouraged me to take their shuttle bus later to arrive two hours before my flight but, me being the paranoid traveler, I wanted to get there early.
And it’s a good thing I did because as soon as I located my check-in counters, I saw that there was already a monstrous line! In fact, it extended the whole depth of the massive check-in area! Being that this was Cebu Pacific (the Philippines is big on smiles but terrible for timely and efficient travel), I knew it might take a little longer to check in, but I didn’t expect a line like this a full three hours and change before the flight!
I started walking to the back of the line until I saw another roped off area on the side where a few people were standing. At first, I thought it was the First Class passengers, but upon further review of the little sign there, I saw it was actually for “Web and Self-Check-In Tickets.”
I quickly moved over to that line, which only had about a dozen people in it. I looked back at the longer line of “regular” passengers, and they looked absolutely miserable. The line was barely moving at all.
Luckily, I had checked in the night before. I had done so on a whim and because I had some extra time on me hands, as it wasn’t part of my normal routine. But sure enough, it saved me on this day, as I only waited about 20 to 30 minutes tops before I was at the check-in counter, where the friendly attendant even gave me an exit row!
After that quick check-in, I had plenty of time to lollygag through security, get a coffee, then get a full meal, do some work, and relax before the plane boarded. But others weren’t so lucky, apparently, because people were rushing onto the plane long after we were supposed to take off – nearly missing the flight because the check-in process had been so slow!
From now on, I’m ALWAYS going to check in the night before, even when I have to check a bag that day, as it can really save the day!
Also, if you haven’t seen our airline safety ratings article make sure to check that out!