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When to Check-In for Your Flight: Global Requirements and Tips

The Best Time to Check-In for Your Flight

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
6 minutes read
Last Updated: July 05, 2024

Checking in for your flight early may be the best practice in most situations, but sometimes you can benefit from checking in late. Depending on your flight, the country, and the airline, choosing to check in at the airport instead of online may offer hidden perks. So, when is the best time to check in for your flight and which method is the most convenient? Read on to find out more about check-in requirements, the benefits of different check-in times, and tips on how to avoid getting bumped from an overbooked flight.

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Check-in Methods


These days, the vast majority of air passengers choose to check in for their flight online. In fact, according to various industry reports, roughly 75-80% of passengers opt for online check-in if it’s available. This isn’t surprising, especially given the convenience it offers. 

Benefits of Checking-In Online

  • You can skip long lines at the check-in counters
  • You can check in 24-48 hours before your flight
  • It allows you to choose your seat(s) 
  • Sometimes you can pay for checked bags
  • If you’re traveling with low cost airlines like Spirit, checking-in online will help you avoid fees 
  • Lower your risk of being bumped from an overbooked flight

Self-Serve Kiosks

Meanwhile, self service kiosks give passengers a way to check in by themselves without doing it online. This method can help you skip the long lines at the airport without having to download the airline’s app for online check-in. Plus, you can print bag tags and paper boarding passes.

When to Check-In for Your Flight


Lastly, you can always choose the traditional check-in at the airport. This option may be unavoidable if you have to check bags or if you’re traveling with a pet. Let’s look at who has to check-in in person at the airport.

Who Has to Check-in In Person

  1. Minors traveling alone
  2. Anyone traveling with pets
  3. Passengers who will be flying with a lap infant
  4. If you’re flying with large items or anything that requires special handling
  5. If you’re a passenger using a Military ID 
  6. Anyone traveling with group reservations
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When to Check-In Early

In most cases, checking-in 24-48 hours early simply offers peace of mind and convenience, but there are some situations where checking-in earlier is much more important. As we mentioned above, you can secure seats and avoid getting bumped the earlier you check-in, but if you’re flying with a low cost, international, or frequently overbooked airline, you might not have a better choice.

Low-Cost Airlines

Low cost carriers including EasyJet, Frontier, and Ryanair, usually charge fees to passengers who check-in at the airport. In fact, Spirit has been known to charge $10 just for printing a boarding pass. So, to avoid added fees as well as to have the best chance for choice seats, you should always check in as early as possible if you’re flying with a low cost airline.

International Travel

If you’re traveling to another country, early check-in is super important as there tends to be more security and procedures that can take more time. If you’re traveling with large items, pets, or children, then earlier is always better.

Airlines That Oversell Flights

In order to maximize profits, airlines will frequently overbook their flights to make up for the loss of a last minute no-shows or cancellations. However, if a flight is oversold and all the passengers arrive at the gate to board, there are more passengers than seats, and this leads to involuntary denied boarding.

So, if you’re traveling with an airline with a reputation for bumping passengers like American, Delta, or Southwest, you should definitely check in as soon as you can. Usually, carriers will choose to bump the last passengers to check-in for their flight.

checkin time

When You Should Check in Later

So, now that we’ve established that early check-in is usually the best practice, there are times when checking-in later can be beneficial, especially if you do it in person at the airport. If you’re jockeying for a seating class upgrade, or if you just want to see about getting a little more legroom, then arriving slightly later at the check-in counter can open you up to last minute offers. 

By slightly late, we mean make sure you can get through security and to the gate in time, but just a little later than other passengers. Again, this can be risky if you’re traveling during peak seasons or with an airline known to overbook.

When to Check In

Because check-in times vary, let’s take a look at some of the requirements in different regions.



Check-In Opens

Check-In Closes


Air Canada

24 hours before departure

60 minutes before departure on international flights, 45 for domestic


24 hours before departure

60 minutes before departure on international flights, 45 for domestic

United States


24 hours before departure

30-45 minutes before departure on domestic, 1 hour before international flights


24 hours before departure

45 min before departure on domestic flights, 60 for international

European Union


23 hours before departure

60 min before domestic and international departures

Air France

30 hours before departure

60 minutes before departure on international flights, 45 for domestic

United Kingdom

British Airways

24-hours before departure

60 min before departure on long-haul and 45 min before on short-haul flights


30 days before departure

40 minutes before departure on international and domestic flights

Middle East 


48 hours before departure

60 minutes before departure on international flights, 45 for domestic


48 hours before departure

60 minutes before departure on international flights, 45 for domestic


Singapore Airlines

48 hours before departure

40 minutes before departure on international flights, 30 for domestic

Cathay Pacific

48 hours before departure

60 minutes before departure on international flights, 45 for domestic

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How to Check In for Your Flight: Tips and Tricks

Beyond arriving at the airport early and packing medications in your carry-on bag, here are a few helpful tips to help you check in quickly and easily.

  • Download your airline’s app and use it to check in and access your boarding pass
  • You can use the app or your calendar to set reminders for check in times
  • Use an automatic check-in service available with some airlines
  • Stay aware of gate changes, flight delays, or cancellations
  • Use your loyalty or miles status to your advantage when checking in. You might get a last minute seating upgrade!
  • Print your boarding pass as a back-up in case your phone has problems


Your air passenger experience can be much easier and less stressful if you know the check-in requirements and follow them. So whether you want to streamline the process by checking in online, or if you want to see about last minute upgrades by getting to the ticket counter slightly later than other passengers, it’s always smart to know when check-in opens and closes. 

As always, stay informed and if you do happen to get bumped from an overbooked flight!

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