Nov 26, 2010

Posted by in Trip Advice | 47 Comments

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How Does Online Check in Work?

Harry Lawrance

Checking in online is pretty much the standard now for budget airlines. I had my first experience of online check-in a few weeks ago and I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I didn’t really understand it. For those like me who weren’t entirely clear on the process of online check-in, here’s how it works. Not all airlines processes will be the same but in general it goes like this:

1. When you buy your flights, you choose to either check in online or check in at the airport. Generally you have to pay for either option but online check in is usually the cheaper of the two!

2. Now the onus is on you to check in online. From around 28 days to around 5 hours before you travel, you should visit the website of your carrier and click ‘check in online’. You will be required to login using either the email address and password you registered at the time of purchase and/or your booking reference which will have been emailed to your registered email address.

3. On the online check in screen you will be required to enter the details of each member of your party including the passport number. These details will need to exactly match the details on the passport of each traveller. Once this is complete you will be asked to print out a boarding card for each memeber of your party, for each leg of your journey (outbound and inbound). These boarding cards must be kept safe as you will need to take them to the airport with you.

4. When you arrive at the airport for your flight you will have to do one of two things.

a) If you have hand luggage only then you’re laughing, as this is where online check in is a great help. You can happily proceed directly to security.
b) If you have a suitcase or bag that you need to load into the hold of the plane, you will need to head to the bag drop desk of your airline. This looks and acts exactly like the regular check in desks and the desk number for your flight will be shown on the electronic display boards as per usual. In fact the whole process seems to work in the exacy the same way as if you were checking in normally, with the one exception that you print your boarding cards yourself.I fail to see how the process is really any quicker – Ho hum.

5. Proceed as normal. The procedure works in the exact same way on the return leg.

What if I forget to check in online / forget my boarding card?

If you forget to check in online or forget or lose your boarding pass, you will still be allowed to travel, you will just have to have a new boarding card printed for you at the airport. This may incur an extra fee, sometimes in the region of £40! So make sure you keep a tight grip on those boarding passes.

So there you have it – a brief guide to online check in’s. Hopefully this has answered all your queries but if you would like to know anything else about this topic or have any questions, just leave them in the comments on the right and I will do my best to respond with the answers.

  1. derek hill says:

    do you have to pay for your seats with online check in?

  2. Hi Derek

    Your question is valid, however it really does vary by airline. However generally, once on line check-in is open, you can select your seat for free unless the airline has a free seating policy.

    With easyJet and Ryanair you cannot book individual seats, so when you check-in on line it is still a free for all when you board. Either pay for early boarding at up to £16 each way OR be one of the first to board so that you have the widest choice of seats.

    BA allows you to check in from 24 hours before and seat selection at this point is free. However if you wish to reserve seats ahead of this you will pay for the priviledge. This is similar to other airlines such as bmibaby, bmi, monarch, flybe. When you use their online check in you will be able to select from whatever is left from customers who have chosen to pre-allocate their seats by paying.

    Also note that online check-in open times vary from airline to airline.

    Hope this helps – who are you travelling with and I can give you specific advice for that airline?

    Kind regards


  3. derek hill says:

    Hi Bob
    We are flying with from blackpool.
    The online check-in opens 28 days before the dep. So we were hoping to get in asap to choose seats for free, as you would at the check-in desk when getting your boarding pass

  4. Hi Derek

    You should be fine. I can’t imagine that many seats will have been pre-sold on the flights, so you should have a good pick.

    If you cannot actually select your seat when online check-in opens, then ensure you get the airport early on day of departure to get the best pick from the check-in/bag drop desks.

    Have a great trip.


  5. can ordinary a4 paper be used to print boarding pass

  6. Harry Lawrance says:

    It certainly can Anne – just print your boardig pass out like you you would any other document.

    • Hi Harry

      We too will be travelling for the first time with ryanair having booked on line again for the first time. Your comments re the procedure and the boarding pass have helped a great deal. I am about to complete the form and have been very apprehensive and not a little worried that I might make a mistake when completing the details. Glad I found you and thanks!

  7. Hi Bob

    Just wanted to say thanks for this informative and very helpful advice. I am due to fly soon from GLA to SOU with Flybe and will be using the on-lone check in facility for the first time, which I was stressing and worrying about. However, your advice has been invaluable and has abated my fears!

    So, many thanks once again!


  8. Valerie says:

    Hi, do you know whether you enter passenger names manually or if it comes from the infomation you gave at time of booking? I’m travelling with Ryan Air soon and didn’t put my friend’s middle name on the booking – I never have before and never needed to to but now i’m worried that with Ryanair’s reputation for charging at every opportunity it could be a problem with them.

    Wondering if i can just include it at the online check in stage?


    • Hi Valerie

      Ryanair do not ask for middle names in the booking process and it is the names you enter when you book that must match the passport documentation when you travel.

      Airlines use the data that is submitted when a booking is made to match up all parts of the travel process, check in and boarding.

      You do not need to worry about middle names, so as long as you have the correct first name and surname there should be no problem at all with travelling.

      I too have a middle name but never use it when booking on carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet and have no problems checking in or boarding the plane.

      Have a great trip.


      • hi my friend has just checked me in online and although i told her my full name, which is Spanish : Marisel Giminez Fernandez she had only put my surname as Fernandez. Now im not sure i i need to change my name and pay £110? Please help!

  9. Hi

    Still confused (sorry) – do the normal “two hours before departure” arrival times still stand then?? Obviously we aren’t going to leave it until the last minute but as we only live 15 mins away from the airport and fly tomorrow morning at 6:30 I would much rather spend an extra hour at home than in the airport…


  10. Eleanor says:


    My friend and I have book a Jet2 flight and my friend did not put middle names on booking for online check but there are middle names on our passport. I was just worried because somewhere on their pages it says names on booking must match passport details. Do you think we will be charged extra for not putting middle names on booking forms.



  11. Julie says:

    Hi, similar query really.

    I have booked five seats on a Ryanair flight to Spain and only entered first name and surname as that is all that was asked. However, passports show a middle name.

    When doing the on-line booking do I add the middle name so it is the same as the passport or do I leave it out so it is the same as the original booking?

    Please help.

  12. when you check-in online, you don’t have boarding card, do you ?


  13. gaynor scollen says:

    My boarding card I printed says I’m a Mr but I’m a Mrs. It’s with jet2. Will this be a problem. I rang customer services and she said not to worry…but as it gets closer I am

  14. Roger Cook says:

    Does the bag drop desk of your airline actually print the luggage label as normal and stick it to your luggage?

  15. Rachel says:

    How do I go about checking in from corfu for my return flight?
    I can check in on line for my outward bound flight 28 days before hand so how soon should I check in for my return flight, we will be in corfu for 3 weeks.

  16. shaun Duffy says:


    i was checking in online on the jet2 website. When I got to the screen where I would input the passport number and expiry there was no fields for me to fill in. I checked the page for a few minutes so clicked on the next button. The website then advised me that the boarding passes were complete but i had not inputted any information. I checked the pdf of the boarding passes and all the details were blank. Why would the site generate the passes without the relevant details and why was the screen blank in the first place. I do not want to pay any extra as this was not my fauly. I tried logging back in to input the details but the site wouldn’t allow it. I then tried to call Jet2 but the office was closed. This has annoyed me greately as with other airlines the check in is simple. I honestly don’t know why they would allow the site to generate the booking passes without any of the fields filled in. grr Has this happpened to anyone else and is there anyway I can change this.

  17. Im travelling with easyjet soon to Krakow,Do they require middle names on the api part or the booking process.

  18. What questions are asked when printing out your boarding pass never done this before.

  19. Elizabeth Kelly says:


    I’ve just booked flights with Jet2 and opted for online check-in. I understood the whole point of online check-in was to save time and effort at the airport as I will print out my own boarding passes. so why do I have to pay for online check-in when I’m doing all the work?

  20. Josette dootson says:

    We fly with thomas cook at on the 29th may 2014. I’ve entered my apis they received that but how do I get to check in and get boarding passes thankyou will I be able to do it at the airport

  21. rosey says:

    I have my hoarding passes, booked through a third party, sorry if im being thick but does this mean I do not have to check in?im taking it to mean if I have ny boarding passes I dont check in!!

  22. kathryn tinkler says:

    hi , im due to fly with ryanair in september and have to checkin on line and print out boarding passes, never done this before . So do i print out the outbound and inbound at the same time ? a little confused . thanks if you can help a novice !

  23. W A Corbett says:

    I have booked Ryanair flights to Charleroi from Manchester, successfully apart from my wife’s title as Mr. As the boarding pass is compared with passport data that does not include Mr/Mrs will we have any difficulty at the airport? Has anyone been faced with this problem? Name change i.e. the title, is extortionate with Ryanair.

    • Hi there

      You are right in that your passport and boarding pass should match, so there is a risk that you will be stopped. Its your choice whether to run the risk or whether to pay up and dhancge it now for a lower fee I’m afraid.

      They would be within their rights to demand a fee to change it at the airport as it is the passenger’s responsibility to book wth the correct information.

      Good luck and let us know how you get on.


  24. Julie weaver says:

    Hi I am flying with Thomson to turkey , I have just gone on to the site where they have given us our seats but they are not all together !! Do I just leave it and get to the airport earlier , but it’s saying on the check in unavailable seats do you think this is because the airport checking in desk has reserved them for people who haven’t yet paid !
    I didn’t relies that u could go in 7days before ! But still would of had to pay to change!!
    Goodness I am confused xxx
    So grateful for you comments

  25. Hi,

    Travelling Ryanair and waiting to check in 7 days before flight so can have free allocated seating. We are a family of four. How do I check us all in at once? Is it possible to place a check in the box next to everyone’s name at once then press return so that I don’t check everyone in individually?


    • I am sure you can check all passengers in at once on a Ryanair booking as long as they are all on the same booking.

      Have you logged on with your reservation number? Should be straighforward and the system will allocate you seats on a first come first served basis. These are NOT guaranteed to be together. If you want to select and guarantee seats together you have to pay for that.

      Have a great flight.


  26. If there is a change of time will we be informed when final payment is made and have we got pay to use online check in

  27. christine mehmet says:

    I a flying with Ryanair with cabin bag only, do I still need to be at airport 2 hours before departure or is 1 hour sufficient

    • Hi there

      Ryanair state that you must be at the boarding gate 30 minutes prior to departure and that boarding closes at 20 minutes prior to departure.

      So you could arrive at the airport as late as you want; however you must allow sufficient time for you to negotiate security and to walk to the gate. Dependent on the airport this may be a long walk. My advice is to arrive no later than one hour prior to departure to give you at least 30 minutes to do the the two steps above. Allow longer if you need to use airport shops and duty free as part of your travel experience.



    • Jordan says:

      I just wanted to make sure this was definitely correct. As I rang Ryanair and the airport and they kept saying they till reccomend i be there 2 hours before. I can n ot make it 2 hours before because im getting on the first train to the airport.


  28. valerie says:

    im flying with Monarch and want to check in at airport so I dont have to pay extra for an allocated seat. Ive only got my name on the booking not my passport number. Is this plus the reference number all I need to take to airport?

  29. valerie says:

    Ive booked flights for myself and a friend on Monarch.I want to check in at airport. Do I just need passports and booking reference numbers?

  30. Gabriella says:


    I have to buy a ticket to fly with jet2 and i want to choose online check in but can i use my ID card for online check in or do you need a passport ?

    and do i have to pay extra for seats with jet2 when i check in ?

  31. Claire says:

    Hi we have allready paid for our seats with jet 2 is there any point checking in online ? Will it make things any easier ?

    • Hi Claire

      You must check-in online with Jet2 or you will incur an additional airport check-in fee of £17.50 per person at the check-in desk.

      Checking in online and printing your boarding cards will save you both time and money at the airport. They also charge for boarding card re-issue if you don’t print them off, so organise this as well before going to the airport.

      Have a great trip.

      Kind regards


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