May 10, 2015

Posted by in Money Saving Tips, Trip Advice | 64 Comments

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How does online check in work?

Checking in online is pretty much standard now with airlines including charter, budget and scheduled carriers. With airlines introducing new apps for smart phones by the day, the concept of arriving at an airport and checking in the traditional way is beginning to wane.

EasyJet has even launched a TV campaign to persuade us that travelling paper-free is the future.

Not only is it now far easier to check in using your desktop computer, tablet or phone, it means you can often choose your seat before you get to the airport and even save time before your flight with shorter queues, especially if travelling hand luggage only.

More importantly, it is cheaper to use online services with some airlines.

So, if you have yet to embrace the world of electronic check in, here is our guide to breezing through the process.

1. Pay attention when booking

After you have made your booking, you will be notified when check in opens for your flight, either in your confirmation email or during the booking process on your airline or travel agent’s website. Make a note of this, so that you can check in as early as possible.

Many airlines, such as British Airways and easyJet, still offer the choice of airport check in and, in some destinations, online check in may not yet be available for all services, so do check your airline’s website.

Some airlines have even started offering an automatic check in feature to their booking options. Flybe now offers this system, meaning that the airline will send you your boarding pass around 36 hours prior to departure – so you don’t even have to think about checking in once the booking has been made.

Top tip: Some airlines will charge you to check in at the airport. These include Ryanair who charges £45 per person each way and Jet2 who charges £15 per person each way. So it’s well worth ensuring you opt for the online option here to save yourself some cash.

2. Check for apps

Online check in

If your airline has an app, download it to your smartphone. It will prompt you when check in opens, allow you to update your booking if you need to and also advise you of any changes or delays to your aircraft.

You can even make new bookings or check details such as airline mileage if your carrier offers this.

Airlines such as British Airways even alert you when the departure gate opens at the airport, giving you more chance to relax before your flight rather than constantly staring at the departure boards.

Easyjet has a Mobile Host app that helps guide you through the airport. Find out more in the video below.

3. Make your booking (h)API

Every airline now collects Advance Passenger Information (API) for their bookings under strict security rulings. Airlines will require full passport names and insurance details as a minimum and, depending on your destination, may also request you give them contact information and the address of where you will be staying.

You will be prompted by your airline to add this information, so do it online, well ahead of travel to make your time at the airport as smooth as possible.

4. Get checked in

You are usually notified by your airline when online check in has opened via email, text or app alerts.

The time that check in opens varies from one airline to another, with some allowing check in from as many as 28 days in advance (easyJet and Monarch) to 24 hours before with carriers such as British Airways.

You will need your booking reference as a minimum to start the check in process and most airlines will allow check in for up to nine people online. (Groups should check their airline’s procedure.) You may also be required to check in infants less than two years of age at the airport. Again, check your airline’s website for further information.

At this stage you may be able to select or change your seat if you have not chosen to pre-pay for your preferred place on the plane. If you have not yet completed your API information you will have to do this as part of the check in procedure.

You will also need to confirm the number of bags you are checking in so use this as a chance to review if you need either add an additional bag OR to increase your weight allowance. It is nearly always cheaper to do this online than at the airport.

Top tip: As many customers will select seats online, there will be fewer available for those choosing a traditional airport check in. So bear this in mind.

5. Choose your boarding pass

Mobile boarding passSome airlines will give you the option to print out your boarding pass at home. Check the terms and conditions around this as fees are levied by some carriers such as Ryanair for failing to do this.

Others will allow you to send your boarding pass to an email address, to your mobile phone (pictured left) or to collect it at the airport. Using the mobile phone method can work out the most efficient and your boarding pass will either appear in your airline app for you to add to features such as Passbook or you can download it from an email straight to your hand-held device.

Save your boarding pass to your phone so it’s ready whenever you need it. Families or people travelling together can download all of their boarding passes to one phone or to several devices.

Top tip: Online check in closes a few hours before departure, so don’t leave it to the last minute as you may be too late and will incur an airport check in fee as mentioned with Ryanair above.

6. What happens on departure day?

Get to the airport in plenty of time and remember to take your smart phone with you or your printed boarding cards.

Travelling hand luggage only? Then bypass check in and go straight to security as normal.

If you are checking bags in you can go straight to the bag drop off points for your airline. Some airlines are now making this self-service where you print your own tags and fix them to the bags. You then simply drop the bags at the special desks, so check with airline staff if you are unsure.

Staff will scan your printed boarding pass or phone and you can even use these to pass through security.

7. What if I forget to check in online or leave my boarding card at home?

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 check in as normal or have a new boarding card printed for you at the airport.

Most airlines will still allow you to do this for free (but check you individual airline’s policy); however you can expect longer queues.

Worried about checking in online or want advice about your airline’s procedures? Are you an online check in convert? Leave a comment below to let us know.

  1. derek hill says:

    hi
    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

    Bob

  3. derek hill says:

    Hi Bob
    We are flying with jet2.com 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
    Derek

  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.

    Bob

  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!

    Tracy

  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?

    Valerie

    • 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.

      Bob

      • 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!
        Thanks
        M

  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…

    Kate

  10. Eleanor says:

    Hi

    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.

    Thanks

    Elly

  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 ?

    Thanks
    ming

  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.
    Thanks

  16. shaun Duffy says:

    Hi,

    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:

    hi,

    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.

      Bob

  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?

    Janie.

    • 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.

      Bob

  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.

      Regards

      Bob

    • Jordan says:

      Hi
      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.

      ANY FEEDBACK WOULD BE HELPFUL

  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:

    Hi,

    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

      Bob

  32. lynsey says:

    Hi bob I am confused about this whole online check-in as I have already printed of my voucher /receipt like stated in the emails but I am yet to check in online I’ve had ago on jet2 but it just keeps asking for my booking ref which I entered also once I have done this do I need to print more documents again I’m rather worried as this is all new and so confusing please help

  33. Hi
    I am due to fly with Ryanair to Lanzarote in approx. 3 weeks time and I am really worried about getting everything correct. The package holiday was booked by my friends (7) in total through an online company who are very hard work and, to be honest, I would never have picked. Anyway, they have sent through the booking confirmation but they also mention ringing them if you want to book seats etc., and the boarding passes coming to an email – my worry is that we have not received emails from them as promised even though our information was sent off by email to them etc., and I am worried that the boarding passes will not only not arrive for the outgoing journey but the journey coming back also. My question is – if I go on Ryanair direct and try to book in online – will I be able to do this for both journeys and print out boarding passes now for each also so we do not have to wait for this company to do it – help??

    • Hi there Kate

      If you have your Ryanair booking reference you can go online, retrieve your booking and either pay to reserve seats or accept the seats they give you and print your boarding passes. If you pay for seating you can check in and print boarding passes up to 30 days before your flight. If you accept allocated seats you can only do this from seven days before, so you would probably have to do your return trip in resort.

      If you do not have your Ryanair booking reference then call the travel company you booked through and obtain it to check in yourself.

      I hope that makes sense. You can find more info on online check-in with Ryanair here;

      https://www.ryanair.com/en/need-to-know/online-checkin/
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-ftegMK8R4

      Good luck.

      Bob

  34. Elaine says:

    Have booked flexible holiday with Thomas Cook. Outward flight is with Easyjet but I do not have a booking reference for Easyjet only Thomas Cook. Several phone calls later I think we are just to turn up at the airport and report to the Easyjet check in desk – thats if there is one! I’m already stressing about this holiday and I haven’t left home yet! Help.

  35. John veale says:

    i have paid for a name change and i cant check in online because i havent got the original email or reference number what can i do..iam flying early friday morning

    • Hi John

      Contact your airline via their customer service centre and they should be able to give you the reference to allow you to check-in online. They can also explain what you need to do if this is not possible.

      Have a great trip.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  36. Anonymous says:

    When checking in online it asks how many bags im needing to check in, does my hand luggage count towards that or is it just my suitcase?

    • Hi there

      Your check-in bags are the ones that you travel with you in the hold and do NOT include your hand luggage that you take into the cabin.

      Check your individual airline for the limits and allowances for your flight.

      Have a great trip.

      Bob

  37. Once you have entered details and printed boarding passes on Ryanair online check in is there any way you can look to see that you have entered all the details correctly?

  38. Hi there,

    this may seem a stupid question but I have booked a holiday through a third party for the first time and have received my boarding passes. Does that mean I have checked in because I’m having difficulty checking in with Ryan air online and my holidays on the 28/6

    • Hi Rob

      Do you have your boarding passes for both flying out to your destination and flying back?

      If not you will need to go online to Ryanair and check in, printing them and taking them with you.

      Otherwise ring your travel company and ask them to confirm the arrangements for both ways.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  39. hi
    i checked in online with jet 2 and saved the boarding pass to my phone because my printer decided it wasnt going to work. what will happen if i dont get the pass printed off in time?

  40. Hi, Bob,

    I realize this is rather tangential to the discussion, but I think you are the person who can shed light on my issue.

    I understand that some airports employ special taxes, the ones on which low cost airlines, such as Ryanair land and depart, such as Charleroi in Brussels. Are these taxes something that we, the clients, need to pay at the airport? If so, where would we pay these taxes, provided we had checked in online? Would we still need to go to the the check-in or is there a special desk for this?

    Many thanks,
    Kris

    • Hi Kris

      nearly all airport taxes are collected via the booking engine as you book and are included in your total ticket price. However some airports around the world may collect them as you check-in or as you depart. There are very few of these to be fair and certainly Charleroi is not one of them. Norwich airport in the UK has a fee of £10 for adults and £5 for children and you pay tis online or at the terminal direct to the airport.

      If you check the website of the airport you are travelling to you should be able to see if a fee is payable and your airline should inform you of this as part of the booking. However it is pretty unusual these days. Where are you travelling to and from and we can look into it for you?

      Kind regards

      Bob

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