Follow any instructions that are included with your ticket.
U.S. airlines now recommend that you arrive much earlier, due to heightened security. Two hours before departure on domestic and three hours before departure for international flights are the new guidelines. Don't be tempted to cut corners and hope for shorter security and check-in lines. There's a good chance that you'll miss your flight !
The experience of September 11, 2001, means that it will take passengers much more time to get through airport security. New security measures temporarily brought an end to curbside and off-airport check-in at U.S. airports. This caused a mess at check-in counters. Curbside check-in has since been re-instated for domestic flights, but remains unavailable for international travellers.
Most airlines consider that you to have arrived at the airport only when you reach the check-in counter and are acknowledged by an agent. The long time spent in line really doesn't matter. If you are driving, allow extra time to park and reach the terminal building. You will experience longer check-in lines during periods of peak travel. Allow for it.
The necessary advance arrival time will vary, depending on the airport. Many airports handle a huge volume of traffic and are so large that they require an even earlier arrival time.
During peak times, peak travel season, holidays or periods of heightened security alert, contact the airline for any instructions concerning your arrival and check-in at the airport. Many have updated information on their web sites as well as toll free phone numbers. Check their web site for info on both your departure and destination airports. Sometimes security measures or other conditions change during the time since your ticket was issued and your departure date. Changes could make it necessary for you to arrive even earlier than first recommended.
Always be aware that airlines have "recommended" arrival times as well as much stricter required arrival times. All airlines require that you arrive at the check-in counter, the departure gate and even on-board and in your assigned seat, at a designated amount of time prior to the scheduled departure time. The advance arrival time required varies, depending on the airline. Most airlines' "conditions of carriage" state that failure to arrive at the check-in counter, the departure gate and/or your assigned seat by a certain time before departure, may cause you to be denied boarding. This will result in your forfeiting any refund or compensation for the unused ticket, regardless of the fact that advance seat assignments and boarding passes have been issued.
If you don't make it by the recommended check-in time, you probably don't have enough time to make it through airport security and on to your flight. If you are planning to cut it close, re-check the airline’s REQUIRED minimum check-in times. Most airlines require that you arrive at the check-in counter, departure gate and be onboard and in your assigned seat, a specific amount of time prior to the scheduled departure time. Arriving later at any point, could make it impossible for you to make your flight.
Remember, if you don’t make it by the required minimum check-in time, you may not be allowed to proceed and board the plane even if your plane has not yet left the gate.
Airlines require a minimum check-in time for your luggage, in order that it can make it on the same flight. If you miss the deadline, your luggage won't go until the next flight, increasing the chance of it being lost or at least delayed.
Airlines’ conditions of carriage state that failure to arrive at the check-in counter, the departure gate and be in your assigned seat by a specific time prior to scheduled departure time, may result in the forfeiting of any refund or compensation normally due for the unused ticket.
If you don't make it by the required check-in time, you have little or no chance of making it through security in time to get to the gate, even if they allow you to check in. Security won’t rush you through just because you’re running late. Trying to rush security officers may make them suspicious of you and cause even more delay.
Check-in minimums vary by airline and also vary from airport to airport.
Check the airport web site for information regarding parking facilities. There should be helpful information, including the layout of the various parking facilities, cost, times of operation and tram schedules. Most include guidelines regarding the time needed to get to the terminal after you park.
Always remove all the valuables from the car before you leave home.
If traveling with friends, drop them and their luggage at the terminal before you park. They can watch the bags while they wait for you to join them. This is particularly helpful when traveling with a lot of luggage or are when using long-term lots that are usually a longer bus or tram ride from the terminal.
Remember to write your space and/or section number on a piece of paper and keep it in a safe place.
Take the parking ticket with you. This will make it harder for someone to steal your car from the lot. If you're afraid of losing it, leave it in the vehicle in a well secured or well hidden place. Don't forget where you stashed it !
If parking indoors, look for spaces on the end of a row or next to a column. This reduces the chance of getting door dents.
Carry window cleaner and paper towels in your trunk. When you return, the gunk from the parking lot air will need to be removed.
Be sure that your bags are labeled with I.D. tags and remove any old claim tags.
Remember, curbside check-in doesn't apply to travel to an international destination.
Before checking your bags, ask if the flight is delayed or cancelled. You may want to wait.
Memorize the 3 letter airport destination code for your arrival city. Airport codes aren’t always obvious. If you know the code you can verify that the right tag is on your bag.
Make sure the correct airline information is put on your bags. Often skycaps check in bags for several different airlines.
Wait and watch for your bags go on and down the conveyor belt. Never take the word of a busy skycap that he’ll get to it in a minute. Seasoned criminals observe skycaps that are too busy to guard your bags and take advantage of the lapse..
Never tip a skycap until your bags are tagged and on their way.
Curbside check-in and off-airport check-in is not be available at all airports. Due to September 11, 2001, curbside and off-airport check-in was suspended for a period of time. It has been re-instated for domestic flights but not for international travel.
The page contains web links to most U.S. and foreign airports. Each airport’s site is different. Many contain airport terminal layouts and features, parking information, flight delay information and other items that could save you time and make your visit safer. It also lists many airport codes that can be helpful when making reservations and enabling you to check that your luggage is tagged to the correct airport.
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