The Check-In Decision: Online Or At Airport

Online check-in lets you confirm your availability for a flight before departure. While most airlines now support online check-in, you may still check in at the airport. 

It’s better to check in online than line up to check in at the airport. Some airlines only allow seat selection for passengers checking in online. Moreover, online check-in makes it easy to update your travel plan, such as adding an extra bag to your reservation.

In this article, you’ll learn the benefits of checking in online for a flight and the best way to do it. You’ll also find out whether passengers who check in online need a printed boarding pass and if you can check in online if you’re traveling with an infant or a pet, so read on. 

Virgin Atlantic Check In Desk
Virgin Atlantic Check-In Desk

Check In at the Airport or Online: What’s Better?

Online check-ins have made the process much easier and faster for passengers. 

It is better to check in online than at the airport because it allows passengers to avoid lines and spend less time there, especially if they travel without check-in baggage. Online check-ins also allow passengers to choose seats and travel more comfortably. 

What are the Benefits of Checking-In Online for a Flight Over Checking It at the Airport?

Some airlines have made online check-in mandatory for their passengers. 

There are multiple benefits of checking in online for a flight for airlines and passengers. For airlines, online check-in reduces labor requirements at airport check-in counters, cutting costs. Meanwhile, passengers can easily choose their seats, benefit from lower prices, and update bookings. 

Here’re some of the advantages of online check-in over airport check-in.

You Get the Opportunity to Select Your Favorite Seat

While some airlines let you select your preferred seat when booking the flight, others push the seat selection to the check-in point. If you don’t choose a seat yourself, the airline will assign you a random seat, which you may not like. For a chance to select the best seat for your flight, check in as soon as the process opens

You Save Time, Money, and Avoid Stress

After completing the check-in procedure online, you can arrive at the airport and go directly to the security checkpoint without passing through the check-in desk. If you have a checked bag, you’ll only need to drop it off, and you’re done.

Online check-in can save you a few bucks if the airline you’re using charges an additional fee to check you in physically at the airport. 

It Becomes Easy To Update Your Booking

You may need to update your reservation after you book a flight. You can revise your reservation more conveniently if you’re checking in online. For example, you can add an extra suitcase you still need to include when booking the ticket. 

Moreover, you can conveniently book a hotel or reserve a rental car from the airline’s partners while checking in online. 

When Should You Do Online Check-In for a Flight?

Check-in timing may vary by airline, departure airport, and destination. You may have up to a month before your flight’s scheduled departure to check in online. 

Airlines that support online check-in have a window for customers to do so. Most airlines open online check-in 24 to 48 hours before departure. Online check-in processes usually close an hour or two before flight time, though some airlines allow check-ins up to thirty minutes before departure.

Do I Need To Print My Boarding Pass If I Checked In Online?

Most airlines allow passengers to print their boarding pass or use a digital version of the pass. If you opt for the digital version, simply display the pass barcode on your phone at the security check and when boarding the flight.

You can print the pass at home or at the airport kiosk, but a printing fee may apply. 

Is It Better To Check-In Online or on App?

Many airlines support online check-in through a web browser or the airline’s mobile app. To check in with an app, you’ll need to download and install the app to your device.

It is better to check-in with the airline’s mobile app. Using the app to check in on the phone can reduce the risk of misplacing the pass, as you’re likely to have your phone at all times.

You’ll need your flight booking details to check in online. These details include your name, ID number, booking confirmation number, and the bags you will check-in. You’ll also need your passport number if you’re on an international flight.

Once the details are ready, go to the airline’s website or mobile app. Head over to the online check-in section and enter the details. Once you complete the procedure, you can download your boarding pass.

If you’re traveling on multiple flights, you’ll need to check in online in the order of your flight.  

What Are the Disadvantages of Online Check-In?

You may experience minor friction if you’d prefer to complete the entire flight reservation process remotely.

Once you check in online, you can’t go back again and change your flight online. You’d need to go to the airport if something unexpected happens that causes you to want to reschedule your flight plan.

You may also be unable to check in online fully for your international flight if you’re traveling with a child or carrying a pet. You may choose a seat online but must go to the airport to complete the check-in. In the case of a child, the airline staff may ask to verify the child’s age before they can check you in.

If you’ve requested a special service from the airline, online check-in may not work well for you. While you may begin the procedure online, you’d need to see an airline representative at the airport.

Another challenge is that technical failures can disrupt online check-in systems. As a result, online or app check-in options may be unavailable just when you need to confirm your flight booking. 


Checking in for a flight online is convenient and can save you time and money. For some airlines, seat selection is only available for customers checking in online.

If you can check in online, you’re better off seizing up on that opportunity. However, checking in at the airport may be your best option if you’re traveling with a small child or a pet or need a special airline service.