What happens when you attempt to check-in late for your flight with baggage?
The answer is, you get stuck. And may even forfeit the value of your ticket.
This is the busiest travel week of the year and many will face snarling traffic and long lines at U.S airports.
I know it is simple advice. I know it a given for many travelers. But give yourself extra time anytime you are checking a bag, but especially this week.
The impetus for this story comes from a local NBC affiliate in San Antonio. An article chronicles the anger of one family who missed the baggage cutoff when flying American Airlines and ended up stuck in SAT.
An American Airlines spokesperson said:
If a passenger arrives after our baggage cutoff, we will not accept the bag for that flight. We will not take possession of it either. However, we will place a passenger on standby for the next available flight.
That’s generally the policy for legacy carriers like Alaska, American, Delta, and United. Meanwhile, low-cost carriers will likely tell you to buy a new ticket and Southwest will charge you full-fare to standby for the next available flight.
The solution is simple: arrive early. Even an overpriced cup of coffee while you are sitting around is worth the peace of mind that comes from not pushing it.
But even arriving early may not be enough.
When To Get Aggressive
The family who missed the baggage cutoff for their American Airlines flight actually arrived to the airport early. Their primary problem was huge check-in lines. Even though they were in line well before the cutoff, by the time they made it to the kiosk it was too late.
When I was in the Air Force, my commanding officer had a big sign above his desk which read:
A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.
That’s a true statement, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
I make it a point to arrive early at airports now to avoid being the idiot who pushes through lines, begging people to let him cut because of his poor time management.
But I’d rather be an idiot than miss my flight.
So if you do find yourself rapidly approaching the check-in deadline, ask people to let you through. Beg them if necessary. Because it works…I’ve seen it so many times over the years.
But for goodness sakes, don’t put yourself in that position in the first place.
One of the my most annoying travel experiences was five years ago when I was (planning) to travel from Los Angeles to Frankfurt via San Francisco on United. I missed the baggage cutoff by ten minutes and an exception was not made. I ended up having to re-route through Washington Dulles and lost my upgrade.
That taught me an important lesson: arrive early if you are checking bags. Arrive early period. You never know what you’ll encounter. Whether your time is valuable or not, you’ll end up losing a lot more of it if you miss your flight.
> Read More: United’s Baggage Cutoff is 45 Minutes at LAX, but no less than 40
If it is an important trip (family vacation is fits into that description for me) I will make sure I arrive to the airport way way earlier than necessary. When going on vacation with family all I don’t need is to get stressed so I plan in advance to ensure it goes as smooth as possible. Worst case scenario we get to the airport way too early we then enjoy the perks of siting on Priority Pass lounge.
Echoing what Santastico said, if I’m traveling with my family, I get everyone to the airport way too early, checked bags or not. My wife and son don’t deserve the stress, or the upset it will cause them, because I decided cut it too close.
At some point abandoning some of the bags is an option if the ticket / trip value is high enough. Put the most valuable in the carry on and get going.
Leave the bag in the lost bag area at the airport. It will probably be there when yo ureturn.
Now reading the article you linked, the family didn’t get stuck. It was a mother dropping off her daughter.
They unloaded the bag, and mom took it back home. Daughter went on her way.
And they didn’t arrive early…they got there one hour before departure, leaving less than 15 minutes to check in
“Lisa Runner, who took her daughter to the San Antonio International Airport an hour before her flight.”
I agree with you after reading the actual article. I wouldn’t consider arriving at the airport 1 hour before the flight as “early”. During peak seasons, I’d arrive at the airport 3 hours before my flight at the very least.
Have you been to SAT? I can’t imagine arriving more than 2h before departure there for any flight.
What about the SkyCaps? If I pressed for time, I’ll use the curbside and head to the security line as I use the mobile apps and self check-in kiosks whenever possible.
I have cut in line only once. It was lack of planning but it took me close to 3.5 hours to reach the airport in my bus. And i barely made it about 45 minutes before flight.
I put that down to effing America, a shithole for public transit. Liberals are stupid fu$$s when it comes to public transit. Allowing homeless, drug pushers, idiots to ride it being themselves so decent people dont. As a result the service is never expanded because the drivers let all these idiots to ride free.
Also i have fought with my public transit. A missed connection by a couple minutes resulted in trip delay of one hour because the second bus is infrequent and the first was a few minutes late. As typical Americans each buds driver cared only about his own schedule. I don’t think the bureaucratic idiots will take it to heart to improve it. America really is a shithole if you rely on society. If you are individualstically independent its great.
We “liberals” let “homeless, drug pushers, idiots” to dominate public transit because we want obnoxious, selfish, self-righteous, whiney, snowflake, conservative, fu$$$s like ‘debit’ to be reminded that we are living in a SOCIETY. Not a world that caters solely to their selfishness.
Hehehe, perhaps Debit is trolling, but let’s first discuss the problem with public transit in the states. Indeed, it’s a bi-partisan problem. The “society” of “liberals” indeed drove middle and working class people into cars (pardon the pun) along with the infamous Firestone cartel buying up the trolley lines. Up until the late 50’s, people treated train and busses with the same reverence as fliers dressing up in the 1970’s.
Personally, I took public transportation to get to Dulles because that particular bus/train combination was quite fast and convenient particularly compared to ride sharing such as SuperShuttle.
I think you need to lay off the crack yourself there buddy
I wish U.S. airports had night-before check-in like in Frankfurt (and some other airports in Europe). You check in your bags the evening before and then no longer have to worry about it the day of travel, no need to arrive early. Probably a non-starter in the U.S. for “security” reasons.
Or checkin at city locations like in hong kong. For that you need dense population,
Part of this issue is AA’s abysmal check in kioks that take 2-3 mins per PNR to complete. They need to take a lesson from UA who’s Kiosks are extremely efficient and pleasurable to use.
My take-away is that, as is true with so many air travel-related issues, it is best to inform oneself ahead of time. I’d bet that most holiday travelers aren’t even aware that baggage check-in cut-off times are a thing. If you’re checking a bag, make yourself aware of your airlines policies regarding baggage drop-off times. It’s as simple as that.
That said, I have gotten different answers from UA about baggage cut-off times when my first leg of an international journey starts with a domestic leg.
Finally, SAT is a really small airport (for a rather large city!). The experience is much more akin to BUR than LAX. On a typical day, an hour would be PLENTY of time to check a bag, clear security and get to the gate. Of course, no day this week constitutes a typical travel day. But I just wanted to point out that an hour’s worth of lead time isn’t (usually) totally ridiculous at this particular airport.
Some smaller airports have strange cut off times. For a while, United has an 1 hr cutoff at John Wayne SNA. Fortunately they cut that to the normal 45 min.
What is the rule when a flight is late? Does the original scheduled time or revised scheduled time actually count?
For a holiday don’t pack anything you can’t bring through TSA carry on. One 4th of July we underestimated the line time at SEA. Lines were even bad for elite passengers, which we had with Alaska. We went through TSA security check with 3 bags each and then gate checked the bag before the flight. The gate agents where actively offering to do this. Would have missed the flight otherwise.
While in Palma de Mallorca one summer Saturday the lines at Air Europa check-in were amazingly long and a bit chaotic but the airline dispatched employees into the crowd to “cull the herd” by lining people up by destination; those whose flights were soonest out were moved up and so on, it worked well and no one missed their flights and bags were taken care of. A little bit of pro-activeness by the employees quickly addressed a very messy situation.
Even trying to push your way through the line won’t help if the airline shuts the line down early. A couple months ago I had a flight that was scheduled to leave at 11:30 p.m. I showed up at 9:25 the airline agent had already closed the line and was not letting anyone else even get in it because she said there was no way they would get to the front of it before 10:30. she told me that everyone had to show up two hours prior to boarding for international flights which was a lie. when I pointed out that it was 2 hours and 5 minutes she begrudgingly allowed me into the line and then closed it behind me.
Use curb side check in and pay a tip if the regular line is too long
I work at a medium-sized airport, larger than SAT, but not for an airline. While I certainly have seen very long lines for someone who needs to deal with a customer service agent, for say an international flight, the do-it-yourself bag drop line is never long. The only hang up in making a flight are those who don’t heed the warnings about TSA lines during prime departure times.
Where is the “get aggressive” part in all of this? Aggressively…show up early?
No, cut in line if you have to. People don’t like…I hate it. But making a fool of yourself is better than missing your flight, right?
Simply be on time…I had 500+ flights in the last 15 years and I never missed a single flight.