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.