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What to look out for

Check-in times vary from airline to airline, so it is advisable to check in well in advance of your departure date. Once you know about how much time to leave before check in, you will need to factor in how much time you need get through security and reach the departure gate with plenty of time to board your flight.

Many airlines provide information on their website about when to be present at the airport for check in. This information is usually easy to find, but a number of the larger global airlines do not publish check in times as they vary from country to country. In these situations, you may need to call the airline you are flying with, check your booking confirmation or check with your travel agent.

Unfortunately, not all airlines make this information easy to find and you may need to dig around on the website to find out your check in deadline time. This information may be in the terms and conditions, conditions of carriage or perhaps in the FAQ’s section of the airline’s website.

Check-in online

Many airlines offer the option of being able to check in online (and some only allow on-line check-in). If you check in online, you will either have to print out your boarding pass or, in some cases, you will have it on your mobile phone. This can help save you time, but it is important to keep the print out safe as you may be charged for another copy. Be aware also that some airlines require boarding passes that you print at home to be in a specific format (e.g. A4 single sided).

Once you reach the airport, you can then deposit any luggage (if you are taking any) at a designated desk.

Check-in at the airport

Depending on the airline you’re flying with, it can be cheaper to check-in online, although you should be aware that some airlines charge you to check in online. Not only is it sometimes cheaper, but you can also save yourself the hassle of standing in line at the airport to check in. If you choose to check in on-line, the time you need to arrive at the airport may vary again depending on whether you have baggage or not.

Be aware that some airlines require all passengers to check-in online and will charge you at the airport if they have to print out your boarding card. In some cases this charge can be over one hundred pounds.


The Department for Transport is responsible for the security of UK airports. Their policies are implemented at each airport by the airport security staff. Airlines and travel companies do not set these rules.

Before flying, you will go through airport security. These measures are in place to help maintain your safety, so familiarise yourself with the rules: this will help you pass through the security checks as quickly as possible. Restrictions on what you can take on board vary from time to time, so we recommend you read the latest security advice before every flight from the UK. We have produced additional detailed guidance on certain items that can cause issues at airport security.

Please remember that although all airports must adhere to relevant aviation security requirements, security procedures may vary from airport to airport. More information can be found on the website of the airport you are flying from, and usually from that of your airline or travel company.

Aviation security staff have no powers of search. However, submitting to search when requested is a condition of entry to the secure area of the airport. A refusal to submit to search will mean that you will not be allowed to fly.

Top tips:

  • Check the airline’s website in advance of your travel to find out when you need to be at the airport – if you are late and miss your flight you may need to pay for another flight to take you to your destination.
  • If you booked through an agent, they should be able to help you with your questions.
  • Are you flying to a European destination or to Asia? Depending on your destination your check in time may vary.
  • Are you travelling with hand luggage only? If you are, you may be able to check in online for free and print off your boarding pass, so all you need to do when you arrive at the airport is go straight through security.
  • Do you need to check in online? It may be a requirement of the airline that you check in online and print off your boarding pass, otherwise you might be charged for doing this at the airport.
  • Are you travelling in a group? If so you might consider giving yourself more time to check in.
  • If you’re travelling with a wheelchair or require special assistance, you are required to check in earlier. You will also need to notify your airline or travel agent that you need assistance at least 48 hours before departure.