|by Jason Steele|
If you have flown Southwest airlines, you know that they don’t assign seats, just a boarding number. You may have even found out the hard way that in order to get the best boarding number, you have to check in exactly 24 hours in advance. Yet even on other airlines, there are many advantages to checking in early.
Get The Upgrade
Many airlines are now offering paid upgrades at check in. This is what Mr Credit Card found out on his recent trip to San Francisco. When he checked in, he was offered an upgrade to their first class. The upgrades sell as first come, first serve, so if you want one, don’t wait until you show up at the airport to check in.
Get A Better Seat
Often, I am unable to get a seat assignment at the time of booking as airlines are holding their best seats for their elites and last minute business fliers. Other times, I have a very limited choice, even when booking long in advance. By checking in 24 hours early, I have the opportunity to secure a decent seat or one that is a little better than the one I originally selected.
If you are looking to be voluntarily denied boarding so you can be compensated, checking in early might allow you to be offered that opportunity and to be at the top of the list.
Don’t Get Bumped
Involuntary denied boardings are rare, but they can happen. In that case, they start with the people who don’t have elite status and who checked in last. Don’t let that be you.
Find Out About Cancellations
Airlines are notoriously bad about contacting their passengers in the event of a cancellation or a schedule change. When you check in for your flight 24 hours in advance, you have that much more time to sort out any changes that may have occurred between the time you purchased your flight and the day before your travel. You don’t want to show up at the airport only to find out your flight was canceled, but that seats were available on an earlier flight that you just missed.
Find Out About Problems
Airlines screw up bookings all the time. Sometimes, passengers do this as well, accidentally booking a flight on the wrong day. I have seen bookings lost or even canceled due to airline computer system screw ups. Seat assignments get dropped all the time when their is an “equipment change”. The time to sort these things out is the day before the flight, not at the airport when the clock is ticking.
Forget About Actually Printing
Checking in and printing a boarding pass for your outbound flight is very easy to do, but it is much harder to find a working computer and printer at the right time when you are traveling. The answer is not to bother with the printer part. The goal is to check in to your flight, printing the boarding pass is strictly optional. If you have to, you can print the pass at an automated kiosk at the airport, or have the curbside check in people do it for you. You can even log into the airline’s web site again, at your own convenience when you have access to a printer.
Anyone who has ever had a problem with a ticket or a flight at the airport will tell you they never want it to happen again. By checking in as early as possible, you give yourself as much time as you can to fix everything and ensure that you have a smooth flight.