Why you should never check in online

Clicking ‘online check-in’ can be very tempting when you receive the email prompting you to do so. It offers a multitude of benefits such as saving time at the airport and possibly picking your own seat. It even saves paper by not printing a physical boarding pass.

The process does streamline the airport experience a little, especially if you don’t have luggage to check in. Online check-in certainly isn’t without perks.

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But waiting an extra 30 minutes in a queue certainly doesn’t deter me from checking in in person. There’s a potential perk that far outweighs the cons. A perk that can only come from talking and checking in with a real person at the counter.

Speaking face to face with the ground staff gives you a much higher chance of receiving an upgrade. It may be a slim chance, but what are an extra few minutes in line compared to a long flight in business instead of economy?

If you think about it from the perspective of the airport staff, people getting ready to fly are often stressed out and want to get on the plane as quickly as possible. Sometimes a sincere smile and a friendly greeting can mean a lot and can make a difference.

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Sometimes, airlines won’t allow you to reserve seats in the exit aisle online. The staff need to see you to be sure that you’re able and willing to help in the event of an emergency. So speaking with the ground staff can enable you to be allocated a seat with that luxurious extra legroom.

You can also inquire about how full the flight is, to gauge the possibility of an upgrade. Take a chance and ask politely if there’s any chance at a free upgrade. If not, and you have a healthy points balance, ask how many points it would cost to upgrade. Sometimes airlines will even offer discounted upgrades paying cash, these can be a bit of a bargain so it’s always worth asking.

I once got upgraded on a flight from London Heathrow to Minneapolis, just from being in the right place at the right time, I think. If I’d have checked in online, I likely would have just chosen a seat in economy and not thought twice about it.

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The other consideration these days is COVID. If you check in before receiving a negative test result, it could be tricky to get a refund if you are then unlucky enough to test positive.

There have been instances where airlines and third parties have refused to refund a seat for COVID positive passengers after they have already checked in online.

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Written by Ellie Baxter

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