Airport check-in facility: The first barrier to board your flight

What's at the check-in counter

Airport check-in is the first place we go to at any airports when catching a flight, often the airlines and travel agencies would advise passengers to allow plenty of time for check-in, in case of long queues, particularly at peak times. Check-in process can be passengers’ worst nightmares at times, for example, London Heathrow airport is famous for its long queues, on the airline review website “Skytrax”, this airport was only rated one star for its queuing, passengers are unhappy about the two to three hours waiting, as well as the grumpy and aggressive staff who were also stressed about the queues; some passenger even suggested to stay away from Heathrow airport. (Skytrax, 20121)

The check-in counters are usually handled by an airline itself or handling agent working on behalf of them. The functions of check-in are accept luggage that passengers do not carry-on to the aircraft, and issue boarding passes, passengers also can ask for seating preferences, inquire about flight or destination information, make changes to reservations, accumulate mileage for frequent flyer program, and transit information. Check-in options and procedures vary per airline and even the same airline at two different airports, these differences include certain restrictions such as maximum weight of cargo and carry-on luggage, check-in for connecting flights etc. (Wikipedia, 20122)

Identity registration

The check-in agent’s first duty is to check passengers’ valid travel documents, which include tickets, invitation letters, passports, (driver licence or national identification card in the case of domestic flights), valid visas, and at some airports, airport tax also need to be purchased before check-in. However, domestic and intra-EU flights usually allow passengers to board the plane without ID checked. Sometimes, the agent will collect passenger information such as their addresses and contact details, length they intend to stay in the destination countries, these information are known as Advance Passenger Information. (Wikipedia, 20122)

Luggage registration

Passengers are required to bring their entire luggage, include carry-on bags to the check-in counters, the agents will weigh and check the size of their cargo luggage, and then accept them by putting on the cargo ramp; or warrant additional surcharges for anything excessed limitation. Carry-on bags will also be assessed for their weights and sizes.

Luggage requirements vary among airlines, they are normally between 20-30kg for cargo luggage. As a general rule, most airlines' carry-on baggage rules allow for luggage that measures a total of 115 centimetres or 45 linear inches, which is the combined length, width, and depth of the bag. This measurement includes handles and wheels. Bags that exceed an airline’s size or weight allowance may be subject to a fee at the gate or removed by personnel and stowed with checked luggage. (Sardone, 20123) More information about carry-on bags can be found in Carry-On & Weight Baggage Limit Chart For 68 World Airlines

Seating registration

Passengers usually allow choosing their seating preferences at the time of check-in, they can choose either window seat or aisle seat; also the agents may ask if you could sit next to the exit door, however they will not offer these seats to elderly, children, disabled or pregnant women, because the passenger next to the gate is responsible for opening the gate during emergency situation for escaping the plane.

Changes of reservation

Check-in counters usually offer passengers last chance to change their reservations, which they can change itinerary, upgrading class of travel, as well as change to an earlier or later flight. (Wikipedia, 20122)

Other duties

Check-in agents often practice other duties such as answering passengers questions related to their visas, contact their transiting airports to confirm bookings and changes, arranging assistance for special needs passengers etc.

Quite often, each airline only has 2-3 check-in counters at an international airport, and long queues are formed in front of each one. Although the tasks that agents have to perform are very structural and simple, but sometimes they may spend a long time with one passenger, it could be because of visa issues, answering questions, or luggage problems.
Airport baggage check in funny fiasco

Video embedded from YouTube on 18 July 2012

The video may seems funny but it isn't and it really happens at every airport, when this happens, the waiting queues are held up, and making the whole check-in processes a nightmare. Slow check-in progress not only create grumpy passengers and staff, but it also brings many hidden safety issues.

1. Skytrax. (2012). London Heathrow Airport Passenger Reviews and Heathrow Airport Traveller Reports. Retrieved from
2. Wikipedia. (2012). Airport Check-in. Retrieved from
3. Sardone, S. (2012). Carry-on Bags Size and Weight Limits-Major Airlines' Carry-On Luggage Allowance. New York: Aboug.Com Guide
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