How to never miss your flight again - by Will Waters

How to never miss your flight again - by Will Waters
Photo by Andy Beales / Unsplash

I would like to start this post with a disclaimer. I know what I'm talking about, as I have worked in the airlines for the last year and have had a life long passion about airlines, global commercial travel, and aviation. During my time in the airlines, I saw many scenes at the airport which would either fulfil me and further inspire my life long passion, or would bring my world to a halt and tears to my eyes.

It's rather difficult to miss this crucial message. Or so you'd think.

We see it everywhere throughout air travel. To the frequent flyer, it's almost white-noise. It doesn't quite 'click' with everyone. It is important to note that the 30 minute cut off is only for flights within New Zealand. If you are travelling overseas, or even some regional flights abroad, there may be different timespans for check-in and luggage acceptance.

What is check-in? This is a 'sign off' done by the airline to confirm the fact that you will be travelling with them on the respective flight. It is crucial for airlines to know the passengers and luggage they will be travelling in advance of the departure of the flight, in order to prepare crucial documents such as Passenger Manifests, and Weight & Balance planning. This information cannot be accurately predicted until the flight has closed (check-in closed).

Additions to manifests and modification to weight and balance sheets cannot be changed past the cut off points, as many documents have been sent to the pilots and the loaders, and the manifests are sent off to the operations centre for approval (or in some cases such as in the United States, they will be sent to the Transport Safety Authority or TSA for vetting). Changes to these procedures are costly and will cause significant delays, which is why you cannot be checked in once a flight has 'closed'.

My real piece of advice here is always plan ahead for air travel. It may seem like a very simple thing, and it really is. You should always aim to be checked in for your flight at least 15 minutes before check-in closes at a minimum. If you are travelling through a larger airport, extend that time frame.

It is your own responsibility to ensure you are at the airport on time, and quite frankly it's not the airlines responsibility to accommodate you if you do not abide by the guidelines set out on your ticket, in this case the check-in cut-off limit. In my year of working at the airport, I've not seen a single person allowed to check in after the 30-minute cut off, despite seeing hundreds miss it. Sometimes, on a case by case basis, the airline may re-accommodate you free of charge on a later flight. However in most cases, you will be required to pay.

The airline staff have no control over the cut off time, and are unable to create exemptions to this rule (as much as we would love to). Passengers regularly get (quite understandably) upset when they miss the cut off time, especially if its only by a few minutes or even seconds. Ultimately, we want you to be able to travel as much as you do. But just remember, the staff are only the messengers. Please don't shoot the messengers.