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The other day, I read a post over at the One Mile at a Time blog titled “When an Airline Makes you miss their own check in time“.  Originally I thought that the post was written by Ben (Lucky), who is the owner and main writer over at OMAAT, but it turned out to be written by Daniel, described in his about me page as “a 19 year old American Swede”

Read the whole post for the details, but suffice it to say that the airline in question (SAS) did not MAKE anyone miss anything.  After arriving at the Oslo airport with about an hour to go before his flight left, he attempted to check in at the airport kiosks.  When there were problems with the kiosks, and faced with long lines of people waiting to check-in, he ignored the protests of the entire line as well as airline employees to cut the lines (twice).  He did end up making his flight, but if you want to make your flight without so much drama, here are 3 things you should NOT do if your goal is to actually fly your flight

1. Don’t bother checking in until you get to the airport

Most airlines allow you to check in starting 24 hours before your flight, and it would behoove you to do that sometime before the morning of your flight.  On Southwest Airlines specifically, checking in exactly at the 24 hour mark is one of the tips of how to get your family to sit together on Southwest.  In Daniel’s case, the specifics were not mentioned other than that his schedule the day before prevented him from checking in.

I typically travel with only a carryon (except when I have 17 pieces of luggage), but even if you’re checking bags, checking in before you get to the airport can possibly let you get into a shorter “bag drop only” line at the airport.

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2. Arrive at the airport with the bare minimum amount of time till your flight

Different airports and airlines have different recommended arrival times, and it can go from 30 minutes all the way to multiple (3-4) hours before your flight time.  In my mind, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure that you are at the airport in time to check in and deal with any irregularities.

I am reminded of my sister’s story.  Flying out of Sacramento, she arrived at the airport later than she might have otherwise wanted to, and found a similar situation – lines to check in out the door.  Given that she had bags to check in, she soon realized she wasn’t going to make it and called me in a panic – “Dan, I think I’m going to miss my flight!”.  In her case, she DID miss her flight, but United rebooked her onto a later flight and she did eventually make it to her destination (albeit a few hours late)

If it's your first time at the airport, here's 3 mistakes you do NOT want to make if you want to catch your flight. Great tips and hacks for airport travel

3. When all else fails, just cut the line (and keep cutting)

This was the part of Daniel’s story that I found most galling.  When things went wrong with the kiosks, his response was to ask the people in line if he could cut as he was in danger of missing his flight.  So far, no problems – we’ve all been there.  But when he was told no (presumably by others ALSO running late and/or in danger of missing THEIR flights), and even instructed by an airline employee to “get in the back of the line now”, he kept trying to cut the line!

I get it – nobody wants to miss their flight!  But at some point, you have to either account for things going wrong, or accept that you gambled and lost

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As always, there’s a tradeoff between making sure you arrive early and “wasting” time at the airport (READ: Help! I’m wasting DAYS of my life at the airport!) and you have to decide where you fall on that continuum, and that may change with different flights.  As I once read

If you’re not missing flights, you’re spending too much time in airports

When you’re flying a hub to hub route with top airline elite status, you might be more willing to take risks, knowing that you’re fairly well protected.  When making a domestic connection on a different airline than your connecting international flight, you probably want to make sure you’re at the airport in plenty of time!

Again, I am not trying to pile on Daniel (the comments in the original article are already doing that), who by all accounts seems like a good guy.  Rather I am hoping to use his story in the hopes that it helps him and others to remember what to do when preparing to make their flight.

What are your best tips on what to do and what NOT to do when trying to make a flight?

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