Please sign in to post.

Does one need to check-in and have a boarding pass for an international flight?

I know this may sound like a stupid question, but I'll ask anyway:

Does one need to check-in and have a boarding pass for an international flight?

I have a friend who travels semi-frequently to Europe and he said that since they check passports, I may not even need a boarding pass, as the seat assignments were made when I made the reservation and paid, even though my e-ticket does not show where I will sit.

Posted by
8889 posts

No and yes in that order.
You need a boarding card, you cannot get through security without it. In many cases you do an on-line check-in and print out your own boarding pass before coming to the airport. If you have bags to check in, there is a *bag drop" before security. This is a check-in "lite" and requires you to already have printed out your boarding pass and have it with you. If you just have hand luggage you go straight to security.
The seat assignment is irrelevant. For many of the cut price airlines there are no seat assignments, even on the boarding pass. when you get on the plane it is first come first served, like a bus or local train.

International flights within the Schengen area do not have passport control, just the airline's own checks, but you still need to show your passport or ID (EU citizens only) to get through security and through the airline's own checks.

Posted by
498 posts

I selected the seat when I made the reservation months ago. I got confirmation after I paid from Expedia, where I placed the reservation. But the e-ticket issued by Expedia does not mention the seating assignment.

It does as though I will have to check-in anywhere from 23 hours before the scheduled departure. I am assuming that they will give me the sea that I selected earlier.

Posted by
7395 posts

Not only do you need to check-in, there's a time limit when you must have checked in & have a boarding pass. Last year my manager missed the cut-off time (60 minutes before flight left), and even though he was at the airport & had no bags to check, he & the airline couldn't check him in for the international flight I was on.

Posted by
8889 posts

Denny, I assumed you were talking about an intra-European flight. Are you talking about that or a intercontinental (for example transatlantic) flight?

Posted by
7495 posts

I don't buy air tickets on Expedia or the others anymore since the time (a few years ago) that I was not granted a real seat reservation. This may have had something to do with British Air policies of the time, delaying seat reservations until 72 or 24 hours before boarding to lousy Coach passengers or something. But I voted with my feet, and I don't fly British Air or buy air tickets except from an airline itself, or a travel agent.

Your OP is, as you suggested, a little peculiar. In the USA, you cannot get through the security screening unless you have a boarding pass. Period. The End. Part of our Security Theater today is that you can get the boarding pass on the internet. But this story is also tied into the policy of getting us to do the work of "checking in" without the airline having to spend any labor or printer or paper costs - it has been "outsourced" to us.

Right after the Lockerbie bombing, the European airlines immediately instituted baggage matching (so that passengers could not check luggage without a failure-to-board being detected.) It took our (U.S.) swaggering, highly regulated airlines many years to develop and institute the same ability! The boarding pass bar code is an essential tool to match a human boarding with a previously checked bag (or the absence of a bag) - that's another reason why boarding passes are so important.

Posted by
1878 posts

Sure, you still need to check in. You might be able to do that from home and print a boarding pass, but I think the last couple of times they made us check in on-site so that we could show our passports. Unless you don't mind having a bad seat, you should contact the airline directly to get a seat. Otherwise you will end up with a seat in the middle in the back near the restroom, etc. In general, expect flying international to be a little more complicated -- not simpler -- than flying domestically. Also Expedia is a great tool for shopping, but I always book through the airline's own site. I don't find the prices of Expedia to be any cheaper, once you determine what flight you want.

Posted by
8590 posts

If you didn't have to show a boarding pass (which tells them who is on the plane - a FAA requirement in the US) how would they know you were on the right plane?. You could board any plane in the gate area. Or not board at all.

They check your passport because they want to make sure they don't have to bring you back right away.

Posted by
498 posts

Definitely more complicated than I thought. Which is why, I will have arrive a good 2 to 2-1/2 hours at the airport before the actual departure time.

I think that Expedia in helping me find a flight that I wanted in the end had me go to Lufthansa to select the seats.

It will be imperative to check-in at home hours before the actual departure to get the boarding pass. I usually download it to my tablet and, thus, have not shown a paper boarding pass in the past 2-3 years, although I have flown only domestically then.

That said, it would be a good idea to have a paper boarding pass, although I have one of those Epson printers where the black cartridge prints 20-30 pages and goes dry if one does not use it for several weeks (in other words, my printer is non-functional except for scanning documents) and where you can't allow the yellow, blue, and pink ink cartridges to dry out, either.

Perhaps I was being blase at least partially because I only have a carry-on piece and no luggage to check in.

Good wake up call here.

Posted by
7061 posts

Just to be safe I would be at the airport at least 3 hrs before an international flight. I don't like to deal with stress if any last minute hitches happen.

Posted by
23428 posts

You absolutely need a boarding pass/card and your passport. You can check in on-line but cannot print a boarding pass. You have to see the check-in person at the luggage drop who will check your passport and print your boarding pass. Then it is through security and wait. You have the same preceedure on your return flight from Europe. The cut off in Europe is 45 minutes. Sometime in Europe you may go through a second security screen at or near your departure gate. I have never encountered a one hour cut off in the US and never heard of it till the prior posting. However, we are always there around the three hour mark.

Posted by
5697 posts

Most airports have check-in kiosks where you can print a boarding pass. And they don't usually run out of ink.

Posted by
23428 posts

Even if you use a kiosks, a live person will check your passport.

Posted by
5837 posts

I've had difficulties with European self check in machines reading my passport. Using my ticket number or booking code was useful in getting a boarding pass to get through security check points.

Posted by
10296 posts

If you want to verify your seat assignment, and you should several times between now and your departure date, just call the airline directly. Ask for your airline confirmation number, which will be different from the Expedia number, and from then on you can take care of business on line.

Posted by
498 posts

You can check in on-line but cannot print a boarding pass. You have to see the check-in person at the luggage drop who will check your passport and print your boarding pass.

I won't have any luggage to check in. Will I still need to go up to the ticket counter? With domestic flights, of course, the answer is "no."

Posted by
498 posts

All I have right now are an e-ticket number (from Expedia, I assume) and a Lufthansa confirmation code.

Posted by
10344 posts

Denny,
I suggest you go to the Lufthansa website and then use your confirmation code to retrieve your reservation.
This will not get you a boarding pass but will allow you to look at your reservation and see if the details are as you expected.
The website may also allow you to select a seat. But maybe not, because you went through Expedia instead of through Lufthansa.
The website may also explain other things that you would like to know about your itinerary.

If you can print out a copy of your itinerary, that would probably be a good thing to do. I realize from your prior post that you have printer problems. If you can't print out a copy of your itinerary, possibly you could, at some point, use someone else's computer that is connected to a printer that works, and print out your itinerary on their printer.

Posted by
498 posts

I suggest you go to the Lufthansa website and then use your confirmation code to retrieve your reservation.

Kent,

I just went to the Lufthansa website and found my reservation. I had not remembered that I had only been able to make seat reservations for the inbound (Rome - Seattle) flight, not the outbound. I was able to make reservations for the outbound (Seattle - Milan) flight, for an additional $50. It's rather odd that at such an early date, January 03, that the we weren't able to reserve the outbound seats. Oh, well...

The whole itinerary, courtesy of Expedia, is in my tablet and in print form as well.

However, it appears that I might not be able to get a boarding pass when I check in on Tuesday.

Posted by
42 posts

I would assume you could check in on the Lufthansa website once you get to 24 hours or less out from your flight. I've pruchased flights thru expedia or the like for my last few trips, you just have to wait til the day before and use your confirmation number. Then it will allow you to print your boarding passes. Or sometimes, save as a PDF and you could go print it at a copy shop.

Posted by
33125 posts

Don't try to print boarding passes for budget airlines in Europe at the airport unless you want to pay a lot more money.

For Easyjet, Ryanair, etc., your boarding pass needs to be printed, or on the app, before you arrive at the airport.

Posted by
9363 posts

" You can check in on-line but cannot print a boarding pass. You have to see the check-in person at the luggage drop who will check your passport and print your boarding pass."

That is not true of many airlines. You can check-in online and print your boarding pass before leaving home (or print at the airport kiosk after checking in at home). On my most recent flight I did not ever print out my boarding pass because I used the app on my phone to pull it up. It had a QR code that scanned just like the bar codes on printed boarding passes. Check with your airline. Since you are not checking a bag, it makes little sense to stand in the line just for a boarding pass. And as a previous poster mentioned, budget airlines will actually "punish" you with a fee if you have not printed your boarding pass before arriving at the airport (these are the same airlines that do not have printing kiosks at the airport).

Posted by
1221 posts

There are times where you will discover that you cannot check-in online for a flight. This usually means you are a lucky person randomly selected for 'enhanced security screening' and have to check in at the counter. Had that happen to the spousal unit in the past.

And of course you have to check in for every flight. Long ago, the airlines discovered they could sell 105% of the seats available because there would be no-shows on every flight for any number of reasons- passengers missing connecting flights, flat tire on the way to the airport, need to change a flight at the last hour, etc. Even if they have to give 2-3 passengers on every tenth flight a $300 voucher because they didn't have as many no-shows as the airline plans for, they still come out ahead financially.

Don't check in, and the airline will assume you're one of those no-shows that they plan for, and your seat will be given away to a revenue standby or unassigned seat passenger or a non-revenue/ space available flyer.

Posted by
23428 posts

People -- the question was about a boarding pass for an international flight. All of the domestic discussion, budget airlines, etc., is not what Denny asked. For an international flight from the US, your passport will be checked by live person at the checkin desk.

Posted by
795 posts

Yes, you need to check in and have a boarding pass. I would like to warn you also that if you use a site like Expedia for flights or hotels, you may run into some ugly surprises later on. I know of many people who have complained that they were unable to get their seat on flights or show up at hotels only to find that the hotel bumps them out in favor of people who booked directly through the hotel when they are full.

The passport is to show who you are. The check in is to let the airline know you have arrived (so not to give your seat away presuming you are a no-show). The boarding pass is to show you have a right to get on a particular plane.

Posted by
498 posts

For an international flight from the US, your passport will be checked by live person at the checkin desk.

My question is "what check-in desk?" The airline baggage check-in?

I'm still rather confused. Is the passport checked after one goes through security?

Assuming I am able to print out a boarding pass at home before the departure, should I head for the security line (having only carry-on, no checked in luggage) directly rather than head for the airline ticket counter or the airline baggage check-in counter?

I think I'm going to have to call my airline (Lufthansa). Nowhere on the Expedia e-ticket is there an explanation of check-in procedures, except for "Before traveling, print a copy of your itinerary and take it with you."

Posted by
2212 posts

Denny,
I hope you have a wonderful trip and will post the details for the rest of us when you return. I am guessing you are from the generation that carries most of your life on your tablet as opposed to some of us who still like our details on paper. If you haven't gotten ahold of Luftansa,I'd say check in at either the Luftansa counter or baggage desk ( they may have a customer service rep standing about who could help). They will point you in the right direction.

Posted by
23428 posts

My question is "what check-in desk?" The airline baggage check-in? I'm still rather confused. Is the passport checked after one goes through security?

Denny, since you indicated that you have traveled before, I assume you know the typical layout of an airport so I am not sure why you keep asking these questions. When you arrive at the airport you encounter the various airlines check-in counters, service counters, baggage drop, etc. - not sure what else to call this area. You can get your boarding pass, check luggage IF checking luggage, get your gate assignment, etc. For most domestic flights these days, more travelers print their board pass at home and bypass these counters unless they are checking luggage.

Since you are traveling on an international flight (leaving the US) you will not be able to print your boarding pass at home. You will have to obtain it at the first set of check-in counters for your airline. The attendant behind the counter will ask to see your passport to determine if you have a valid passport for international travel. If your passport is OK, then your boarding pass or passes will be issued to you. If you have connecting flights either in the US or in Europe you will receive the passes for those flights.

You then go through TSA security. You need your boarding pass for the first flight and either your state ID or passport. Then you go to your gate. On most international flights (not always) I have been asked to show my passport and boarding pass as I board the plane. If it is a connect flight they will not ask for passport at the gate.

It is really quite simple and easy.

PS - I meant to add earlier -- my e-ticket does not show where I will sit. If your ticket does not show a seat assignment then you do not have a seat assigned. Some airlines have gone to charging for an advance seat assignment for a fee. If you don't pay, then you are assigned a seat at check-in. On international flights you can check in early (24 hours) to get your seat assignment but the board pass will not print.

Posted by
7495 posts

Denny, you didn't say where you were going, but I wonder if you know that many large European airports are not set up like most U.S. airports. When you arrive for your flight home, you will need the terminal number for the building where you'll "check in". But once you enter, you'll have to find the airline and/or flight number on a big table of Check-In counter numbers. That is, they can vary how many desks each "airline" has by the time of day and the need for desks. The logos of the airline may even be "virtual", on large-screen displays over each check-in desk.

Setting aside the question of whether you printed anything out in advance, whether your seat is reserved or not, and whether you have only carry-on luggage, they will certainly want to see your passport again. (Personally, I'd want a carry-on that fits under my seat, in case you are are in the last group to board, and all the overhead compartments are already full!) The fact that you are a U.S. citizen has little effect on what the airline needs from you. The airline is under savage demands from the U.S. to provide a complete and accurate passenger manifest, a certain number of hours before the plan lands in the U.S. This is part of U.S. security checking, so checking your face against the passport is tremendously important to the airline, foreign or domestic, that sends you back to the U.S.

I've been to Europe at least 40 times, fat-cat class and Economy, and I have no idea what your "friend" is talking about. Do not get any more travel advice from this friend.

One more point-Lufthansa likely has some Codeshare flights with United in Seattle. Make sure you know which logo will be over the desk where you're going to show your passport. It could, possibly, be United or another company. I haven't been to Seattle in ten years.

Posted by
14159 posts

I think today is the day Denny flies to Milan for his RS Best Of Italy tour. Hoping it is clear skies and smooth sailing!

Posted by
498 posts

PS - I meant to add earlier -- my e-ticket does not show where I will sit. If your ticket does not show a seat assignment then you do not have a seat assigned. Some airlines have gone to charging for an advance seat assignment for a fee. If you don't pay, then you are assigned a seat at check-in. On international flights you can check in early (24 hours) to get your seat assignment but the board pass will not print.

Frank, I just checked in, 2-1/2 hours after check-in officially began. What you stated above with regards to seat assignment turned out to be prophetically true: I did not have a seat assignment from Seattle to Milan via Frankfurt, and I panicked Sunday night (I think somehow on the forum had rhetorically asked, "You mean you know your seat assignment?" which I took as an astonished sort of reprimand. So I paid $50 for a seat by the window at the front of the economy seating area a day before check-in (online) began.

Curiously, when I did check in just now, I noticed that more half the seats in economy were unoccupied, including the mirror image seat on the opposite end of the row that I am sitting. In other words, it would have been a better idea to wait another day and get a seat assignment at check-in, thus saving $50.

It does appear that I have a bona fide boarding pass, one that I have copied to be Nexus 7 tablet. I will go the library to have it printed out as well, just in case...

Posted by
498 posts

One more point-Lufthansa likely has some Codeshare flights with United in Seattle.

Curiously enough, again, on my inboard flight, when I placed my order with Expedia, I was able to choose seats, which was not true of the outboard flight, where I paid $50 for an advance seat reservation. A Lufthansa rep explained this as saying that the return flight, even though on Lufthansa aircraft it appears, is operated by United, which has different rules, i.e., does not charge for seat reservations.

On all the flights of the past five years I have been on--all domestic, mind you--there was no such fee, and seat reservations came with the booking of the flight, with the exception, I recall, of Southwest Airlines.

Posted by
498 posts

You can check-in online and print your boarding pass before leaving home (or print at the airport kiosk after checking in at home). On my most recent flight I did not ever print out my boarding pass because I used the app on my phone to pull it up. It had a QR code that scanned just like the bar codes on printed boarding passes. Check with your airline. Since you are not checking a bag, it makes little sense to stand in the line just for a boarding pass.

Nancy, this is what I just did when I checked in half an hour ago. I had the boarding pass that was issued when I checked in downloaded to my PC and then copied to my tablet, where I was (and still am) able to retrieve it in one of my Ebook apps. Maybe I should just skip printing out the boarding pass. The last 3-4 times I traveled domestically, I only showed the electronic boarding pass, which does have that "QR" barcode on it.

Yeah, I don't want to go to the check-in counter for no reason. A Lufthansa rep I spoke to earlier today, in fact, said I can go directly to Security Checkpoint.

Posted by
1221 posts

I do like to print a paper boarding pass, even when I've also got one on my phone. In the event of Irregular Operations, it's good to have a paper trail of what you were originally supposed to be doing (at some point in the clicky-clacky of counter or gate agent keyboards, information starts to get over written) and if there's a problem with frequent flyer miles crediting properly, a photo of a boarding pass sent to the airline can help get that straightened out.

And if you've already checked in and don't have checked baggage, the kiosks most airlines use to let you do self-service usually don't have much of a line. (And save for the gotcha! budget carriers, you can print it out for free.)