Dear Yanni...Are boarding and check-in times flexible or final?
tl;dr: In this week's column, Yanni discusses how strictly check-in and final boarding times are enforced.
My colleague made us miss a flight because they insisted we had lots of time to check in and get to the gate claiming that the airline final boarding and check in times are rough estimates, is that true?
- Missed Flights in Miami
Is the airport a little more crowded these days than what you remember? Well, you’d be right for suspecting that. Air travel has been on the rise both for domestic and international travel. 2018 travel saw an 8.5% increase in passengers over the two years before it and 2019 data suggests another 4% on top of that. With that said, we’re all still generally using the same airports, so how are airlines coping?
One mechanism airlines have at their disposal is enforcing check-in and final boarding times more strictly. Whereas in years past, an airline may have said “at least 60 minutes” but meant 45', more airlines are seeking to enforce their check-in rules. With the increase in passengers and airports not growing at the same rate as year-over-year passenger volume, the gates are getting squeezed, with less time for wiggle room. As a result, flights have to park at a gate, unload passengers and cargo, reload cargo and passengers and turn around faster than before for the next awaiting plane, which is often from their own airline. That means that carriers are pressed to make sure both you and your luggage get to the airplane on time. This mostly has to do with luggage. Luggage handlers are strapped, although passengers have decreased in the amount of checked luggage they hand over given the fees they need to pay. Which leads us to boarding times at the gate. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you’ll notice more and more, the pressure to now get both passengers and their extra bags onto the plane in a timely fashion. Some final boarding times are not as liberal as they used to be, where you could once dash onto the plane even at the last 5 minutes before scheduled departure.
What does this mean for passengers? If one happens to think being fashionably late is a way of life- it may be time to throw that ethos out the window for all things airport. With more passengers and a disproportionate response in facilities or support, security lines are only meant to get longer and airlines more pressed to get folks and their belongings on and off planes as efficiently as possible with less gates per aircraft. Part of achieving that is denying checking you in and closing a gate if you take too long to get there (or perhaps you lingered a little too long at the bar or lounge). Whereas check in times and “gate closing” may have been more of a suggestion, the time is (literally) up to realize that it’s indeed the rule.