Frequent flyers/airline personnel: What do you do in this situation?

I’ve flown, but not often enough to be an old pro. I walk into an airport and I’m always sort of paralyzed with the unknown and figuring out what to do. Questions:

  1. What does one do when one arrives at a very busy airport, say, 1/2 hour to an hour before flight time and there is a HUGE, slow-moving line to check in/check luggage? I’ve seen situations where airline personnel will call folks through to the front when flight departure is imminent, but not very often. What happens? Will they hold the plane knowing it’s busy and not everyone’s arrived yet? Domestic/international-- does this matter?

  2. Is it true that if your bag is checked, the plane won’t leave without you (due to bomb considerations) and there must be a match [electronically] checked bags to boarded passengers?

  3. Curbside check-in: Never done it-- can any ol’ tourist class schmoe use it? Is this a good alternative in situation (1) above, assuming (2) holds true and if you get your bag checked you’re “in”?

  4. Is it a general rule of thumb that, if you DONT have any luggage to check, you can simply proceed to your gate for check-in, whether you have boarding pass/seat assignment or not?

  5. If your leg-1 flight is delayed and you won’t make your connecting flight on the same airline, are you always SOL? ie, if it’s a close call does the connecting flight “know” there’s someone who’ll be cutting it close and hold for just a few minutes?

Airlines mystify me. Help answering any of the above will enlighten me greatly.

First off - In my experience, international flights are never held for late passengers, no matter what mitigating circumstances.

Second - what I do in your situation is to do one of two things. First, if I am with someone, I have them save my place and I walk up to the First Class line or to the counter and inform them politely them that I am about to miss my flight. Often, the empty First Class line will then check me in, or someone at the coach line will help me next.

If I am by myself, I will often yell out until a customer service person comes over, then make my case to them.

If you are flying British Airways, don’t bother going to the Club World or First lines tho. Even if you are bleeding to death and they have the only First Aid kit in the airport, they will not help you or give a damn unless you have a Business/First Class ticket.

On international flights, I know this one - I have seen them unload an entire plane (747 at Heathrow) because one person did not board with their bags, and was not flight delayed. Another traveler at work had the same thing happen in Israel. I don’t know if this would apply to all international flights though.

On domestic US flights, hell, my bags have left without me several times. No one gave a damn. In fact, one time I switched airlines after checking my bags, and they tried to tell me that they could not remove the bags from the plane as it violated “Federal Law” (even though the plane had not yet arrived - IOW, they lied to my face). They got my bags for me.

Yes, anyone can use it - in fact, they often encourage you to use it, as it is more convenient for them at the ticket counter. As to your situation…I don’t know. If you are on an international flight…maybe. I somehow doubt it, due to Una’s Rule of Airlines Number 4:

Most people in fact get their boarding pass at the gate if they have no bags to check, or are on a connecting flight and have to re-check in for assignment. I only go to the ticket counter if I am checking bags, or arrive too early (many gates will not give you a boarding pass until one hour before the flight)

My understanding is that this will only happen if there are a large number of connecting passengers delayed. But don’t bother thinking that, for it violates Una’s Rule of Airlines Number 8:

This list of yours, it intrigues me…

Thanks for the tips and info.

For the delaying the flight because of an extra bag, I’ve had that happen to me on international flights. Delayed the damn thing for an extra hour because “one of your fellow passengers has decided not to join us for the flight”.

And if your leg 1 flight is delayed and you haven’t boarded yet you can reschedule the following legs normally. I had to do this as well when my leg 1 flight was delayed 6 hrs. At least we didn’t have to sit on the plane – which would’ve been hard anyway, since the reason the flight was delayed was that it wasn’t even there yet.

[sub]a former (and still recovering) airline agent checking in…[/sub]
Dr Pepper,

Although I realize it is easier said than done…

Never, ever, ever, ever, arrive at a busy airport only 30 minutes before flight time. Especially for an international flight. Typically a domestic flight begins boarding 30 minutes before flight time and if you are on on the plane 10 minutes before departure you lose your seat.

And no, we aren’t holding the plane for you. Ever. Yeah, it happens sometimes, but only when the muckity-mucks have said to do it. So unless you know some muckity-mucks… :wink:

As for Una’s suggestion about going up to the counters, while it may work, there are other people in line who might also be in your predicament. Getting the coach line agent to help you next when there is a line can sometimes result in riots.

Good advice all around.

Sapphire, I bow down and pay homage to anyone who’s ever worked as an agent. I know you’ve put up with unbelievable hostility and other misc. crap DAILY. I’ve seen passengers be incredibly rude, and somehow I get the feeling that if there’s any strings that you could possibly pull in those messy situations, it’s not going to be for the cranky ones.

One exception does come to mind, once I saw a hysterical woman at an adjacent gate arrive 5 min. before departure of a full flight (there had been announcements for overbooking trade-ins and still there were ticketed passengers who could not get on); at first she was told that the “must arrive at gate X minutes before boarding” rule disqualified her de facto (that much I heard). Then she carried on and made a scene (didn’t hear specifically what she was saying) about having to get on, and in the end they let her on. I was VERY surprised.

Well as a three year veteran of a small western airline, I only know our policy, so here goes.

  1. Even though all passengers are advised to arrive 90 minutes prior to departure, our airline wants everyone to get on thier flight. Baggage cutoff is 20 minutes prior to departure, and about 10 minutes before that, all agents behind the counter are given a 10 minute warning, and call only people for the soon to close flight. Example, “May I help the next person going to Dallas on flight 122.” if there is no one else in the line going to Dallas, we simply say “Next in line please.” This is only typical of small airlines, I work next to another small fry on one side, and A Major on the next side, and the Big boy could give a shit about thier customers. If you’re late to a Major, step around the line, excuse yourself to the agent at the counter inform them of your flight departure time and ask if you can check your bags somewhere more quickly than through the line, and hope they don’t scream at you.

  2. Only if you are what in airline terms is called a Selectee passenger are you prevented from flying without your bags. The FAA determines the Criteria for who will be considered a Selectee passenger,and adds another 2% to the list on a totally random basis, and thoes passengers are not allowed to fly with out thier bags. If you are a Selectee and you late check bags, until the ramp informs us your bags are at the aircraft, you may not board. If it’s push time and the bags are not there the plane goes without you. That’s the policy, but I’ve held a plane, and I know other CSA’s (Customer Service Agents) who have held planes for bags that can make it within +/- 5 minutes of departure. If the bags are not there, and it’s because you were late, you have to go on another flight. Sorry talk to the FAA it’s out of my hands. If you are just Joe regular passenger, and you miss the bag cutoff, we have you sign a “Late Check” bag tag. This means the bag went to the bag room less than 20 minutes before departure, and if it misses the flight, we will not pay for the delivery of your bags. If you check a bag after cutoff, and I don’t put a late check tag on, you have every right to have us pay to deliver your bag. When your bag dosen’t come up the carousel, the baggage agent will look at your claim stubs, and either you will have a late check stub or a regular one, one means you’re SOL one means the airline is SOL.

3.Please use the curb side to check in and then go to the gate for your seat assignment, and boarding pass. Many people will check bags outside and park, come back into the airport and wait in line for 45 minutes to check in at the ticket counter. This congests the line, and I’ve seen people miss thier flights doing this. Yes, EVEN IF YOU HAVE AN E-TICKET!!! We have 12 positions at the ticket counter, and 15 gates with 2 computers each, and people are afraid to go to the gates, for fear of having to trudge back to the ticket counter. Christmas was a nightmare. For the record, for most airlines, you can do everything at the gate that you can do at the ticket counter, except check baggage. Even buy a ticket. My airline is a Domestic airline, the only exception for the majors that I know of is International departures must check bags inside, even if you are connecting domestically, sorry no curb side for you.

  1. See above.

5.Depends. Again for the airline I work for, If there is no other way to get you to your final destination, we will hold for connects. If we can get you there on our next flight, we wont hold. Example, if the inbound has 10 people to New York, and we have a flight two hours later with 50 empty seats, we won’t hold. However if the inbound has 50 people to New York and all of our flights for the rest of the day are oversold, and there is no way to get seats on another carrier, we will hold. If we don’t hold a flight and it was our fault the inbound was late, we compensate (and usually feed) the misconnected passengers. If we hold a flight, and it was our fault the inbound was late, we will compensate (and again feed) the passengers on the held flight. So also becomes a matter of economics. which will cost the airline less, paying compensation to 10 misconects, or 115 delayed people. Most often we will not hold. Fourtunately, we have good local “Station Agreements” with other airlines to reroute misconnected passengers to thier final destinations. If the delay was not the airline’s fault, like weather delays, or airport capacity (like that mess in Laguardia) we will not compensate, for delays caused by holding, or for misconects. That’s a real fun announcement to make at the gate let me tell you.

One final thing I’d like to Add. Just recently the FAA has allowed us to “De-Select” Selectee passengers by runing thier bags through a CTX-5500 machine. This machine is a 3-D imaging scanner like A Cat Scan. The CTX will completely destroy chemically processed film. Not digital film or video tape, just film. The machines are being phased in slowly across the country. From now on, it is advisable to put all film in a carry on bag. Don’t put it in a lead bag and in to your checked items, or the bag will have to be “Dump Searched”, and believe me that takes forever. The x-ray machines at security won’t hurt it, and if you like you can even hand it to the agent at security to bypass that x-ray. He will just hand search it, and it’ll never go near the x-rays.

If you have any other fun airport questions you’d like awnsered, let me know. The job kinda sucks at times, but the perks are awesome.


Regarding #1 - people being called to the gate agent. For puddle jumpers, what D-bear said.

However, if you are on a major airline, the people being called to the gate are flying stand-by i.e. they only get on if there is a free seat. (BTDT) I think with frequent flyer miles, this may also happen if someone wants to get bumped to first class, and there are some FC seats up in the air. Haven’t done that though, I want my ff miles for Hawai’i

I’ve flown about 10 or 11 times so I don’t know how much of an expert I am but I can relay info based on my experiences.

I’m not sure about 1 & 2

  1. Curbside check-in --I’ve used it several time, no problems at all. Just leave your luggage with the skycap and go to the gate. I prefer to get there about 1-1/2 hours at least and get all the check-in business taken care of and wait in the bar drinking a Bloody Mary.

  2. I’m not sure. The only times I didn’t already have a seat assignment was when flying a charter.

  3. The closest call I ever had was this last summer. We were flying from Miami to Dayton with a connecting flight in Atlanta. There were only about 50 minutes alloted between our arrival in Atlanta and our departure. Well, our takeoff from Miami was delayed for 45 minutes and we arrived at 4:56. Our flight was due to take off at 5:15. We ran, rode the shuttle and panted over 2 concourses and a dozen gates. We boarded at 5:12 and the plane took off as scheduled. Probably at least 75 or 100 passengers were making the connecting flight. The flight attendants made comments about “there’s our connecting people” but I’m still not sure if they would have waited on us or not.
    Slightly off topic, but it seems the quality & comfort of my flights were more dependant on how well-packed my carry-on bag was than any other factor. I grab a blanket and a pillow first thing when I board. I pack some light snacks, a book or two–preferably a bodice ripper and a straight dope, some hand lotion, lip balm, a small cross-stitch project, caramels for the ear popping–ear plugs help if you get real bad ear pain and pressure,and a water bottle. YMMV

  1. One trick I’ve pulled off once is to take my to-be-checked bag directly to the gate with me and act as though I’m going to take it as a carry-on (don’t point it out, though!). Then, when you try to get on the plane, they’ll say, “I’m sorry, but you can’t carry that on, because it’s the size of a piano. Would you like me to check it?”, and then you say “Oh, I guess it is a little big, isn’t it? Sorry about that. Sure, go ahead.” And then they do. It probably would only work on domestic flights, due to increased security on international. I consider this trick to be bad form (everyone hates the bastards that try to carry on big things, taking up everyone else’s overhead space), but sometimes you’re in a pinch.

  2. My firsthand experience here is that I had boarded an international flight, and while sitting at the gate, the captain got on the speaker and explained that we would be delayed because someone had checked their bags, which were on the plane, but the passenger hadn’t yet shown up, and Federal regulations won’t let them fly in those circumstances (this may have only been for international…I’m not sure). They were going to give him a few more minutes. 10 minutes later, they announced that they were going to find the person’s bags and take them off the plane, because he hadn’t shown up yet. 5 minutes after that, they announced that the bags had been removed, and they had found out that the missing passenger was an FAA inspector giving them a test, and that they passed with flying colors.

  3. Curbside check in is great. There is seldom a line, in my experience, and they’ll give you a seat assignment and everything. One reason the line might be shorter is that there are more than just checkins at the main counter. There are people who are trying to buy tickets, people trying to change flights, etc. The gate and the curbside counter are just for checkins. One thing that always makes me uneasy about the curbside, though is that the bags usually go on a little cart by the street until the cart is full. It’s unlikely, but the possibility is there that your bag could get swiped, so I usually check in and then just walk off to the side and keep an eye on it until the skycap takes the cart off to wherever it goes. I’m not sure it’s any more safe wherever they take it, but at least it’s not sitting out by the curb.

  4. Yes, if I don’t have luggage to check, I’ll generally go right to the gate. I also always make sure to very explicitly ask the airline people I’m dealing with whether I need to do anything else to get on the plane. Too many times, I’ve gotten in line at the gate, only to be turned away because “you need a ticket, and this is a boarding pass”, or “you need a boarding pass, and this is a ticket”, or some magical nonsense that only makes sense to airline personnel. I have learned the lesson that the little perforated card which says “PASSENGER TICKET AND BAGGAGE CLAIM” is not necessarily what you need in order to get on the plane. Sometimes it’s a boarding pass, sometimes it’s a ticket, and sometimes it’s just a receipt. Too damn frustrating.

  5. I’ve never seen them hold a plane for a late person, but sometimes the crew from your 1st leg (or from the gate where you arrive) will call the gate you’re trying to get to and let them know you’re on the way. Holding the plane for you is one thing, but saving your seat, rather than giving it to someone on standby, is another.

  6. Be nice to all the airline employees. It’s more fun than being an ass, and they’re more likely to help you. I always give myself tons of time and try to be relaxed. If you’re stressed out and hurried, they get the impression that you’ve screwed things up by waiting until the last minute to check in, and now you want them to fix your problem.

:slight_smile: If you’re late, go to the gate! You seem most concerned about running late. If you think you need to check a bag and there is a huge line and no one to usher you to the front:

Go to the gate!!! Look at the board to find your flight number, and just get to the gate to check in. The flight attendants routinely check all sorts of stuff at the gates. Some stuff has to be checked at gates, like strollers, oversized bags and what not. Don’t be shy.

Don’t be shy in aiports. Shy people lose out BIG time.

If you get to the airport early, and there are multiple flights to your destination, your luggage will fly out ahead of you. Most luggage carousels will handle all luggage from specific cities so that if your luggage does go out early, it’ll be spinning around for hours waiting for you.

Line from the moivie Diner: “Did you ever get the feeling there’s something going on that we don’t know about?”

Planes wait for groups of passengers from connecting delayed flights, but not individuals. Actually, if you are late checking in, say w/in ten minutes from departure, you can lose your seat to a stand-by.

TIP: Many people hate rear seating, BUT: folks in the rear always board first, and always have room for their two carry-ons.

One year after the Pan Am disaster, I was flying back from Frankfurt, Germany to the U.S. There was some rumor in the air about a possible repeat attack on a U.S. airline. My mother was very concerned, and was insistent I not fly on a U.S. airline, even if I had to purchase another ticket.

Because of an unrelated problem, I got to the airport ticket counter only 15 minutes before my scheduled departure! I told the (U.S.) airline agent that I did not wish to fly on the U.S. airline. She asked the reason why. I told her (truthfully) because of the terrorist threats. (The fact that there was no way I was going to make my flight anyway was secondary.) That must have been the magic words, because she booked me a ticket on a German airline, departing only 40 minutes later.

I went to the German airline ticket counter, and was told that it was too late to check bags, and to proceed to the gate. Hauling all of my gear through the Frankfurt airport was a nightmare. I was stuck in a security bottleneck for nearly 30 minutes. I arrived at the gate as they were making final announcements. They immediately took my bags to be checked, and let me board.

(The other memorable part of this trip was the 75-mile drive to the airport in my mom’s Audi in less than 35 minutes! The speedometer was pegged at ~140 mph; I held the tach 500 rpm below the red line. No traffic on the Autobahn early on a Saturday. Still was passed several times by big Mercedes…)

Please excuse this newcomer for butting in with a side-question: should one tip the people at the curbside checkin? And if yes, how much?

On our last trip with about 5-6 checked bags, my wife insisted we tip the “skycap” $10. I thought that was a bit high, but I am a cheapskate. :slight_smile: She said if we didn’t tip that much, we’d never see our bags again…:frowning:

Seriously, though, she’s usually right about that sort of thing. If I were traveling alone and used the curb-side check-in, I’d probably tip $5.

“Buck-a-bag, baby. Buck-a-bag.”

[sub](That’s fun to say)[/sub]

Someone said earlier that you should be nice to Airline employees because it is “more fun” than being an ass. While that’s true, I prefer being nice because it is… well… nice.

Also, being an ass may be effective, but being an ass after being nice is at least twice as effective. Plus, you get to feel superior to the Airline employees who are often rude to begin with.

The wife and I were traveling with the kiddies and missed a connection. So, we spent about 4 hours in the Memphis airport. Kosher food is scarce in airports, so the free food vouchers didn’t help us very much.

In the end, I bought about 20 dollars worth of kosher cookies and potato chips from a sandwich shop and we ate those. My wife, jdimbert, actually told my son, “No more cookie until you finish your potato chips!”