American Airlines changed its published check-in policy so that at a bare minimum you have to check-in 45 minutes prior to departure even for a domestic flight without checked luggage. Both Delta and United continue to publish 30 minutes in similar circumstances.
The requirement to check in at least 45 minutes prior to departure for a domestic flight, even without luggage, rather than the previous 30 minute cutoff is also in American’s contract of carriage.
However American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein clarified for me that in fact, American will still issue a boarding pass 30 minutes prior to departure for a domestic flight.
- The rules say 45 minutes, because they want you to get to the airport earlier. You might have to wait in line for a check-in kiosk or manual assistance, and you may have to wait in line at security.
- American’s computers are set to a 30 minute deadline with 3 minute grace period.
- What this means in practice is that American can check you in 27 minutes prior to scheduled departure
Now, if you have checked bags the rule is 45 minutes minus that same 3 minute grace period for a domestic flight.
For an international flight the ‘real’ check-in cutoff (including grace period) is 45 minutes without a checked bag, or 57 minutes with a checked bag.
American Check-in Counters, Sao Paulo Brazil
For New York – Boston – DC Shuttle flights the real check-in cutoff (including grace period) is 17 minutes without a checked bag or 27 minutes with a checked bag.
There are 5 airports where you really do have to check in even farther in advance however.
On the one hand I really appreciate this. Check-in cut-off at American’s hubs was long 45 minutes, while 30 minutes at outstations. They’ve published 45 minutes across the board, but the computers will still allow check-in 27 minutes out for most domestic flights with carry on luggage only.
On the other hand it’s another instance where American’s published policy differs from actual practice (like boarding earlier than stated boarding times on boarding passes) creating uncertainty and passengers to spend time accommodating American’s schedules rather than the other way around.
American Airlines Airbus A319
I also know from recent experience that many at American do not know the 45 minute published check-in requirement isn’t hardcoded in their systems. And that cost me a systemwide upgrade.
I’d far rather rely on a published policy than convincing an agent to try checking me in anyway. Still, it’s good to know it’ll work if I find myself unable to check-in online or via American’s mobile app and showing up about 35 minutes prior to departure again!