How to Use the Airport's Self-Service Check-In Kiosks

A woman uses a self-service check-in kiosk at Chicago's O'Hare Airport
Tim Boyle / Getty Images

Nearly all airlines have switched to self-service check-in kiosks. Gate agents are there to help, but you must check yourself in for your flight and print your own boarding passes. If you have never used a self-service check-in kiosk before, here is what you will need to do the next time you go to the airport.

Look for Kiosks at the Airport

When you reach the front of your airline’s check-in line, you will see a row of kiosks, which look like free-standing computer screens. Your airline will have an employee available to help you attach baggage tags and place your bags on the conveyor belt, but you will first need to check in for your flight at a kiosk.

Identify Yourself

Walk up to an open kiosk. The kiosk will prompt you to identify yourself by inserting a credit card, typing in your flight confirmation code (locator number) or entering your frequent flyer number. Enter your identifying information using the touch screen. You will be able to touch a “clear” or “backspace” key if you make a mistake.

Confirm Flight Information

You should now see a screen which shows your name and air travel itinerary. You will be asked to confirm your flight information by touching an “OK” or “enter” button on the screen.

Choose or Confirm Your Seats

You will be able to review and change your seat assignment during the check-in process. Be careful. Some airlines have their seat assignment screen default to a page which will try to entice you to pay extra to upgrade your seat. If you have swiped a credit card to identify yourself, skip the seat upgrade option unless you really intend to use it, as the airline has already captured your credit card information. You should be able to change your seat assignment at the kiosk, provided there are open seats on your flight.

Indicate Whether You Will Be Checking a Bag

If you have checked in for your flight online, you will probably be able to scan your printed boarding pass at the kiosk. When you scan your boarding pass, the kiosk will identify you and begin the luggage check-in process.

Whether you scan your boarding pass or identify yourself with personal information, you will be asked about checked baggage. You may be able to enter the number of bags you want to check, but some touch screens use an up- or down-arrow system or  “+” and “-“ keys. In that case, you will touch the up arrow or plus sign to increase the total number of bags. You will need to press “OK” or “enter” to confirm the number of bags you are checking and verify that you will pay the fees for each bag. Use a credit card or debit card to pay those fees at the kiosk.

If you do not have a credit card or debit card, consider getting a prepaid debit card before your trip begins so you can easily pay your checked bag fees at the kiosk. You will need it on the airplane, too, as many airlines no longer accept cash payments for in-flight food or beverages.

Print and Collect Your Boarding Passes

At this point, the kiosk should print your boarding pass (or passes, if you have a connecting flight). The customer service representative will walk to your kiosk or gesture for you to come to the counter. He or she will ask whether you are traveling to your destination city. Identify yourself and place your bags on the scale. The customer service representative will check your ID, tag your bags and put the bags on the conveyor belt. You will receive your luggage claim tags in a folder or by themselves.

If you receive a folder, you can put your boarding pass inside, too. If not, you will need to keep track of your luggage claim tags during your trip. The customer service representative will tell you what gate to go to. You can also find gate information on your boarding pass.You are now checked in, so you should head to the security checkpoint.

Tip: If your bags are heavy, consider using curbside check-in. You will need to pay the regular checked bag fee for each piece of luggage, and you will also have to tip the skycap, but you will not have to haul your bags yourself. At some airports, curbside check-in is located several yards away from the doorway that leads to your airline’s check-in counter.