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Airport Check-In: How Long Will You Wait?

After September 11, stepped-up security measures have prompted concerns about long lines and delays when checking in for flights. To help passengers cope, airlines are responding by working to reduce the security wait times at key airports and hubs. While travelers may be willing to endure the delays for the feeling of extra security, some airlines have taken an extra step to help their customers deal with the remaining waits. Those airlines use the Internet to let you know what to expect before heading off to the airport.

New tools for customer support

Airline websites have become a key resource for customer relationship management (CRM) tools, which offer passengers in-depth flight information, better deals, and other perks. Because wait times can vary significantly by time of day and airport location, some airlines have added a helpful feature to their websites that tracks estimated peak and off-peak wait times. Depending on the airline, you can check to see approximately how much time you’ll be spending overall or at curbside check-in, at the ticket counter, and in the security lines individually. Also depending on the airline, the information is presented through static pages with lists, via drop-down menus, or even by airport codes. A few minutes invested in checking these website resources can help you plan the total amount of wait time you need to schedule for each trip.

Airlines offering check-in information

The following are airlines that have estimated wait times available on their websites:

  • Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air: Shows systemwide check-in times with tips for each airport.

  • American Airlines: Shows the estimated check-in times and other airport travel advice.

  • America West: Shows the estimated check-in times at 64 airports broken down by weekday/weekend period and additional waiting times for passengers checking luggage.

  • Continental: Offers the approximate processing time for 57 selected airports that currently require more than one hour during peak traffic hours.

  • Delta: Customers can check estimated peak and
    off-peak wait times for curbside check-in, ticket counters, and security checkpoints for 384 airports worldwide.

  • Southwest: Offers suggested arrival times for 59 airports. In addition, shows the number of security checkpoints at specific airports.

  • United: You can view estimated security screening line times at 117 airports.

  • US Airways: Select from 66 airports in a drop-down menu to view the estimated peak and off peak times needed for check-in.

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