Please help this very infrequent flyer.
January 21, 2016 10:13 AM   Subscribe

This is a very simple question, but I haven’t flown in five years and I want to get through the pre-flight BS as easily as possible.

I’m flying to San Diego and back in the next few days. I have an e-ticket that will allow me to click on a link to print my boarding pass for my flight to San Diego. Once I am in San Diego, however, I will not have access to the link, a computer, or a printer to print a boarding pass for the return flight. Do I just take my e-ticket to the airline ticket counter in SD and get the boarding pass? Or is there a better way?
posted by Dolley to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most airports have little machines now near the check-in counter where you can print them yourself. You can absolutely wait in the line and go up to the counter, though, if you can't find one of those or feel more comfortable talking to a human.
posted by something something at 10:15 AM on January 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

When I've used e-boarding passes they just scan it from my phone. The only problem, which I've only seen once, ever, is when their machines are not working. Just take it to the counter and they'll print one.
posted by Marinara at 10:15 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have a smartphone? If so the airline will provide a scanable barcode for TSA straight to your phone. There are also kiosks at ticketing where you can print a boarding pass. Your hotel will also have a business center where you can print a boarding pass.

So you're covered 6 different ways from Sunday.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:15 AM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, you can check in at the ticket counter or a kiosk. They'll print a boarding pass for you.

Alternatively if you have a smartphone you should be able to do the whole process paperlessly. If you check in by phone it will usually offer to email you a boarding pass, which you can then open in your email app and show the barcode there to the phone scanners that airports now have. Some airlines also have an app which provides other ways to do it.
posted by aubilenon at 10:17 AM on January 21, 2016

There will be no smartphone.
posted by Dolley at 10:25 AM on January 21, 2016

The San Diego airport will definitely have kiosks where you can print your boarding pass. No worries at all. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you're staying near a library, you could print it there.
posted by ilovewinter at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2016

Write down your locator number or confirmation code. This is a typically a 6-digit code somewhere on the ticket and boarding pass. It will have letters as well as numbers.

Most check-in kiosks use this as the way to pull up your reservation and print the boarding pass at the airport. If you have this on-hand along with ID, you really don't need much else.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Since you won't have a smartphone with you, just be aware that you do NOT need to print out your ticket or anything when you go to the counter. You'll just show your driver's licence and they will look up your reservation and print your boarding pass. If you're doing this at a kiosk at the airport, you can also scan your credit card (it won't charge you, it's just a form of identity).
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Go to the kiosk. It is easy. Like really easy. Even if checking a bag, go to kiosk. Or go to the counter, but be prepared to talk to a human at the counter. I once bet a friend $5 that they could not get their ticket at the counter without saying something to the human. It was not possible. He thought he could nod and give his license and all would be good, but the did you pack your own bag thing hit a snag when he nodded yes and the counter person said they needed to hear it out loud.
posted by AugustWest at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2016

Yep, check-in kiosks! They look a little like ATMs with bright colorful touch screens. You stick in a credit card or debit card (just for ID purposes; they don't charge you) and just follow the on-screen instructions and it prints your pass right there, easy-peasy. If you have a bag to check, there's generally a nearby bag drop; if not, you just head on to security. Very occasionally there will be a line for the kiosks, but generally you can just go up to any one that's available.

In my experience there's often an airline employee hovering around the kiosk area to point travelers in the right direction.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:34 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can check in at the self-service kiosks, which will print your boarding pass for you. (If you are checking bags, the kiosk may direct you to the counter to check your bags, though).

There are lots of ways to check in, the easiest being entering your confirmation code (usually a six-character code containing both letters and numbers). You can also swipe a credit card (either the card used to purchase the tickets or any card with the same name as the passenger on the tickets) or look up your ticket by name and destination.

The kiosk will walk you through the steps to print your boarding pass, they're really quite easy to use, though they may try to upsell you on extra-space seats or lounge access or whatever.
posted by firechicago at 10:35 AM on January 21, 2016

did you pack your own bag

I have not heard this in years. I think the screening of baggage is now sufficient that they do not ask. Maybe for international flights (haven't done that recently), but it is not a thing with domestic any longer.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:35 AM on January 21, 2016

Self service kiosk at check in. Stick a credit card in and it'll print your pass(es). Done. You don't have to use the card you paid with, either. Honestly I wouldn't bother printing it out at home, it's one more thing to forget about.

I just did that like twenty minutes ago, and am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight.

Other stuff you may not know about reflexively:

* the lines for the security check can be pretty long, try to arrive around 2h before your takeoff time. You will be very glad if you need it. In the event of running late I have found people will usually let you cut but it's not a fun thing to do.
* you will need to take your computer out of your bag, empty your water bottle, and take your shoes off. Computer and shoes go in separate bins.
* if you are trans, the scanners will now tend to detect an anomaly in the groinal region. I've been lucky with a casual "oh yeah I'm trans, that's my junk" and a quick rescan with the machine told to expect that, if you're flying from the Midwest this may be less casual. Ask to opt out of the machine for a pat-down instead. You arrived early, right?
* BRING A WATER BOTTLE. The air in a plane is pretty dry. Staying hydrated will make it a lot more pleasant for you.
* start taking zinc/vitamin c supplements a few days before the flight, your immune system will thank you.
* IMHO life is a lot easier if you check anything bigger than a computer bag. Trade a few minutes chilling in the baggage area for having to manhandle your suitcase into the limited space of the overhead bins.
posted by egypturnash at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Keep in mind, the kiosks are for people who still don't have smartphones or email or whatever in 2015. That is to say, Luddites. Saying they're easy to use is an understatement. They are shockingly simple. The humans at the desks are very helpful, as well, even the ones from legacy airlines that have bad reputations for customer service. Gate agents are usually pretty nice, too.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:23 AM on January 21, 2016

I flew Sun Country into San Diego last year and there were no kiosks at the San Diego airport. The line to check in with a live person was very short, though. If you are checking a bag and your airline does have a kiosk, you will often have to tell the kiosk that you have a bag and then hand the bag to an agent who will probably verify your identity and destination. Checking in with your airline is the easy part. Going through security is the headache, if there is one.
posted by soelo at 11:54 AM on January 21, 2016

I went to the airport two weeks ago with boarding passes I printed at home, and when I checked my bag the woman at the desk re-printed me boarding passes, saying that passes printed at home sometimes don't scan very well. So print them at the airport.

(Re: "Did you pack your own bag" -- I heard that while checking my bag for the international leg of my flight, have never heard it while flying domestically.)
posted by jeudi at 12:49 PM on January 21, 2016

This is exactly my situation. Show up at the airline and talk to a person at the counter, or just check in at the kiosk. Add an extra 30 minutes to your arrival time in addition to time added for parking, security, boarding, etc.

Heads up that you may not be able to print from a library unless you have a card there or are eligible for a card there. In theory most libraries can make a visitor card (sometimes for a fee, sometimes for free) or will let you print, but in practice it'll depend on who is working and what they were told last by which supervisor. Your more reliable method if you're determined to print it yourself is to find a FedEx and use their pay-for-internet stations.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:14 PM on January 21, 2016

That six-character confirmation "number" is the most important piece of information you need. It's your passenger name record (PNR), and the easiest way for the airline personnel to look up all the details of your trip.
posted by bendy at 8:03 PM on January 21, 2016

I travel a lot. Others have handled the "how do I boarding pass" situation.

Other things people haven't mentioned, and that aren't obvious to infrequent travelers:
--liquids go in a ziplock bag. Some places have signs that say 4 oz, but others say 3 oz. Dig through your bag and make sure there's no stray eye drops or lotion or chapstick.
--absolutely nothing in your pockets. A sweatshirt you can easily take off. Layers are good, because various parts of various airports have various temperature settings.
--put your shoes through the scanner first. That way you can put them on when they are looking at the rest of your stuff.
--if you take food through, don't put it next to electronics in your bag. Apparently organic material next to electronics looks like a bomb. Popcorn and rice krispie treats have triggered a bag search. Now, I put anything with that texture into a bin on its own so they can see what it is.
--make sure your socks aren't folded over or shirts aren't bunched up around your waist. The easiest way to get a pat down after the bodyscanner is to have a single fold of clothing somewhere they don't expect.
--if you have a choice of which security checkpoint to use, pick one on the end of the airport rather than the middle. Less traffic tends to mean shorter lines.
--buy more water/beverages than you think you need. Often, drink service will be suspended on short/turbulent flights and if you don't bring something, you'll miss out. I always buy double of what I need, just in case. You also don't know if you'll get stuck taxiing or something, and that can mean an extra 30-40 minutes on the airplane.

Good luck, and save travels!
posted by guster4lovers at 8:24 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

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