How early can you check your bags for a flight?

Are you planning to travel with checked luggage and wondering about the earliest time you can check them in for your flight? Look no further because this guide has got you covered! From domestic to international flights, we have compiled all the necessary information about checking in your luggage, including the rules for major airlines in the US and abroad. So, whether you’re flying locally or overseas, you’ll find everything you need to know right here!

What exactly is a check-in?

When it comes to air travel, the check-in process is a crucial step that signals the start of your trip. It’s the procedure where passengers verify their attendance on a flight, receive their boarding passes, and, above all, entrust their baggage to the airline for secure transportation to their final destination. Although the check-in process may differ depending on the airline and the type of travel (domestic or international), its fundamental purpose remains the same.

The Key Elements of Check-In:

  1. Airport and Online Check-In: In the past, passengers used to check in for their flights at the airport’s check-in counters. However, with the advancement of technology, airlines now offer online check-in services, which allow travelers to complete the process from the comfort of their homes or using a mobile app. This saves valuable time at the airport.
  2. Document Verification: As part of the check-in process, passengers are required to present valid travel documents, such as a government-issued ID and passport for international flights. Depending on the destination, airlines may also request visas or other travel-specific documentation.
  3. Baggage Drop: If you have checked luggage, the baggage drop is a crucial moment when you hand over your bags to the airline’s staff. They will weigh your bags, attach destination tags, and ensure they are loaded onto the correct flight.
  4. Get your boarding pass: Once you’ve checked in successfully, you’ll receive your boarding pass, which can be either a physical or digital version. This pass is your golden ticket to board the plane and includes important information like your seat assignment, departure gate, and boarding time.
  5. Security Check: Once you’ve checked in, you’ll be directed to the security check. Here, you’ll go through security checkpoints where your belongings and carry-on items will be inspected to ensure that they comply with safety regulations.
  6. Baggage Claim Ticket: When you check in your luggage, you’ll usually receive a baggage receipt or claim ticket. Keep this document safe as you’ll need it to collect your bags when you arrive at your destination.
Early bag check in

What’s the earliest you can hand in your luggage at the airport?

Typically, you can check in your luggage at the airport 2-3 hours before domestic flights and 3-6 hours before international flights, depending on the airport and airline. Your airline will inform you of their recommended arrival times before your flight. However, airlines are hesitant to allow earlier check-ins due to the additional cost of storing your bags for longer periods, keeping the check-in counters open for extended hours, and potential security risks.

In North America (USA, Canada, and Mexico), most airports and airlines let you drop off your checked bag 2-6 hours before your flight. But guess what? Some savvy travelers have managed to check in their bags even earlier, like a whopping 12 hours before takeoff. This is usually possible at big hub airports where the check-in desks are open all day long. However, it ultimately depends on the check-in desk employee and they usually only allow luggage drop-off for flights on the same day.

So how early can you check your bags for a flight in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East? Well, the majority of airlines and airports in these regions allow you to check in your luggage 2-4 hours before your flight. But hold on, there’s more! Some fancy-schmancy premium airlines actually let you drop off your bags a whole day in advance, like a full 24 hours before your flight. The catch is that for some airlines, this service is free while for others, you gotta pay up.

When is the Latest Time You Can Check Your Luggage at the Airport?

Airlines have to stop accepting additional checked bags before the flight within a specific period to ensure that the baggage handlers have sufficient time to load everything onto the plane. The duration for this cutoff time typically varies, with international destinations having a longer timeframe compared to domestic ones.

While the specific cut-off times may differ among airlines, they generally fall within these timeframes:

  • For international flights: 60-90 minutes before the departure
  • For domestic flights: 40-60 minutes before the departure
  • For flights within the EU: 40 minutes before the departure

Is it possible to check bags in advance and leave the airport?

It’s important to note that each airline has its own check-in policies. Generally, you’ll need to check in completely before leaving the airport with your bags.

However, some airlines may require you to retrieve your bags and check them again when you return. To avoid any confusion, it’s best to confirm with your airline beforehand.

Keep in mind that leaving the airport early could mean missing important updates or boarding announcements. For a hassle-free experience, it’s recommended to stay until after your flight departs.

Here’s a guide to make your early bag check-in a breeze!

Are you ready to have a stress-free travel experience? If the answer is yes, then why not consider checking your bags early?

But how does it actually work? What do you need to know in order to make it happen? Keep reading, and we’ll provide you with all the information you need to know about checking your bags early and ensuring that your next trip goes smoothly.


Did you know that the location of the airport can actually affect how early you can check your bags for a flight? It’s true! That’s why it’s important to select an airport that is closest to your destination. The closer the airport, the less time you’ll spend traveling, and the more cost-effective your journey will be.

Knowing the operating hours of the airport can help you avoid arriving too early or too late. For example, if the airport opens at 9 am, there’s no need to show up at 4 am just to drop off your bags. Additionally, it’s crucial to locate the bag drop counters to ensure a smooth check-in process. These counters have designated areas for bag drop-off. Failing to find them can lead to delays or even missed flights.


The departure time of your flight can affect the availability of bag check-in. Typically, early morning flights have delayed bag drop-off opening hours, while late-night flights might have earlier closing times for bag drop-off.

Time Of Departure

If you’re catching a flight at 6:00 am, the bag drop-off counters might not open until 4:00 am. However, if you’re flying at 11:00 pm, the counters could close earlier, around 8:00 pm. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and confirm the specific details with your airline to avoid any problems.

Remember, certain airports have restrictions depending on your departure time. For instance, if you have a flight at midnight, you might have to check your bags by 8:00 pm.

3. Category of flight

For domestic flight, you can usually check in your bags up to 2-3 hours before takeoff. However, for international flight, you may need to check in at least 3 hours in advance due to extra security and customs measures.

If you have a connecting flight, you may be able to check your bags all the way to your final destination, or you may need to collect and recheck them at each stop. To avoid any confusion, it’s best to check your airline’s specific guidelines for baggage drop-off times and procedures. This way, you can plan accordingly and make sure you have enough time to check your bags.

4. Policy of Airline

Airline’s Policies

Most major airlines allow you to check your bags hours before your flight takes off, but the specific time frame can vary depending on the airline, airport, and destination.

For example, Delta Air Lines permits check-ins up to 24 hours before departure, but you need to inform them of the number of bags you’ll be checking.

United Airlines, on the other hand, requires you to check your bags at least 45-60 minutes before departure, unless you’re flying from Guam before 9:30 pm, in which case you can check in the night before.

Some airlines also offer early checked baggage drop-off services, which can be useful if you want to avoid crowds or have a lot of luggage. If you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you may be eligible for early check-in and expedited security screening.

The Earliest Time for Baggage Check-in of Most Popular Airlines

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines permits passengers to check their bags up to four hours prior to the scheduled departure time. In case of morning flights, travelers can conveniently drop off their bags as soon as the check-in counter becomes operational.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines provides the option to check in your luggage 24 hours prior to your flight departure. You can either do it online or at the self-service check-in counter. However, you cannot drop off your bags that early. Even if you use their self-service baggage drop area to avoid waiting in line, the earliest you can drop off your bags is four hours before the flight. Nevertheless, Delta Airlines may make exceptions, so it’s best to contact them beforehand and ask politely.

American Airlines

American Airlines doesn’t provide a specific time frame for checking bags before your flight. They simply state that you can check in within 24 hours prior to departure and that you must check your bags at least 45 minutes before takeoff. It’s reasonable to assume that they allow baggage drop off 2-4 hours before the flight, but to be sure, it’s best to give them a call and inquire.

United Airlines

Passengers flying with United Airlines can check in their luggage up to four hours prior to their scheduled departure time. This is the norm for both domestic and international flights, but there may be some variations to this policy depending on the airport and the check-in counter’s operating hours.

British Airways

You can conveniently drop off your bags once you have your boarding pass in hand, which is usually around 2-4 hours before your flight. However, please note that this service is only available at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and it’s called overnight baggage drop.

At Heathrow, you have the option to drop off your bags between 4 PM and 10 PM the day before your flight, but this is applicable only if your flight departs before 10 AM. Similarly, at Gatwick airport, you can drop off your bags (including other people’s bags) from 6 PM to 9 PM the day before your flight, as long as it’s scheduled to depart before 1 PM.


RyanAir says that you can drop off your bags when the counter opens, typically two hours before your flight’s scheduled departure. However, I’ve actually checked in three hours before a flight before and it went smoothly, so if you arrive at the airport early, it’s worth checking if the counter for your flight is already open.

Easy Jet

The time frame for EasyJet’s baggage drop varies depending on the airport you’re departing from. Generally, you can drop off your bags as early as two hours before your scheduled departure time. However, this may differ for some airports, so it’s best to check with them directly to be sure. Unfortunately, it seems that EasyJet doesn’t offer a service for dropping off your bags the day before your flight.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines allows passengers to check their bags up to four hours prior to their flight. This applies to both domestic and international flights, but it’s important to remember that the cut-off times vary depending on where you’re headed. For flights within the US, the cut-off time is 45 minutes, while for international flights, it’s 60 minutes. However, if you’re traveling to Guadalajara, the cut-off time is extended to 90 minutes.

Air France

If you’re flying with Air France from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, you have the option to drop off your bags the day before your flight at the automated drop-off areas. These areas are open from 4 PM to 8 PM and are specifically for passengers traveling internationally.

Unfortunately, this service is not available for flights within Europe. For passengers heading to the United States from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, you can conveniently drop off your bags up to 24 hours before your departure.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines offers the convenience of early bag drop-off for passengers heading to international destinations. You can drop off your bags up to 24 hours before your flight at select airports like Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Jewel Changi, and Changi Airport. They have automated check-in counters and dedicated baggage drop-off areas, making the process quick and easy.

Emirates Airlines

On the other hand, Emirates also allows passengers flying out of Dubai to drop off their bags as early as 24 hours before their departure. However, if you’re traveling to the United States, you can still drop off your bags 12 hours prior to your flight, which is still quite convenient.


Lufthansa makes it super convenient for passengers to drop off their baggage. They have these awesome self-service drop-off points at most big airports they fly from. And guess what? In most cases, you can even drop off your bags a day before your flight! It’s called “Late Night Check-In” and it’s perfect for those early morning flights when you don’t want to deal with checking your bags right after you wake up.

But here’s the thing, this service does come with a cost. And the rules for baggage drop-off vary depending on the type of ticket you have. Basically, if you’re flying business or first class, you get some extra perks that economy passengers don’t. If you want to know all the nitty-gritty details about check-in and baggage drop deadlines, you can find them here.

Bottom line

Looking to make your airport experience more efficient? Consider trying out an early bag drop. It’s a great solution that allows you to check your luggage in advance, making the process much simpler! With various options to choose from, you can drop off your bags well before your flight and avoid any last-minute stress. Now, all that’s left is to head to the airport and enjoy a hassle-free travel experience!

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