How Early Can You Check In Bags For A Flight?

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So your flight is fast approaching and want to check in your bags early before your flight.

Each airline has its different policies and a start time for accepting bags at the check in counter, but; typically it ranges between 2 to 3 hours prior the flight departure on domestic flights and 3 to 6 hours for international flights.

Let’s find out how early you can check in your bags in both domestic and international flights.

Let’s dive right in.


How Early Can You Drop Your Bags At The Airport?

Dropping Off Luggage Time By Airlines 

The majority of the airlines want passengers to show up early at the airport, so they have enough time to check in their bags, clear the security and get to the boarding gate on time.

And the time you book your flight, the airline will notify you with the time need to be at the airport to finish the check in process.

But what airlines mean by “early” or “enough time.”

We have collected some of the major airlines and what time you can drop off you bags with them.

If we don’t mention a certain airline, you can either check their official website or contact them directly so they can provide you with more information.

US Airlines 

Airlines Check in bags time
American Airlines 4 hours prior to the flight departure 
Delta Airlines 6 hours prior to the flight departure 
Southwest4 hours prior to the flight departure 
United airlines 4 hours prior to the flight departure 
Jetblue6 hours prior to the flight departure, 4 hours for flights to San Juan and Puerto Rico 
Alaska airlines 4 hours prior to the flight departure 
Spirit Airline 4 hours prior to the flight departure

Other International Airlines 

Airlines Check in bags time
British airways 3 to 2 hours before the scheduled flights, the Overnight luggage drop allows passengers to drop their luggage the day before their flight departure, but only in London Heathrow and London Gatwick. 
Qantas 30 minutes to 90 minutes, find more info here 
Air Canada3 hours prior to the flight departure.
Air France You can check in your bags 2 hours prior the flight departure or you can also drop off your bag the day before, find more info here.
Qatar Airways You can check in your bags 3 hours before your the flight departure.
Emirates If you are departing from Dubai, you can drop off your bags 24 hours before departure, or 12 hours before departure if you’re flying to the US.
LufthansaLufthansa check desk allow to check in your bags 2 to 1 hour before the flight departure. Lufthansa offers luggage drop off for business and first class passengers
Singapore airlinesYou can check in your bag 3 hours early, also you can drop off your bags 24 hours before your flight departs in limited airports.
Turkish Airlines You can check in your bags 2 hours before a flight departure.

What Time Check In Bags Ends?

Most airlines do have a different cut off time when you can check in your bag before the flight.

For instance if your flight departs at 3 pm if you show up at the check-in desk 20 minutes before the flight there is a higher chance the airline staff won’t accept your bags, because the maximum an airline will allow is 40 minutes before a flight depart.

So ensure that you always have enough time to check in your bag and clear the security.

Domestic flights within the US 30 to 60 minutes before a flight departure
International flights 60 to 90 minutes before a flight departure

Is It a Good Idea To Check In Bags Early?

Even though when you check in your bag ahead of time, you will be free from lugging your luggage around, exploring the airport or the city freely, there are some drawbacks that you need to keep in mind.

As Megan mentioned in this video if you drop off a bag too early, for example 4 hours before a flight, the bag will be stored in a holding area and the bag is prone to be lost or forgotten.

Are There Any Alternatives?

If you want to free your hands because your flight is in the later evening or in the next day, but the airline check in desk is not open yet.

Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives and services that will assist with your bags.

Here are some of the alternatives:

  • Airports luggage storage services

You can store your bags for a fee for a period of time and collect them whenever you want, the time and fee vary by airports to other.

  • Use the Hotel storage

Most hotels offer an early luggage drop off or a luggage storage service for a fee, If your hotel didn’t provide any of this you can ask the hotel bellhop if they can keep your bags for a few hours, and I’m sure they will happily store your bags for a tip.

  • Sleep at the airport with your bags

If you have a flight the next morning you won’t have any problems if you snooze in a waiting area the night before, just ensure that you bring some amenities to make yourself comfortable and entertained especially if you need to wait for long hours, this tip will help you also be the first to check in your bags and head to the gate early.

  • Use a luggage storage service company

There are plenty of luggage storage companies out there, that will take care of your bags and items before you head to the airport, most of them are close to the airports and other transportation centers.

Do a quick research about the area you wanted to store your bags and you will get a load of companies in the search result.

  • Travel carry-on only

If you don’t want to stress yourself with checking in your bags, you can travel carry-on only, traveling light will always save you money and time at the airport, in addition you don’t have to risk your items damaged in choked baggage.

  • Give the check in desk a try

If you are already at the airport and you have your boarding pass ready you can try your luck and head to the airline desk, and ask them if you can drop off your bag early, your may get surprised that they accept your bag even 10 hours before your flight.

  • Ship your luggage

Ship your bags with a luggage shipping company and they will get delivered to your address.

Final Thoughts

Check in your bags early will allow enough time to go through the security checkpoint, explore the airport and get some rest before you board the airplane.

Most airlines recommend showing up to the airport 3 to 2 hours prior to the flight departure.

That will provide the airline to also handle luggage on time and load everything on the right right destination.

We hope this helps 

Happy travels

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