Look Up Your Airline’s Cutoff Time For Checked Baggage Before You Fly

Look Up Your Airline’s Cutoff Time For Checked Baggage Before You Fly

It’s been at least a decade since I checked a bag on a flight. I’m never travelling for that long or with that much, and what, I’m going to pay money for the privilege of travelling with things that I’ve… already paid money to own in the first place? No thanks.

But on our Hack the World trip to Costa Rica earlier this month, I was flying with a bunch of aerosol bottles in tow — spray sunscreen, bug spray for the entire crew—and hey, work was paying for it anyway. I updated my flight info in the Jet Blue app (always use your airline’s app!) to note that I’d be checking one piece of luggage, put in my corporate card info to cover the (exorbitant) $42 fee, and didn’t think anything else of it.

That is, until I got to the airport. I was later than I like to be, thanks to the whims of the JFK air train, but still had a full 45 minutes before my flight was even set to board. When I went to the kiosk to print out the bag check tag, a very dire-looking alert informed me that I had just 10 minutes left before baggage check for my flight would be closed.

Had there been any kind of line at the drop-off area, I would’ve been out of luck.

It all worked out fine, but as a responsible person who loves getting to the airport early, just thinking about what could have happened still sends me into a minor panic and makes my chest tighten. Who even knew that the cutoff for checking luggage was different than the boarding time?

(Well, probably people who fly with large or liquid-filled luggage on the regular, but not me!)

Anyway, my point is this: if you’re flying and plan to bring anything beyond a carry-on, do a quick search to find out your airline’s policy and cutoff time. Most domestic airlines require baggage to be checked 30 to 40 minutes before departure time, according to iFly.com, and for international travel, that window can be up to 60 minutes.

For trips that require checking baggage, don’t cut it close. And whatever you do, don’t rely on the train to get you where you’re going on time.

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