The Easy Way To Skip The Airport Check-In Line

by joeheg

We often write about the best ways to eliminate or at least shorten your wait at the airport. Here are some things you can to do make your airport experience less stressful:

That leaves the airline check-in and luggage drop as the only line you can’t bypass by paying extra or registering in advance. Or is it?

When we were checking in for a Delta flight at JFK, there was a huge line in the terminal. We arrived in plenty of time so we went to the back of the line to wait. That’s when a Delta Red Coat came to us and said if we wanted we could use the Skycap service outside to skip the line. We said, “Thanks but no thanks, we’ll stay here.”

Looking back, I don’t know why my reaction to using the curbside check-in service was so negative. When my family first started to fly instead of taking road trips, we always used the Skycap service. For a few dollars, the friendly agent met you at your car, took your bags, provided boarding passes and all you had to do was walk to the gate.

Skycaps are a throwback to railway porters and the services they provided passengers.

The skycap is the descendant of the redcap, a railway porter. Redcaps were named for their distinctive red hats, which helped them stand out in a crowd so that railway passengers could easily identify them. When commercial airlines became viable, many airlines provided skycap service because people were accustomed to getting assistance from railway porters, and the term “skycap” was coined to describe porters who worked in airports.

It’s a new age and people no longer expect to have someone take their bags from the car trunk. In fact, we’ve been trained to be self-sufficient. We’re supposed to check in and tag our own bags with no help. Why should we need assistance?

That doesn’t mean that airlines have done away with curbside check-in. All of these airlines mention the service on their website:

I can’t explain why I’m so hesitant to use curbside check-in. I partially think it’s because I irrationally feel there’s a greater chance for my bag to not to make it onto the flight if I check in curbside instead of taking it to the counter and checking it myself. Another reason is that we’ve occasionally encountered overly-aggressive Skycaps who were borderline harassing us to give them our bag instead of taking it inside.

However, when I think about it, I’m actively avoiding a service that will save me time. Instead of standing in line to hand my bag to an airline agent that I tagged at a kiosk (where I had to answer a bunch of questions about upgrades), I could pay a few dollars per bag and be on my way in a few minutes.

For those of you who still check a bag (and we’re still #teamcheckedbag), do you use curbside check-in?

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James M March 23, 2022 - 4:15 pm

All the time if it’s available. I give $5 per checking-in passenger.

Dora March 25, 2022 - 1:52 am

Every time I can! It save a lot of time waiting in line inside. Well worth the tip.

Laura Geyer March 27, 2022 - 9:29 pm

If available, I am thrilled to use it and tip.

Adelie S March 26, 2022 - 11:36 pm

I use curbside check-in whenever possible. Unfortunately at our home airport Delta doesn’t allow check-in for international flights at curbside. American used to allow international flight check-in after you scanned your passport inside at a kiosk. Sometimes the Skycap would do that; other times I had to do that myself. Leaving the bags outside and returning to the Skycap counter to complete the check-in is still faster than standing in a non-priority line at the terminal ticket counters.

Leanne Davis March 30, 2022 - 10:42 am

If I’m in a rush and it’s available, yes, I will use curbside. It’s worth the extra few dollars.

Linda March 30, 2022 - 11:14 am

ALWAYS! use it. Saves time, lugging the bags through the airport. For a few $ a bag, it is well worth it. They write down your departure gate on your ticket so you can go directly from the TSA line without having to stop to figure out where to go. Have never lost a bag, even on international flights.

Cw March 30, 2022 - 11:15 am

Curbside check in, all the way! It saves me a lot of time. Once you enter the terminal it is bedlam! But I go straight to the gate.

Lorens W. March 30, 2022 - 11:18 am

I have traveled a lot and I have never used curbside check-in. I see now that it does save time. I notice one comment here about $5 per passenger. Is this a “tip”? Is it a cash transaction? Is this an American custom, or is it international and expected? Are the Skycap staff paid by the airline?

jsn55 March 30, 2022 - 11:29 am

Have travelled so little with the virus hysteria, I had forgotten the great experience of pulling up in your rental car, checking your bags and driving off to return the car. There’s a charge, and we tip the porter/concierge … what’s a few dollars on top of hundreds you’ve already spent?

Linda March 30, 2022 - 1:03 pm

Use curbside whenever available. Never had a bag misdirected. Well worth the tip.

Margott March 30, 2022 - 1:18 pm

I mostly try to fly without a checked bag, but when I do have to check in a bag, I do it inside for two reasons: 1) I have priority check-in and even with a line, there are kiosks where I can print my tags and then drop off my bag. 2) I’m afraid my bag won’t make it into my flight if I use the curbside service.

But last month (February 2022), I was running late to the airport and was afraid to miss the cutoff time for checking in my bag. Luckily, there was a curbside agent right at the door who offered to check it in. I gave him a tip and hoped he would send my bag to the plane in time. My bag arrived with no issues. So I think I will start using it more frequently in the future.

CJH June 12, 2023 - 3:51 pm

last time I used curbside to check in, it was an outside vendor who charged a fee. They looked just like the AA skycap and my AA credit card did not cover the checked bag fee.


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