If your flight is delayed, can you turn up late for check-in at the airport?

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A two-hour arrival time for a domestic trip and a three-hour arrival time for an international flight is now the norm.

However, what if your flight is canceled or delayed for whatever reason?

It’s very typical for 20% of flights to miss their scheduled departure time each year due to a wide range of reasons, including adverse weather or air traffic, equipment malfunctions, or crew shortages.

The question is if your flight is delayed can you show up late for check-in at the airport? We shall go over this and a lot more in the specifics of this article.

If your flight is delayed, can you turn up late for check-in at the airport?

Due to the fact that your flight has been delayed, you cannot turn up late. It’s impossible to miss a delayed flight’s closing time for check-in because the closing time is based on the scheduled departure time rather than the real one. As a result, whether or not your plane is late has no bearing on this.

Unless the check-in closing time is delayed as well as the departure time, you cannot arrive late to check-in for a delayed flight.

A flight’s scheduled departure time is used to determine check-in closing time, regardless of whether or not the flight has been delayed. In the event that your flight is delayed and you arrive late for check-in, you will be counted as a no-show and not allowed to board the plane.

In spite of the fact that you’ve already checked in online, you’ll still want to arrive at the airport on time – and that means arriving early. There is a chance that you will not be able to board the plane and will not be eligible for compensation if you are late.

Keep in mind that flight itineraries aren’t always set in stone. It is possible that your flight will be rescheduled and depart earlier than originally scheduled after the delay notice.

Although your airline will give you an estimate of the flight’s departure time based on the current weather and the plane’s condition, these things can change at the last minute—the weather can worsen and what appears to be a minor mechanical problem on the plane may turn out to be much more serious.

You may experience the dreaded “creeping delays,” where “developments occur that were not anticipated previously and you watch as your departure time is pushed back by half an hour after half an hour as if your vacation were dying of a thousand cuts. 

You should arrive at the airport at the original departure time, no matter how long the delay is expected to be. Regardless of how long the delay is expected to be.

For example, when it comes to domestic flights, it means you should arrive at the airport no later than 8 am, even if you receive an alert stating that the aircraft won’t take off until 11:45 am, as long as you have a ticket.

Let’s look at it another way. The same uncertainty that might cause a flight delay to be longer than expected can, on occasion, cause a flight delay to be less than expected, as well.

For example, the skies may suddenly become clear. The airline may be able to bring in a substitute crew from the area instead of relying on a crew from another part of the country to arrive. You’ll never know what could happen.

If you’re flying with a major airline, they’ll tell you to arrive on time.

When flying domestically, the check-in deadline is normally 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time, so if you plan on arriving late for a delayed flight, make sure you check-in online.

A decent rule of thumb, if you’re already at the airport, is to stay near the gate in case the situation improves. To avoid missing your flight, keep an eye on your phone and the airport’s information screens for updates on gate changes.

Here is why check-in times are not modified with delays in flight timings:

The check-in time has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the flight is delayed. If the flight does not depart on time, the counter will close on time regardless of how long the flight is delayed.

This is due to the fact that there are other things that must take place before the flight may depart that are not dependent on the check-in desk:

  • Manifest of passengers.
  • Seat reservations, upgrades, and modifications availability decisions.
  • The tags on the luggage must be input into the system, and the tags on the luggage must be entered into the system.
  • Each piece of luggage must be scanned before being transported to the loading dock.
  • It is possible that luggage will need to be loaded into freight containers.
  • It is possible that passengers will be required to go through immigration.
  • It is possible that there will be travel time (walking time) to the gate.

Everything that has to happen will happen, regardless of how long the delay lasts.

There are a number of other issues. On a rotational basis, third-party (i.e., non-airline employee) personnel staff the check-in counters at most major airports. As a result, the airline only has a limited amount of time to check-in passengers before another group of crew members arrives at the same station.

There are also restrictions on the availability of physical counters in some locations.

For those flying from Dubai on Emirates, this isn’t a problem because they have a distinct terminal (and all counters are checking in Emirates planes), but the flight itself may be unavailable (or closed) for booking at the time of your departure (in the reservation systems).

How to claim compensation if your U.S. flight was delayed or canceled?

Understanding the Department of Transportation’s Fly Rights will make your travel troubles less painful. Unlike the EU, the United States lacks an umbrella rule that protects travelers experiencing flight problems. While you may not have as much protection in the United States as you do in the EU, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) does provide compensation in specific cases, such as:

  • Flights that have been rescheduled or canceled
  • Overbooking
  • Flights that have been delayed or canceled

Delays or cancellations that do not necessitate payment

Weather, air traffic delays, and mechanical problems can be difficult to foresee and are sometimes beyond the airline’s control. However, if your flight is delayed or canceled due to inclement weather, air traffic delays, or technical concerns, you are not entitled to compensation from the airline.

If your flight is delayed for one of these reasons, ask the original airline if it will cover the cost of a ticket on a different airline. The Department of Transportation does not force the airline to provide compensation, but it never hurts to inquire.

Because there is no government requirement for reimbursement for delayed customers, check the operating airline’s policy to see what compensation they would provide. If there is a major delay, inquire if the airline would reimburse you for meals consumed during the delay.

If the airline does not pay you reimbursement for your food or related expenses during the delay right away, you may be entitled to receive a compensated amount for those charges by submitting a claim with the airline under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention. If your claim is denied, you may be able to seek compensation in court.

If your flight is canceled, the airline should rebook you on the next available flight to your destination at no extra expense. Ask the current operator if it will pay for a ticket on another carrier if the rebooked flight involves a major delay.

Tarmac Delays

A tarmac delay on a domestic flight is another case that does not necessitate compensation. These might happen either before or after takeoff.

Most US airlines are prohibited by the DOT from remaining on the tarmac for more than 3 hours unless one of the following events occurs:

  • The pilot judges that the airplane cannot taxi to the gate and deplane its passengers due to a safety or security risk. 
  • Air traffic control determines that allowing the pilot to taxi to the gate or another place to deplane passengers will cause major disruptions in airport operations.

The DOT time limits do not apply if you have a tarmac delay on an international flight operated by a U.S. airline. The airlines set any time constraints and/or protocols that apply.mDomestic and international aircraft in the United States must be provided with food and water no later than two hours after a tarmac delay begins. The airline is required to maintain the restrooms open and provide medical assistance.


Overbooking is a tactic used by airlines to ensure that a flight is fully booked and to account for passenger “no-shows.” When a flight is overbooked, the DOT requires airlines to compensate passengers who have been bumped, both voluntarily and involuntarily.

To further comprehend these definitions, consider the following:

  • When an airline encourages passengers to willingly give up their seats in exchange for compensation, this is known as voluntary bumping.
  • When an airline bumps passengers against their will but nevertheless compensates them, this is known as involuntary bumping.
  • Bumping voluntarily
  • Before involuntarily bumping passengers, the DOT requires airlines to ask passengers whether they are ready to give up their seats in exchange for compensation. If you accept to be bumped voluntarily, the airline will put you on a later flight and would most likely compensate you with vouchers.
  • Bumping Unintentionally
  • The DOT compels each airline to pay involuntarily bumped passengers via check or cash if they are bumped. The amount you get from the airline is determined by the cost of the ticket and the length of the delay.
  • The amount of compensation you will receive is governed by the following factors:
  • You will not be paid if you arrive at your destination within 1 hour of your original scheduled arrival time.
  • You will be paid 200 percent of your one-way ticket price, up to $775, if you reach your destination between 1 and 2 hours after your intended arrival time.


  • Is it possible for you to leave the airport if my flight is delayed?

If you’ve already checked in but haven’t yet passed through security and entered the departure area, you’re quite fine.

However, we recommend that you should not leave the airport because you will not be contacted if the flight does not depart as late or delayed as it is scheduled to be.

You will not be able to exit the airport if you have already passed through security and immigration control. And we strongly advise you not to try.

As a general guideline, if there is a brief delay (less than 3 hours), go to the departure area and stay near the boarding gate in case the aircraft is rescheduled.

If there is a moderate delay, make sure you have checked in and enjoy the airport services while keeping an eye on the flight schedule board but do not leave the airport.

If the delay is particularly long, make sure you’ve checked in again, and contact the airline staff: they may be able to send you to a hotel where you may rest while waiting for your trip. Inquire about how you can be notified if the schedule changes again.

  • What should you do in the event of a tarmac delay?

Federal air travel guidelines from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) specify that you cannot be held in a plane stranded on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights or four hours for international flights in the United States. After this wait, the plane must return to the gate to allow passengers to disembark.

In addition, within two hours of a tarmac delay, the airline must provide food, refreshments, and access to restrooms.

According to recently modified passenger rights legislation in Canada, airlines can keep customers on board for up to three hours before having to disembark them, regardless of whether the aircraft is domestic or international.

They can detain passengers aboard the plane for an additional 45 minutes if they believe the flight will be able to take off within that time limit.

The EU Regulation makes no mention of tarmac delays; it is left up to the airline’s contract of carriage.

  • What should you do if your business flight is delayed?

You may be entitled to compensation if your flight was delayed by at least 3 hours while on a business trip. Even if your company paid for the ticket, you are the one who is entitled to compensation as the passenger who incurred the inconvenience of a delayed flight.

  • Even if the flight is delayed, is the boarding gate open?

Here are two scenarios that must be considered:

Scenario 1: The aircraft’s departure has been delayed owing to weather conditions, such as wind.

The gate would be closed, and all passengers would board at the scheduled time. When a “gap” presents itself, the pilot must be ready to push off the stand as soon as ATC gives the signal.

Scenario 2: Delay due to inbound flight delay/aircraft change/emergency, etc.

The gate would open as soon as the aircraft is on standby and passengers are disembarking (and the gate may change depending on the delay) to allow all passengers to board, then close as soon as the last passenger in the queue has boarded in order to depart as quickly as possible.

If an aircraft is delayed, the gate will usually remain open for as long as it takes for passengers to board. However, because the turnaround is already running late, the crew is unlikely to wait for any stray passengers.

Even if you are aware that a flight may be delayed, you must still be at the gate on time or you may be denied boarding (unless advised otherwise by the airline). Also, delay times are not fixed, and you may miss your flight if the new departure time is moved up.

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Author - Willa Carson
Happywayfarer author Willa Carson
Hi, I'm Willa Carson, a passionate traveler who has been exploring the world for 7 years. Whether it's trekking through the Himalayas, exploring ancient ruins in South America, or simply savoring a cup of coffee at a local cafe, I believe that travel has the power to enrich our lives in countless ways. So join me on my journey and let's discover the world together!
Read more about me here.


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