If you want to get on any sort of waiting list for your flight – whether it is for an upgrade or to get a seat if the flight is not assigning you one, it is best to check-in online and check-in as early as possible. In the US every airline lets you do an online check-in 24 hours in advance of the flight.
Key point to note here is that it is 24 hours in advance of your first segment. If you have a connection, you can check in to the connecting flight at the same time as your first one.
Here’s why. When airlines determine the order in which to hand out upgrades and seats they look at several factors:
- Fare class – people traveling on a full fare ticket are treated at a higher priority than someone who bought the super discounted internet sale ticket or is on an award ticket
- Elite Status – people with a higher Elite status get a higher priority
- Connections – someone with say an international connection will be given a higher priority then someone who is going to their final destination. Obviously, the airline does not want you to miss your international flight (this only applies only to getting on a flight, not getting an upgrade)
- Check-in time – depending on the type of waiting list (upgrade vs. seat assignment) and the airline, the above three may be handled differently in terms of their relative order. But, all things being equal (same ticket fare class, same elite status, same connection status, etc), you get your position in the waiting list in the order in which you check-in
So, if you are going to be on a waiting list, set a reminder if you have to and check-in 24 hours in advance.
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