No, You Probably Can’t Check in Online for Your International Flight

We felt lucky that we could get a direct flight to Amsterdam via Delta Air Lines for our European trip. When Delta contacted us by email, my husband followed the link to the Delta web site and filled in preliminary information such as our address and passport numbers.

The day before we were to leave, he got another email telling him that we could check in online for the next day’s flight. Again he followed the link to the Delta web site, filled out all the forms, and printed our boarding passes.

I thought it all sounded too easy for an international flight. Nonetheless, we had boarding passes with assigned seats. When we got to the airport, there was a sign at the Delta counter saying that you could get in the “check baggage only” line if you had a boarding pass. I even asked the Delta rep standing at the sign if this applied to international flights, and she said yes.

So we stood in line. When we finally got our turn to check bags, the agent looked at our boarding passes and passports, and said, “Oh, you two are in trouble.” She pointed to the top of our boarding passes, where very tiny letters said “document verification required.”

Fortunately, she was very nice. She sent my husband over to the self-check-in kiosks and told him to scan both passports and print out new boarding passes. She put our bags aside and let me wait near the baggage check area while he did this. When he came back, the new boarding passes said, in the same very small letters, “documents verified.” She then checked our bags and we were on our way.

But what I want to know is this: Why did the online check-in process never indicate anywhere that we would have to scan our passports at the airport? In fact, why did the online process even allow us to print out boarding passes, since they weren’t valid boarding passes anyway and had to be replaced at the airport? Why did Delta put us through the whole online check-in process and lead us to believe we had checked in properly when we hadn’t?

Next time we’re flying out of the country, we’ll know better.

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