Online and mobile check-in not working? Here’s why!

can't check in to flight online

“You cannot check in online or via your mobile device, please speak to an airport agent”…cue intense frustration and, some swearing, and a resigned walk to the check-in desk.

Sometimes mobile check-in won’t work; there are a couple of reasons for this that, as a frequent flyer, you should know.


Firstly the airline may have overbooked the flight. Margins in the industry are low and airlines hedge their bets when it comes to how many people they think will cancel or not show up for a flight, letting people buy more tickets than there are seats on the plane. When it gets close to the flight departure time and everyone is checking in to the flight, unless you have a pre-booked seat, it could be the case that they don’t have space for you.

When you get to check-in, this may have changed and you may get a seat so all is not necessarily lost. To completely avoid this, it’s best to always book a seat when you book your flight.

Documentation Check

Dependent upon where you’re flying, your documents could require a further check – your citizenship, visas, and the requirements of the final destination will determine this. They’ll do a physical review at the check-in desk to see that you have everything you need before they’ll give you your boarding pass.

Airlines are responsible for transporting you back to your origin if you fail to get through the requirements of your final destination. The overheads they would incur on this possibility outweigh the inconvenience to the passenger.

You will usually be able to check-in in these situations, but will be notified that you will need to pick up the actual boarding pass at the airport.

Flagged Passenger

In some cases you may have been flagged in the system. This could either be due to:

  • Technical reasons, such as the name on your ticket doesn’t match the name on your I.D, they need to move your seat, or any other mismatching issues.
  • Security reasons, such as extra screening. This will normally be highlighted on your boarding pass with an SSSS code. There are several reason why you might have been selected for extra security screening or it can be completely random; read our blog here to find out more about the SSSS code.

Code share flights

If you have booked with one airline (the Marketing Airline), but another airline is actually the one flying (the Operating Airline), theres a good chance that you wont be able to check-in on the Marketing Airline’s site. Or it could be that the airline doesn’t have a great online check-in service, and you’ll need to check-in on a partner airline’s site instead. This is sometimes the case for smaller airlines flying out of larger airline hubs like FRA, AMS, ZRH, or LHR. For example Belavia flights out of AMS are only able to have online check-in via the KLM site.

GetPassbook by AHOY for converting boarding passes from PDF to passbook.

Payment Issues

If your flight has been purchased with a third party credit card, this can flag you for credit card fraud. Other flags for credit card fraud can be a different address on your credit card to the one on your document, booking a flight very last minute, and/or not having enough time to verify your payment method. When you have been flagged as potential fraud, they’ll do extra checks at the check-in desk.

In most cases, there’s no reason to panic, it’s just that the airline needs to cover their backs and so are forcing you to check-in in person.

Understanding why you might not be allowed to check-in online can be stressful, and knowing if there is anything you can do to avoid it happening can take a lot of time.

To get checked in to all of your flights and get support 24/7, sign up to AHOY, the flight booking concierge for travellers who focus on what matters