Using an e-ticket to check in for a flight can mean the difference between queuing up in long lines at an airport desk and breezing through a self-service kiosk. Since air travel can be stressful enough as it is, taking measures to ensure a smooth check-in process to avoid any last-minute snags is paramount. One of the easiest and most-effective ways to get through TSA security checkpoints without a hassle is by printing out your boarding pass with an e-ticket number. Most airlines worldwide offer this option via self-explanatory touch-screen kiosks at the airport. If you use one, you also can take care of other business at the same time, such as nabbing a window seat and printing out tags for checked baggage. As with anything, though, knowing exactly what steps to take is key.

Exploring the Basics

So, how do you get your plane ticket if you bought it online? The great thing about checking in with an e-ticket at your airport’s self-service kiosk is there are a number of ways to access boarding passes. Most customers either use an e-ticket number, a record locator, a passport or other identification card used to purchase the tickets online or the major credit or debit card used. Some major e-ticket airlines, like Delta, even let customers use identifiers like a SkyMiles card to access their boarding passes. The thing to remember is that you’ll likely want to have more than one of these on-hand as an extra precaution, in the event that the e-ticket number was written down wrong or the ID scanner isn’t working properly.

The e ticket number can be found either on the airline’s website under a customer’s reservation record or in a confirmation of purchase email from the airline. These numbers are longer than the record locator – sometimes called a confirmation code – which is often a six-digit number emailed to the customer that helps you access the online reservation. Flyers can type either of these into a self-service kiosk at the airport to find and print their boarding passes. The kiosks also have scanning devices for passports and licenses, and customers can scan these documents to get their boarding passes as well. After the account is pulled up, some screens will prompt a selection of seats and ask if any baggage will be checked. Customers checking bags can select the number and print out baggage tags with their boarding passes for a smoother transition over to security. Most airlines have a streamlined desk for customers who only need to drop off their baggage, so the time saved is worth the preparation.

What to Consider

First and foremost, everyone using an e-ticket to check in at the airport should remember that there’s a cut-off time for check-in, normally one to two hours before a flight’s departure time, and this can be found easily on the particular airline’s website. This means that showing up at the airport 50 minutes before take-off to print your boarding card isn’t going to work. However, if time is a major concern, using an e-ticket to check in online before arriving to the airport is another safe and convenient option. This becomes even more convenient for ticket holders with smartphones, as most airlines accept mobile boarding passes that can be downloaded directly to a cellphone and scanned directly from the phone’s screen.

While checking in at an airport with an e-ticket is typically the most sure-fire way to get the process done quickly, technology is still fallible. In the event that the self-service kiosk breaks down, or, for some reason, it won’t let you check in, don’t panic. Lining up for the attendant-operated check-in desk is always a fail-safe.