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Boarding Passes for Connecting Flights


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How to get a boarding pass online?

Boarding passes for connecting flights?

Why sometimes it doesn’t work, and you have to check in at the airport. What if you’re flying with two or three different airlines, how does it work then? These are some of the questions that we’ll answer in this guide. Very often this depends from the airlines, and their policies — so, these things change every once in a while. Take this into account.

Boarding passes
Boarding passes

1. What Is a Boarding Pass?

It’s a confirmation (digital or paper) that you can board a plane. You receive it after you check in for your flight. Usually check-in happens not earlier than 24-48 hours before the flight. Early check-in might be available.

Boarding passes can be digital (on your phone) or printed. You can print your own boarding pass at home, hotel or print shop, airports also have special machines, where you can print a boarding pass (works not with all airlines), or it may also be printed by airline staff at the airport.

2. Boarding Passes for Connecting Flights

There are several very common scenarios.

If your experience is different from this, please share your story or question in the comments. We will share and answer the most popular questions. So let’s start! How to get a boarding pass?

2.1 Airline-Protected Connecting Flights, Same Airline

You have a connecting fight.

All your flights are operated by one airline.

This is the easiest option. In this case, mostly all you have to do is to check in online and download boarding passes. Usually check-in starts not earlier than 24-48 hours before the flight. Mostly you receive email from your airline informing about that.

We have an in-depth guide on connecting flights. There you can learn about the differences between airline-protected connecting flights and self-transfer flights. In short, the former are several flights booked as a single journey, while the latter — separately booked flights.

2.2 Airline-Protected Connecting Flights, Different Airline

Nowadays, airlines share flights. It happens a lot.

So, even if it’s an airline-protected flight connection, booked directly, it may still be operated by two different airlines. Sometimes there are three or four airlines. For example, you booked a connecting flight from Lufthansa, and one of your flights is operated by airBaltic or Austrian Airlines, their partner airline.

In this case, you may need to check in at the airport. Wait until online check-in is available. Usually it starts not earlier than 24-48 hours before the flight. Try to check in online. If that’s not possible on neither airline’s website, don’t worry about that. Arrive to airport 2-3 hours before the flight, and check in there.

Go to the check-in desk of the first airline you are flying with.

They will give you all boarding passes for connecting flights.

You will receive all of them at once.

Hong Kong airport layover
Hong Kong airport

3. Boarding Passes for Self-Transfer Flights

Self-transfer flights are separately booked flights.

These can be flights with one airline, or several. Many people in Europe do this with low cost airlines. They book several flights with, for example, Ryanair, thus creating a DIY Ryanair connecting flight, and travel cheap.

These can also be full-service traditional airlines.

This is possible with all kind of airlines.

And in this case, it depends from how you booked flights:

  1. You booked flights separately. One by one. If this is what you did, you will have to check in separately as well. Don’t forget that check-in will start at different times for these flights, as they depart at different times. You can do it only on the website or app of your airline.
  2. You booked flights as a single journey. Sites like Kiwi offer such an option. In this case, you might be able to check in at once. In some cases, Kiwi does check-in on your behalf. Pay attention to details like these, when making a reservation through a third party website. Don’t want to complicate things? Book directly from an airline.

Things to consider:

Read more: How to Book Connecting Flights?

4. What If You Can’t Get Boarding Passes Online?

In this case, just do it at the airport. There are situations when it’s simply not possible. For example, when you have a connecting flight with different airlines sometimes you can get your boarding passes only at the airport.

You may have an option to check in, choose a seat, but no option to download boarding passes. In a situation like this, you have to go to the airport check-in counter too. Even if you don’t have checked baggage.

Do you have to pay to get boarding passes at the airport?

In this situation, no. Because it’s the only option.

Boarding a Level plane
Boarding a Level flight to New York

5. Boarding Passes for Connecting Flights: My Experience

Mostly it’s very easy. But there are exceptions.

Here is a short account of three of my experiences.

5.1 Turkish Airlines

I was flying from Tbilisi to Riga via Istanbul.

I had a 20-hour layover in Istanbul, which I used to go on a short sightseeing tour in Istanbul. Long layovers during the day are great for that. I also booked a hotel for a night in Istanbul. Because generally, yes, you are allowed to leave the airport during an international layover.

I checked online while in Tbilisi.

I received both of my online boarding passes at once. One for my flight from Tbilisi to Istanbul, and one for my flight from Istanbul to Riga.

I didn’t print anything.

5.2 Qatar Airways, AirBaltic

It was a connecting flight from Riga to Islamabad.

I had three flights, and the first was operated by airBaltic.

I received an email both from Qatar Airways and airBaltic that the online check-in has started. I tried to check in on the website of airBaltic, but it didn’t work. I tried to check in on the website of Qatar Airways. It worked. I could also select seats. But only for my second and third flight.

I couldn’t get my first boarding pass online.

On the day of my flight I went to the airport.

I checked in with airBaltic.

Got all three boarding passes.

5.3 Level

Level is a low-cost airline from Spain.

They offer cheap transcontinental flights.

It wasn’t a connecting flight. Level don’t offer connecting flights. But I’m sharing this experience because of one thing. You see, Level is an airline brand which several other airlines use to sell cheap flights. One of these airlines is Iberia. I won’t go into details about how it works, but it’s something you may see as well. And then it’s just good to know, that these kind of arrangements exist.

So, I had a flight with Level from New York to Barcelona.

I checked in online on the website of Level.

But I couldn’t print or save an online boarding pass.

This feature simply wasn’t working.

Then I remembered. Wait, this my flight may actually be Iberia flight. I could see that on my Level account online. So, maybe I can get a boarding pass from the website of Iberia? It worked. I could get a boarding pass from Iberia.

Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport

6. Frequently Asked Questions About Boarding Passes

You can add your questions in the comments.

We will publish and answer the most popular questions.

Can You Get Boarding Passes at the Airport?

Yes, absolutely. Sometimes that’s the only option.

In some situations you can’t get boarding passes online because you’re flying with two or several different airlines. Other times, you’re requested to do an airport check-in even if you are flying with one airline. The reason might be that they want to check if you have all travel documents needed for your trip.

Returning to the original question, yes, it’s possible.

But take into account, that with some airlines it can be a paid service. For example, with Ryanair in Europe, if you don’t have a checked baggage, airport check-in is a paid service. And it can costs like 50 USD / EUR. To avoid that fee you have to check in online.

How to Get a Boarding Pass at the Airport?

Go to the airline check-in counter.

You will have to show a passport or ID.

You may also use a self check in kiosks. These are special machines, where you can print boarding passes at the airport. This service isn’t available everywhere, and it doesn’t work with all airlines. You can always ask airport staff, if there are machines like that in this airport. Using them usually saves time.

Self baggage drop-off may also be an option.

Do You Have to Print a Boarding Pass?

Nowadays, printing boarding passes mostly is optional.

Most people, who check in online and don’t have checked baggage, travel with electronic boarding passes. There are special apps for safe and easy storage of boarding passes. Most likely you have these apps on your phone already.

On iPhone – Wallet.

On Android – Google Pay.

How to Get Boarding Pass on Phone?

  1. Use the app of your airline (easiest)
  2. Download boarding pass in PDF (most popular)
  3. Save electronic boarding pass to Wallet / Google Pay (most convenient)

These are three of the best options you have.

First option is the easiest. Most airlines have mobile apps. You can use these apps to check in online. You can also see your boarding passes on these apps.

Second option is the most popular. Because most airlines will send you an online boarding pass in PDF format. Then you can save this PDF document to your phone or show it from your email. Saving on phone is the safest option. So, you can access it also when you don’t have internet. On iPhone you can save it to Books or Files.

Third option is available not with all airlines. However, more and more airlines offer it. They let you save boarding passes to Wallet and Google Pay. They send you boarding passes in a special format that Wallet and Google Pay understands. For example, you’ve received boarding passes in your email. Then there’s usually a button “Add to Apple Wallet”, “Add to Google Pay”, or something like that. Airline apps also have this option to add to Wallet or Google Pay.

How to Get Boarding Pass on iPhone?

  1. Use the app of your airline (easiest)
  2. Download boarding pass in PDF (most popular)
  3. Save electronic boarding pass to Wallet (most convenient)

If you have a PDF, save it to Books or Files. So, you can access it also without internet. If you have downloaded an app of your airline, or received a boarding pass in some other way, look if there’s an option “Add to Apple Wallet”. Use this option to save your boarding passes to Wallet — it’s very convenient.

What is your experience with getting boarding passes for connecting flights? Have you ever had a self-transfer flight when you receive all boarding passes at once? Some online flight booking agents offer that.

Featured photo by Torsten Dettlaff from Pexels

About the author:

Co-founder and Chief Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Kaspars is a digital nomad and travel blogger who’s been traveling the world extensively since 2013. Since 2017, Kaspars has been writing about the less-known aspects of air travel, things like air passenger rights laws and regulations. He’s really good at simplifying complex concepts and making them easily understandable. Kaspars favorite airlines are Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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