Check bags 4+ hrs before departure?

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Old Jun 11, 19, 11:15 pm
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Check bags 4+ hrs before departure?

Hi all! Have an AS flight next week and probably will be at the airport about 6 hours before departure time. I know AS policy is to accept checked bags 4 hours prior, but is there any chance they can accept them earlier? This way I can pass security and sit in a lounge instead of waiting outside.

Itís a late night flight so Iím sure the counters are open, so Iím only wondering if the system would allow agents to do so. If not, I might need to try not go to the airport too early.

Thanks in advance for any input!
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Old Jun 11, 19, 11:33 pm
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Iíve never been able to get around the 4 hour rule. They always stand firm on that policy in my experience. What is the departure airport?
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Old Jun 11, 19, 11:59 pm
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two agents at SEA said “NO” a couple months ago (routing was SEA-SAN-BWI) ... but I was able to talk the second one into letting me SDC to an earlier SEA-SAN, check bags thru to BWI, and then SDC back to my original flight
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Old Jun 12, 19, 12:43 pm
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FWIW: Last year I tried to check a bag at SEA about 4 hours and 15 minutes before the flight and the nice agent suggested I wait until the 4 hour mark. She said that something happens at the 4 hour mark that makes it more likely my bag would get to the proper destination at the proper time. Maybe a batch is opened at that time? Wish I could remember the exact words but I can't. In any case I waited to check.

On the other hand we got to HNL really early one time and the agent had no problem checking the bags before the 4 hour mark. She said it wasn't a problem.

If someone understands the mechanics of all this please share.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 3:28 pm
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My understanding is you can pay extra to check bags earlier than 4-hours curbside at SEA, if you're willing to pay the premium for curbside service. I could be remembering that wrong, though, so you may want to confirm before counting on it.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 3:42 pm
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No. I tried three times and all three times I got shut down.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 12:48 am
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Thanks for all the answers! Looks like another highly YMMV situation. I am flying from HNL, so only positive DP coming from this airport is pretty comforting. Anyway, successful or not, I'll report back if the counter agent can share more insight on this when I go.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 3:38 am
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If flying from HNL there may not be an agent there to accept your bags more than 4 hours before departure. If there is, and the kiosks there print bag tags, tag it yourself and take it through the bag drop line. From my (one and only experience) trying to check a bag early, the kiosk will print tags before the 4 hour mark, but the tag must be activated by an agent. If they don’t but agents are working, you can always try saying you want a couple extra hours of vacation and agree to release them from delivery fees or delayed bag claims if the bag doesn’t make the flight.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 4:03 am
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Originally Posted by Westcoaster View Post
FWIW: Last year I tried to check a bag at SEA about 4 hours and 15 minutes before the flight and the nice agent suggested I wait until the 4 hour mark. She said that something happens at the 4 hour mark that makes it more likely my bag would get to the proper destination at the proper time. Maybe a batch is opened at that time? Wish I could remember the exact words but I can't. In any case I waited to check.

On the other hand we got to HNL really early one time and the agent had no problem checking the bags before the 4 hour mark. She said it wasn't a problem.

If someone understands the mechanics of all this please share.
The four hour cutoff is because baggage sorting systems have many outputs and change just like gates do. Within 4 hours the airline has a good idea of where your flight is leaving from and sets a permanent output. If you check in your bag before that time, it might be set to A2, but at the 4 hour mark switches to Z27. Now there is one bag at A2 and all the rest at Z27. The bag might be noticed in time, but outputs are shared with dozens of flights so that doesnít always happen with time to take it to the gate and get it loaded. When you land and your bag isnít there, you file a claim, the airline pays for necessities, then pays for shipping to you, and 1-2 of those cases every flight adds up to lots of money. Thus the 4 hour rule, saves airlines money, saves you stress at the end of your flight, and everyone wins.

Also sometimes the 4 hour rule is in place because check-in staff donít arrive until 4 hours to departure which I learned the hard way in YVR.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 4:36 am
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I have had success, but not at outstations.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 5:43 am
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At HNL, very unlikely that the counter will even be open. So, this is not going to happen at all.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 12:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
At HNL, very unlikely that the counter will even be open. So, this is not going to happen at all.
I'm pretty sure it will be open because there's another flight 2 hours before mine. I also learned this the hard way once at DFW when there's no one at the counter 4.5 hours prior, so this time I checked flight schedules to make sure this's at least a possibility.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 12:30 pm
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Originally Posted by ezak View Post
I'm pretty sure it will be open because there's another flight 2 hours before mine. I also learned this the hard way once at DFW when there's no one at the counter 4.5 hours prior, so this time I checked flight schedules to make sure this's at least a possibility.
Another potential problem is the Agriculture inspection station for AS. All checked bags need an Ag inspection sticker before they are accepted. And you must use the Ag station for your designated airline. Meaning you can’t go down to a different Ag station and then bring your bag back to AS. The stickers are color coded. I once went to check my paddle board in at 9am for a 2pm flight and the AG station wasn’t open yet. I believe it opened at 10am. Once I got the sticker, I had no problem checking it in but by then of course, it was T-4 hours.

They seem to open 2 hours before the first flight which fits with my memory of 10am. Since there is another flight 2hrs before the OP’s flight, it shouldn't be a problem. If s/he was on the first flight, 2 hours prior would be the earliest. Whether they will enforce the 4 hours prior rule for the OP is the unknown.

USDA inspection stations are located in front of the airline check-in counters. USDA inspection stations usually open at the same time as the airline check-in counters (generally two hours prior to a flight). You must go through the inspection station that is located in front of your airline check-in counter.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 6:43 pm
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I'm curious why there are so many data points with agents. Does self-tag reject it? Or are they rejecting an already tagged bag? That's kind of ridiculous.

I saw them bend the rules for someone at SFO the other day. She was 4.5 hours early.

Originally Posted by ftmsb View Post
My understanding is you can pay extra to check bags earlier than 4-hours curbside at SEA, if you're willing to pay the premium for curbside service. I could be remembering that wrong, though, so you may want to confirm before counting on it.
Tipped employees often have incentive to bend the rules in the customer's favor.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by channa View Post
... Tipped employees often have incentive to bend the rules in the customer's favor.
another way of saying ďPolicy isnít whatís written; policy is whatís practiced.Ē
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