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033 Vocabulary and expressions to help you check in for a flight

Hi everyone, welcome back to The Art of Business English. With the holiday season quickly approaching I thought that it would be a good time to help you with your time at the airport. In today’s episode we are going to be looking at vocabulary and expressions to help you check in to a flight when you’re at the airport.

I am sure many of you know that this part of the journey can be a little stressful, lots of people, loads of questions and sometimes you are running late. If you don’t understand things this can make you even more nervous and nobody likes being nervous when they are at the airport. 

So, if you have found yourself in a situation where you are being bombarded with questions at check in and don’t understand what you’re being asked then this episode will definitely help you to feel more comfortable and confident. 

To make this episode even more useful, I am going to give you some advice on how you can deal with checking in late and what you can say to get to the front of the line. 

So, in today’s lesson you will learn the following:

  1. Vocabulary and expressions at check in
  2. Typical questions you are asked and how you can answer them
  3. How to deal with being late 

Right, let’s get started with some vocabulary and expressions.

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Check in vocabulary & expressions


The great thing about check in is that it is a pretty straight forward process and even if you speak very little English you can complete the task. However, wouldn’t it be great if you knew all the vocabulary that you typically hear?

I want to introduce you to some polite language and expressions as this will help you a lot. Being polite is very important as it will make the process much quicker and easier. 



Let’s start by looking at the common vocabulary.

To check in
We need to check in at 1pm.
What is your final destination today?
Which carrier are you flying with?
Check baggage
Facturar maleta
How many bags are you checking today?
Hand luggage/Carry-on luggage
Equipaje de mano
Do you have any hand luggage?
How many pieces are you traveling with?
Suitcase (countable)
Please put your suitcase on the belt.
Luggage (uncountable)
Always keep an eye on your luggage at the airport.
Baggage allowance
franquicia de equipaje autorizada
You have a 22kg baggage allowance on this flight.
Smoking is prohibited on all flights.
To board
Your flight will board at 1500.
How many people are traveling under your reservation?
Window/aisle seat
Asiento de Ventana/pasillo
Would you like an aisle or window seat?
To be grateful
I am grateful for your assistance.
Boarding pass
Tarjeta de embarque
Here is your boarding pass, and here is the gate number?
Gate number
Puerta de embarque
Your flight departs from gate number A12
Please place your bag on the scale.
Emergency exit
Salida de emergencia
The plane has 8 emergency exits.
I always try and sit in an emergency exit row.
Espacio para las piernas
There is never enough legroom on most low-cost flights.


Now that we understand the vocabulary, I want to give you some polite expressions that you can use to help you sound nicer. Remember, polite people generally have a much better experience, especially when the situation may be stressful. 

Polite expressions & questions 

  • I would be grateful for a window seat
  • Would you mind checking if I could have a free upgrade?
  • I would really appreciate an emergency exit row
  • Could you check my baggage allowance?
  • Could you see if there are any rows with extra legroom?
  • I would like to sit as close to the exit as possible
  • I have a connecting flight; would you mind sitting me at the front?

Here you can see in these expressions that we are using conditional words, would and could to sound less direct and more diplomatic. It is very easy to sound politer by using these types of expressions.

In the next part of this episode, we are going to cover all of the typical questions you get asked when you are checking in. 

Typical questions


When you check in at the airport you are asked a number of questions. These questions are nearly always the same, which makes it easy for us to answer them. Here we have listed the most common ones and some ways to answer them.

Possible answer
Can I have your reservation number and passport?
Yes, of course, here you go/are.
Where are you flying to today?
What is your final destination today?

I am flying to Paris.
My last stop is Berlin
Do you have any luggage to check?
Yes, I have this suitcase.
Could you please put it on the scales?
Yes, of course.
The maximum allowance for this flight is 22kg.
OK, what does my bag weigh?
Did you pack your bag yourself?
Yes, I packed it myself.
Have you left your bag unattended at any time?
No, I have not. It has been with me the whole time.
Are you carrying any prohibited items?
No, I am not.
Do you have a seating preference?
Could I have an aisle seat please?
Are there any children on the flight?
Could I be sat at the front of the plane?
Do you have any carry-on luggage?
Yes, I have this bag.
Please make sure you are not carrying any liquids over 100ml or other prohibited items.
Yes, I have checked everything.


Right, now that we have the typical questions and answers covered, let’s move on to the last part of the episode where we cover how to deal with checking in late. 

Arriving late for check in


What can be worse than arriving late for check in? Just imagine the situation, you are trying to get to the airport on a hot, humid afternoon in down-town Bangkok, there is a massive traffic jam! You are looking at your watch praying that you reach the airport on time. When your taxi driver finally drops you off at the airport, you run into the terminal and there is a massive queue at the check in desk. You soon realise that unless you get to the front of the line in the next 10 minutes you will probably miss your flight. So, what can you say to try and get your way to the front.

Well firstly, someone needs to stay to one side with the luggage while you go to the beginning of the line. If you are travelling alone, you just have to try and come in from one side and preferably find an airline representative. If not, you will need to either ask the first person in the line if you can skip ahead or go straight to the check in desk.

Once you have made it to the front you will need to use the following technique. A study about the power of the word "because" done in 1978 by Ellen Langer (Professor of Psychology at Harvard) proves that making a statement followed by the word because and then a reason improves your chances of someone saying yes from 60% to 93%. 

Take a look at what the study shows. 

Langer had people request to skip the line of people waiting to use a busy copy machine on a college campus. The researchers had the people use three different, carefully worded requests to break in line: 

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” 

Did the wording effect whether people let them break in line? Here are the results: 

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?” [60% compliance]

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” [93% compliance]

“Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” [94% compliance] 

What is interesting is that the reason doesn’t even need to be very good for people to accept. 

So, at the line we could say the following: 

Excuse me, I have a flight and I may miss it because I was stuck in traffic, do you mind if I check in now?”

“Excuse me, I am about to miss my flight because the taxi had an accident. Can I check in?”

“Excuse me, I need to check in because I got delayed on the way to the airport”.  

The most important thing in this whole process is that you have the confidence to push in and get to the front of the line with your pre-prepared statement with because and a reason. Remember, the reason doesn’t even need to be good for 93% of people to allow you to go to the front. 

Final thoughts


Well, that brings us to the end of another episode. As you can see, checking in, is a straight forward process that only requires knowledge of key vocabulary and expressions. We must remember to be polite at all times. Nobody will help someone who is rude, angry or aggressive.

So, next time you are at the airport be sure to apply these expressions to your next interaction. I would also suggest practicing pushing in on a line when you are at work. You will see that most people will allow you to go to the front of the line. Practicing will give you the confidence to use the technique in situations where you really need to get to the front.

Finally, please feel free to share this episode with your friends and family and stay with us over the coming weeks. I have just got back from visiting a friend in Paris and we had a quick interview about her experience with learning a foreign language and living in a foreign country. So, I will see you all next week on The Art of Business English.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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