You’re eligible. You’re signed up. You’ve found a flight you want to take. Hooray!
You’re now ready for the (almost!) final step before (maybe!) winging on your way – marking yourself present at the terminal.
You must go to the terminal in person and let the Passenger Service Representatives (PAX Reps) know you are ready to fly. You can do this as far ahead as 23 hours and 59 minutes or as close as a few minutes before Roll Call begins. Lady Cat 6 and her sponsor generally arrive at the terminal about an hour before Roll Call to mark in. The important point about this time frame is to mark yourself present before Roll Call begins. Once it does, if you have not marked present, you will need to wait until all passengers who have done so receive seats before you will have a chance to compete for any that may be left over.
A frequently held belief among early arrivers – the 23 hour 59 minute people – is that the earlier one is marked present, the more seniority they’ll have over those who do so closer to Roll Call time, and the better chance they’ll have to get a seat. Unfortunately for them, this belief is completely mistaken. The time one marks present has nothing to do with seniority. Seats are allotted to those who are marked present based first on Category, and then according to the date and time of SIGN-UP within each Category. All marking present early does is make for a longer wait in the terminal. No, thank you!
When you arrive at the Passenger Service Desk in the terminal to mark present, you will be asked to show ID cards for all travelers in your party, and Passports if traveling overseas. You will also be asked which destination you are marking yourself present for. Yes, I know you put your destination on your sign-up. You will be asked again. The most common reason for this is that the terminal personnel probably have not entered your sign-up into their system yet, so they have no idea what you submitted. As you remember (you do remember, don’t you?), it does not matter what destinations you listed on your sign-up form. You choose where you want to go now, when you mark yourself present.
Since the date and time of your sign-up is the most crucial set of data determining seat selection seniority within your category, have a copy of your sign-up at hand when you mark yourself present. ASK the PAX Rep if the date and time in their system is the same as the one that appears on your sent mail. If there is a discrepancy, show your email to the Rep to have it corrected. Never assume that your sign-up has been entered into a system correctly, or even at all! Always verify your date and time of sign-up when you mark yourself present! If you wait until Roll Call begins to find out there has been a mistake, it will be too late to fix it.
Once you are marked present, you wait for Roll Call – the final step before flight. You could spend your remaining time in the terminal counting heads, consulting the marked present lists if they are posted (some terminals post paper lists, some have TV screens) to see where you are on the list, chatting with fellow passengers to determine their positions on the lists, worrying about last-minute, higher Category mark-ins, and otherwise stressing over whether you will get a seat. Or, you could hit the USO for some coffee and a snack, chat with fellow passengers about space a adventures, spend some time online (most terminals have Wi-Fi!) writing a blog post or getting that mail hold you forgot in your frenzy to get out of the house in place. Or you could just chill in happy anticipation of your possible upcoming flight!
Next time: Roll Call!