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From experiance it very much depends on the airline although never had a problem where the Airline was at its home base. outside of home base I have had it many times being unable to check in. I have also had the problem in India before where I could not even get into the airport before check in time. I had a stop over in Dehli, As it was 7 hours from landing to taking off with BA I decided not to get a hotel but to crash in the lounge instead…big mistake. after landing and transfering to international terminal security would not let me in the building without a ticket, e-ticket was not good enough. I ended up laying down on the kerbside for about 4 hours during the night with my bags fighting off the heat and beggers. I could only get in when the BA checkin staff started working and then came to the door with their list. this wasnt isolated to BA, it was Airport policy at the time sometime around 2005