Mr McKeague, of Dunfermline, Fife, was 23 when he vanished in the early hours of September 24 2016 after a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
No trace of him has been found but Suffolk's senior coroner, Nigel Parsley, said Mr McKeague "died in the Suffolk jurisdiction in September 2016".
The hearing in Ipswich was opened and adjourned on Friday.
Marina Ericson, Temporary Chief Superintendent of Suffolk Police, told the hearing it is believed that Mr McKeague climbed into a bin which was emptied into a waste lorry where he subsequently died.
She said Mr McKeague drove into Bury St Edmunds on the evening of Friday September 23 2016 and met up with RAF colleagues to go drinking and socialising.
"Witnesses state that Corrie consumed so much alcohol through the evening that he became very drunk and was asked to leave Flex nightclub," she said.
"Witnesses also described him as being happy and friendly throughout the evening."
Mr McKeague was last seen alive at 3.25am, on CCTV footage, entering a horseshoe-shaped area in Brentgovel Street, behind a Superdrug and a Greggs shop, where there are several industrial waste bins.
Ms Ericson said a Biffa waste lorry emptied the Greggs bin at 4.19am, and the bin was recorded as weighing 116kg (18st 3lb).
This was around 70kg to 80kg (12st 8lb) more than its average weight," she said.
"Corrie's mobile phone, having connected to the internet, provided a signal from this point which mapped the movements of the waste lorry to the Barton Mills roundabout.
"At that point, the mobile service provider lost the signal."
Mr McKeague was reported missing at 3.42pm on Monday September 26 by colleagues at RAF Honington.
Ms Ericson went on: "Despite an extensive police-led investigation and search, there has been no proof of life since the last sighting of Corrie at 3.25am on Saturday September 24 2016.
"It is believed that Corrie, having climbed into the Greggs waste bin located in the area of the horseshoe in Brentgovel Street, was in the bin when it was emptied into the Biffa waste lorry and this is where he subsequently died."
The coroner said: "On the basis of the evidence I've heard I will open an inquest into Corrie's tragic death."
A pre-inquest review hearing will take place on February 5.
At this hearing, consideration will be given to witnesses and the length and date of the full inquest hearing.
Mr McKeague's mother, Nicola Urquhart, listened to proceedings remotely, while his father, Martin McKeague, and his wife, Trisha, attended the hearing in person.
Ms Urquhart previously said she had asked for an inquest for her son and was "extremely hopeful that this will give us answers".
Martin McKeague said after Friday's hearing: "This will put the truth out to the public.
"There's no mystery. We're not finding out any new news here."
He said his son went into the bin, adding: "The facts and evidence that we've been presented with tell us that's what happened to him."