Reply To: What is the point of checking in?

Back to Forum


What is the point of checking in these days?

In the old days – the very old days, when I started flying – most tickets were open tickets and the reason one checked in was to turn a ticket (ie the right to fly on some indeterminate flight) into a seat (ie the right to fly on a particular flight). Seats were not allocated until check-in, and no doubt older travellers can remember the question “Would you like a window or an aisle seat?”. Indeed I can still remember the printed sheets and sticky labels some airlines used to allocate seats and stick your seat number on your boarding card.

Then when most tickets became flight-specific, the main purpose of checking in was to prove you were at the airport and waiting to fly – and to allocate seats to those who had not booked them in advance.

But now, when almost all tickets are flight-specific, seats are almost always pre-allocated (or simply not allocated at all), and check-in can be done several days in advance, what exactly does check-in achieve?

It does not confirm your seat on the plane – your ticket does that.
It does not allocate you a seat – either your ticket can do that or the airline simply does not offer allocated seats.
It does not prove you are at the airport and ready to fly.

In fact the main purpose of checking in seems to be to give airlines a reason to charge you if you forget to do so before you reach the airport!

Trains don’t need check-in – even Eurostar doesn’t, and they are most like an airline in their operation. So why do airlines stick to this annoying and pointless anachronism?

Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription

To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below