What is the point of checking in?

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  • Cedric_Statherby
    Participant

    What is the point of checking in these days?

    In the old days one turned up at an airport and presented oneself at a check-in desk, where one (a) left any hold luggage and (b) got a boarding card, but in fact also (c) confirmed to the airline that you intended to fly that day (and that was important for them to know, especially if you had an open ticket).

    But these days, with regards to (a), leaving luggage for the hold, this is done at baggage drop points not check-in desks, and with regards to (b), boarding cards, this is pretty pointless because your ticket should be enough and a separate boarding card should not be necessary. Which leaves (c), confirming that you are actually intending to fly, and even though open tickets have largely disappeared, this is still valuable information for the airline.

    But it is only valuable information if you check in and get the boarding card pretty close to the time of the flight. The further in advance one “checks in” and prints off one’s boarding card, the less certain is the information that you intend to fly.

    I have just had a case in point. I have bought a ticket for a flight a few months hence (brave/foolhardy I know, but I need to fly). And immediately, I am invited to check in and get my boarding card.

    What is the point of this? A lot can happen between now and the date of the flight to turn my current firm intention into a no-show. The airline learns nothing from my check-in. I gain nothing – all the information on my boarding card is actually contained in my booking confirmation which I already have.

    Why does the boarding card process survive?

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    GivingupBA
    Participant

    I don’t know, but in the UK I won’t be surprised if the authorities e.g. immigration / home office / police / others know you are checking in, and keep an eye on this. I wonder if this is how they screen or catch people on no-fly lists (as well as criminals, and other wanted people): and also if they have even other reasons for wishing to know, and knowing, who is checking in.

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    Inquisitive
    Participant

    In USA, physical boarding pass is not required in most airport. One can directly go to security with Digital check in confirmation in the mobile phone Apps.

    Airport security and airline computer infrastructure need to be compatible with this arrangement- that could be main reason why other airlines/airports lacking that not implemented it.


    TominScotland
    Participant

    I was talking to a friend who flew Edinburgh – Frankfurt a couple of days ago. The only check on her COVID status at either end was by check-in staff at EDI on behalf of the airline, Lufthansa. German immigration officials waved her through without any checks. Maybe this, then, becomes the value of some form of check-in, on arrival at the airport and/or at the gate?


    Cedric_Statherby
    Participant

    It’s not so much the face-to-face at the airport I was referring to. I can see the point in that, for all sorts of reasons, though I would be surprised if the authorities relied on this alone to check no-flies etc – do they not have the advance passenger information lists well in advance?

    My interest, and my question, was more about the nonsense of encouraging me to “check in and get my boarding card” months in advance and immediately after having just booked the flight. This adds precisely nothing of value, as firstly I do not know with any more certainty that I am actually going to fly, and secondly the boarding pass contains no information that the airline and I don’t already have via my booking. As @Inquisitive suggests, a separate boarding card, whether a physical piece of paper or on an app, should not be necessary at all – after all, one does not have boarding cards for long distance trains, which are just as much “reserved seat on specific service” these days.


    Inquisitive
    Participant

    It’s not so much the face-to-face at the airport I was referring to. I can see the point in that, for all sorts of reasons, though I would be surprised if the authorities relied on this alone to check no-flies etc – do they not have the advance passenger information lists well in advance?

    My interest, and my question, was more about the nonsense of encouraging me to “check in and get my boarding card” months in advance and immediately after having just booked the flight. This adds precisely nothing of value, as firstly I do not know with any more certainty that I am actually going to fly, and secondly the boarding pass contains no information that the airline and I don’t already have via my booking. As @Inquisitive suggests, a separate boarding card, whether a physical piece of paper or on an app, should not be necessary at all – after all, one does not have boarding cards for long distance trains, which are just as much “reserved seat on specific service” these days.

    Early check-in definitely benefit the airlines. As most of the airlines have dynamic pricing and overbooked, from early check-in they can do some better revenue planning.

    Also cancellation after check-in will incur some cost to passengers that also benefit airlines.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Cedric_Statherby
    Participant

    Early check-in definitely benefit the airlines. As most of the airlines have dynamic pricing and overbooked, from early check-in they can do some better revenue planning.

    Also cancellation after check-in will incur some cost to passengers that also benefit airlines.

    Ah. Very helpful, and explains a lot. So it is all designed to help their pricing models and also (sneakily) to increase the charges if one cannot fly after all – “But as you have already checked in we are unable to refund you …”

    I really do query though what they learn about the eventual likelihood that I will actually fly by asking me less than 24 hours after I have made the booking to “confirm” it by checking in. My intentions will almost certainly not have changed at all in that 24 hours so they have no new information for their dynamic pricing model.


    esselle
    Participant

    It’s not so much the face-to-face at the airport I was referring to. I can see the point in that, for all sorts of reasons, though I would be surprised if the authorities relied on this alone to check no-flies etc – do they not have the advance passenger information lists well in advance?

    My interest, and my question, was more about the nonsense of encouraging me to “check in and get my boarding card” months in advance and immediately after having just booked the flight. This adds precisely nothing of value, as firstly I do not know with any more certainty that I am actually going to fly, and secondly the boarding pass contains no information that the airline and I don’t already have via my booking. As @Inquisitive suggests, a separate boarding card, whether a physical piece of paper or on an app, should not be necessary at all – after all, one does not have boarding cards for long distance trains, which are just as much “reserved seat on specific service” these days.

    Surely the boarding pass, either in paper form or on your mobile device, is scanned at the point where you board the aircraft though. This acts as confirmation that you are actually on board the flight AND that you have the “right” to board in the first place. Equally, in most countries at least, you cannot gain access to airside without one.


    canucklad
    Participant

    Surely the boarding pass, either in paper form or on your mobile device, is scanned at the point where you board the aircraft

    Actually, the first time it’s scanned is to allow you to go through security. Not sure, but I suspect that information is relayed to the airlines so they manage theit final boarding process.

    And it’s airline dependant, LCC’s and certain legacy carriers are notorious for blackmailing us into purchasing a seat . Dependant on the website you need to confirm your intention to fly before having a seat allocated.

    And, if you adopt my approach with certain carriers. I allow the airline to randomly assign me a seat and only check-in at the very last moment. This generally guarantees me an excellent seat. Sort of like playing a game of seat poker and bluffing till the end . On other respected airlines airlines as soon as check-in opens I’ll logon and select good seats.

    So I suppose Cedric, it’s horses for courses !!


    DavidSmith2
    Participant

    Departing Accra last week, with BA, I checked in online, received and printed my boarding pass and I had no check in bags. But I was still directed to the check in desk to be issued with another boarding pass (and to show the various COVID-related docs). Given I already had a pre-selected seat, the online check in was really a pointless exercise.


    TimFitzgeraldTC
    Participant

    Early / auto Check in can be a massive hindrance also to those that make changes are this then requires offloads and I’ve known the likes of Ryanair to then not allow changes as you have checked in and have to book a new flight (think this might now have finally changed but involves getting in touch with them by phone / chat).

    For those that often change last minute – checking early is not helpful as offloading passengers on some airlines can be very problematic (if a ticket needs reissuing it can’t be done against a CKIN status against the ticket coupon). With short time frames if pulling a flight forward for example it can mean that the time taken to process the changes means you cannot then take the earlier flight you might have wanted because a human and a computer cannot make the necessary behind the scenes processes in time (some better computer programming might help!).

    So yes – don’t really see the point in checking in for a flight until 72 hours before travel at the earliest (less if a “Business” run whereby you might be changing).

    3 users thanked author for this post.

    Cedric_Statherby
    Participant

    Thank you Tim, this is really helpful and largely confirms my gut reaction. There is no upside at all for me in obtaining my boarding pass months in advance and potential downside, so I will stand by my decision to ignore the now almost daily reminders that “you have not checked in yet”!


    FormerBA
    Participant

    The move towards no check in requirement is coming. Regulatory data is now captured from frequent flyer profiles along with credit card details. It wont be long before visa checks form part of the regulatory data exchange along with Covid or any other medical requirement. The more technology takes over, the fewer staff re required and the need for procedures that add costs and no value. Most flight data / regulatory date for USA bound services is sent from 24 hours out and of course just after push back. This allows no flight list to be checked accurately and reduces delays. t is just a matter of time for everything to be checked like this.


    DavidSmith2
    Participant

    As Esselle pointed out, the benefits of early check in are all in favour of the airlines. Easyjet/Ryanair already require online check in and penalise those who don’t. So how long before the low cost airlines start demanding that you check in a week before or more? And then add charges for those who leave it until the last 24 hours?

    To my mind, the early uploading of flyer info – passport no. etc. is fine. This assists law enforcement in checking flyer lists in advance. But check in is something else entirely.


    Cedric_Statherby
    Participant

    But check in is something else entirely.

    I entirely agree. Making a booking is akin to the statement “I want to fly”. It is entirely legitimate for the airlines and the authorities then to check my API to see if there is any reason why I should not. But checking in is akin to the statement “I am ready to fly and committed to doing so”, which is not the same statement. I cannot make that statement weeks or even months in advance.

    The airlines have confused the two statements, and I stand by my view that asking people to check in (as opposed to book the flight) weeks or months in advance is both pointless and counterproductive – not least because they then have no way of assessing nearer the time if I might have changed my mind.

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