One good thing in travel: Online check in

I’ve been travelling again (hence my sustained absence from this blog), and of course, as always happens when one travels in the cooler seasons, I picked up someone’s cold. This time, I want to talk about a good experience I had with my travels: Air New Zealand domestic services online check in.

As regular readers will know, I hate standing in line at airports with a vengeance, probably because I have (from my perspective) wasted an inordinate amount of time standing in them. I know some readers will see online check in as a reduction in the level of service that airlines offer, but given that I can still check in in person if I want to (actually highly unlikely in my case), I don’t see it this way. The online check in is great just by being available, but it is also (apart from a couple of little niggles) very usable.

My big niggle with the online check in for Air New Zealand is that to do it you need the arbitrary booking reference they assign you. Given that I have an Air New Zealand airpoints login, it would be much better if I could log in with my (equally arbitrary but at least constant) airpoints number, it would be nice if I could just log in, select the flight from a list of my bookings, and check in.

Apart from that, though, once you’re logged in it is very easy to manage — you select your seat from a visual map, and you click ‘check in’, and you’re done. Air New Zealand emails you a PDF of your boarding card, which you print out, and take with you to the airport. You drop your bags in a baggage drop line (which moves much faster than a proper check in line), and go to your gate.

There are two aspects of this system that make it better for some users: Time and control. The time thing means that the user gets to choose when the time taken to check in is spent — whether they want to wait at the airport for 45 minutes prior to their flight, or whether they want to check in at home and arrive later. The control issue is the important one, though; this system puts seat selection into the hands of the user. You can’t select an exit row seat ahead of time (there are certain restrictions on who can sit in these), but any other preference on the plane is available to you. This is a vast improvement over standing in front of a check in agent begging for the aisle seat you know they’re saving for a frequent flyer with a higher tier than you.

Air New Zealand isn’t the only airline doing this; I know that Qantas and Emirates both do it as well (and Emirates has it for international flights if their appalling website doesn’t time out), but Air New Zealand is the only one I have experienced recently. What are your experiences with online check in?


1 Response to “One good thing in travel: Online check in”

  1. 1 tony Friday, May 23, 2008 at 10:06 am

    I’ve used Qantas domestic and Virgin Blue online checkin recently and both were fine. Even better, on a same day work trip you can checkin for your return trip at the same time saving standing in 2 queues!

    Not online, but with those self serve checkins at the airport we had an interesting experience a while back. Several of us were in Canberra for the day and when we went to checkin coming home there were only middle seats available. Then a certain more senior person turned up sometime later and when he went to checkin, all these aisle and window seats suddenly became available. Frequent flyers definitely get some perks.

    Qantas international doesn’t have online checkin although you can specify a seat. We specified a window seat for our trip to Tokyo, but the system assumed Wayne and I *both* wanted a window seat so put us 10 rows apart. We had to ask the checkin clerks in Melb and Tokyo to get us back together.

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