Taking advantage of online check-in seems to be the norm when flying, sailing on a cruise or even staying at some hotel chains. Partly due to continuous improvement and technological advances, this has drastically changed the experience from the moment you arrive at the airport, to when you walk down the jetway to the aircraft.
Today I’d like to share with you a few reasons why I think it is a good idea to take advantage of an online check-in service. Whether you are able to do this 24-hours, a few hours or even several days before your trip… sometimes it can save you a lot of hassle. For the purposes of this post, checking in online is the same as checking in on your mobile – as it is pretty much the same thing.
- Selecting the best seats available
Many airlines offer customers the opportunity to select their seats at the time of booking up to the moment when online check-in opens. For the majority of carriers this is for an additional charge, however a few airlines are yet to jump on this revenue-generating initiative. Inside of the online check-in window, seat assignments are usually free of charge; however this varies depending on the carrier and may exclude special seating such as those which feature extra leg-room or are situated near to an exit.If you are able to check-in online, the chances are you’ll be able to select from the best seats that are available at the time. If you have to leave it until you arrive at the airport, you may find that you have automatically been allocated seats which may not be together. The closer it is to the flight departure, the harder it can be to seat couples or entire parties together. Plus if you specifically like a window, middle or aisle seat, you might not be able to get this. The number of people whom will try to be on their PC, laptop, tablet or mobile as soon as the online check-in window opens is crazy.
TIP: Being a higher-tier member of certain frequent flyer programmes may allow you to check-in for your flight earlier than other passengers.
- Reviewing important flight information before it is too late
Whenever you check-in online, you have to confirm your passport details, review any applicable entry requirements and indicate how many bags you would like to check-in. For many customers, this might be the moment when they realise they need to obtain a new ESTA, double-check the entry requirements for their destination or even pay for additional luggage. Doing all of this in advance should ensure that everything is sorted in plenty of time before your flight and potentially save you money. Pre-paying online for baggage that would exceed your entitled allowance is usually cheaper.
TIP: When visiting the United States an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is valid for two years. If you renew your passport, you’ll need to obtain a new ESTA as these are non-transferable.
BONUS TIP: Airlines accept no responsibility if a customer does not hold the correct documents required for travel. It is up to the customer and is stated within the terms and conditions. Always double check specific country requirements at the time of booking to ensure you don’t run into a crisis just before your trip.
- Save time at the airport
Checking in for your flight online will allow you to bypass the standard “full service” queues at the airport. Instead, you might be able to head straight to a self-service kiosk (SSK) to print your boarding pass, use one of the relatively new self-service-bag-drop kiosks (SSBD’s) to label and dispatch your bag, or visit a bag drop counter.
TIP: Do not attempt to use one of the SSBD machines if you think your case might be overweight as they are programmed to run with a set weight. Additionally if you require for your travel documents to be checked or have any other queries about your flight, it’s best to just approach an airline representative.
BONUS TIP: If you have checked in online but haven’t printed your boarding pass, you have technically still checked in. So don’t get confused with all the signage at the airport. You can either print off a paper boarding pass from a self-service kiosk, use the airline mobile app or go to a traditional check-in desk.
- You may no longer be “offload-able”
Revenue management is one of those departments at an airline which I’d love to learn more about. Those are the clever people whom decide how many seats to release for sale on each flight and calculate how many customers they think will actually show up. Through previous flight data, current trends and other means; revenue management know by how many passengers they would like to overbook a flight by. In the majority of cases they get it spot on and there is no need to offload someone from a flight. However there are times when everything doesn’t quite go to plan. Checking-in online should theoretically prevent you from being involuntarily offloaded, at least that is the policy of some carriers.If no-one willingly agrees or self-volunteers to be offloaded from a flight, then the airlines may just look for the customers whom were one of the last to check in. It isn’t always a nice situation to be in, but sometimes the compensation more than enough makes up for the inconvenience. Being offered 200+ Euros to take a later flight to Barcelona really is a good offer. That would pretty much be more than the amount paid for the original flight, plus a little extra too.
TIP: As much as customers like to ask about upgrades at the airport, there are a few whom happily ask whether the flight is full in the hope of being offered something to take a different flight.
Some of my experiences
Whenever I feel I might need an extra suitcase to take with me on a flight, I always look to purchase this in advance which saves time and hassle at the airport. For example, some carriers may charge just £5 more to purchase an additional bag at the airport compared to purchasing this online; whilst other airlines might hit you with a $150 fee if purchasing at the airport as opposed to just $70 if purchased online. That’s a lot of money!
In 2015 I was flying from Orlando to London and didn’t check-in online. When I arrived at the airport, the queue for the standard “full service” check-in was pretty long but I decided to wait in it. As I was meandering my way along the queue, I noticed a small sign indicating a separate lane for customers who had checked in online. So I pulled out my phone, navigated to the mobile website and checked in. I then jumped out of that queue and walked straight to the front of the online check-in lane; which must have saved me at least 30 minutes. Unsurprisingly other passengers around me cottoned on to what I had done and followed suit. Now I always look to check-in in advance if I can.
What do you think about checking-in online? Is it something that you always do, or are you someone whom prefers to experience the traditional full-service transaction a the airport? Let me know in the comments below.