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WingsFan
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Check-In : What does it actually do?

Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:07 pm

In light of recent United and other passenger experience disaster, I was wondering what the purpose of check-in process actually is?
A long time ago, check-in used to be performed at the airport a few hours before boarding a flight. I seems that this was to get an up-to-date information about the number of passengers who actually show up and to make sure all the luggage is accounted for. Other secondary benefits might be to sort out seat assignment and to help clear standby passengers if a confirmed passengers don't show up.

Now a days, check-in can be done without being at the airport and many days ( sometimes months) in advance. To me, it seems pretty useless because many things can change between check in and the actual flight. Why do airlines bother with this ritual if it does not do anything to reduce variably at the gate?
 
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SomebodyInTLS
Posts: 568
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2016 12:31 pm

Re: Check-In : What does it actually do?

Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:58 pm

WingsFan wrote:
In light of recent United and other passenger experience disaster, I was wondering what the purpose of check-in process actually is?
A long time ago, check-in used to be performed at the airport a few hours before boarding a flight. I seems that this was to get an up-to-date information about the number of passengers who actually show up and to make sure all the luggage is accounted for. Other secondary benefits might be to sort out seat assignment and to help clear standby passengers if a confirmed passengers don't show up.

Now a days, check-in can be done without being at the airport and many days ( sometimes months) in advance. To me, it seems pretty useless because many things can change between check in and the actual flight. Why do airlines bother with this ritual if it does not do anything to reduce variably at the gate?


It's a valid question IMO and one that has got me into trouble with my other half in the past (I'm on the design and manufacture side, she's on the getting bums in seats on time side...)

As an engineer, I really see no need for the check in process to exist these days, except that I know it's a relic of the ancient systems and procedures that are actually still at the back of all the modern web-based processes the customers see. (All the old methods of filing paper administration are still actually going on virtually - and the systems doing it are themselves still (evolved from) steam-powered mainframes from the 1960s.)

But since the original purpose of check in (to "check" that the passenger was "in" the airport and ready to fly) has completely lost any of its original meaning, what we are now left with is unnecessary complication for something that could be a lot more simple and a lot less stressful. It could also be made a heck of a lot more secure (there are unbelievable shortcomings and security holes in how boarding passes are issued, for example. I won't go into detail for obvious reasons...)

To my mind, after buying online, all the customer should need is their valid ID and a confirmation code of some form (could be a password or QR-image mailed to them - in which case they can choose to print it or just show it on a phone). Assuming the ID is previously registered by the airline, then a boarding pass becomes superfluous - just give ID and code at the gate (and at the bag-drop beforehand if necessary). There is no need to check-in online. If the airline wants to avoid no-shows, just send an e-mail/text 1 week and again 1 day beforehand reminding them of the flight details where you can confirm simply by replying. Maybe even give an incentive to reply (e.g. $10 off your next ticket) or to report if they won't make it (e.g. partial refund which they otherwise lose).

The problem is that this would require a massive and rapid overhaul of the entire ticketing and reservation infrastructure all over the world. So bet that this isn't going to happen until it's too late. ;)
"As with most things related to aircraft design, it's all about the trade-offs and much more nuanced than A.net likes to make out."
 
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PatrickZ80
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Re: Check-In : What does it actually do?

Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:02 pm

It is also a confirmation of the booking and of who's actually flying. Airlines and authorities need to know this in order to intercept suspicious persons (possible terrorists or wanted criminals). Once checked-in (confirmed) this info cannot be changed anymore and the passenger is put on the passenger list (which they need to have).
 
FlyBTV
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Re: Check-In : What does it actually do?

Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:28 pm

SomebodyInTLS wrote:
If the airline wants to avoid no-shows, just send an e-mail/text 1 week and again 1 day beforehand reminding them of the flight details where you can confirm simply by replying. Maybe even give an incentive to reply (e.g. $10 off your next ticket) or to report if they won't make it (e.g. partial refund which they otherwise lose).


The problem with moving to an opt-out system as you suggest is that it would miss some of the very people that do not show up for their flights. As an example, back when I was a ticket counter/gate agent, I dealt with a family that showed up two weeks after their scheduled flight - they had been camping without internet access and apparently had originally booked for the wrong return date. Plenty of other folks have issues that come up within 24-72 hours of departure that cause them to not fly - and also not bother to cancel.

In every one of these instances, it would result in holding the plane longer at the gate (rather than pushing earlier if possible), repeatedly paging the customer over the intercom system, etc. It also delays much of the work the gate agents need to do - if I know everyone who has checked in is on board, then I can start clearing the standby list, etc. It also gives the airline an opportunity to display information about baggage policies, hazardous materials restrictions, etc, much closer to departure (most customers are not going to retain this information from the time they've booked - and they may not be the ones doing the booking). If just one customer failed to opt out, that would cause a lot of unnecessary work.

In my experience working as a gate agent (which ended in '08, so take it for what it is), very few non-connecting passengers who check in fail to show up at the gate. It happens occasionally but the vast majority of flights, all locally originating checked in customers arrive (occasionally after the door is closed, but that's another matter!).

In short, check in gives the airline an early, 100% accurate count of the maximum number of customers who will arrive for a flight and allows them to identify anyone they definitely don't have to look for. Also consider that a portion of tickets aren't even booked by the traveling party and may not have accurate e-mails/phone numbers listed.
 
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Coal
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Re: Check-In : What does it actually do?

Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:05 am

SomebodyInTLS wrote:
As an engineer, I really see no need for the check in process to exist these days, except that I know it's a relic of the ancient systems and procedures that are actually still at the back of all the modern web-based processes the customers see. (All the old methods of filing paper administration are still actually going on virtually - and the systems doing it are themselves still (evolved from) steam-powered mainframes from the 1960s.)


That, I can believe. But also for international flights, it allows the airline to check all documents are in order, when needed. For instance, when I fly SIN - CGK, the airline knows I do not need a visa for Indonesia, and it allows me to check in on my phone and generate a mobile boarding pass. However, when I fly SIN - RGN, I am not able to do this and I have to check in in person so the agent can make sure I have the required documentation, as the airline would be penalized for allowing people to travel who do not have authorization to go to the destination country / airport.
Nxt Flts: 3K SIN-HKT-SIN | CA SIN-CTU-SIN | SQ SIN-FRA | LH FRA-TXL-FRA | SQ FRA-SIN | SQ SIN-PVG-SIN
 
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SomebodyInTLS
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Re: Check-In : What does it actually do?

Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:36 am

FlyBTV wrote:
SomebodyInTLS wrote:
If the airline wants to avoid no-shows, just send an e-mail/text 1 week and again 1 day beforehand reminding them of the flight details where you can confirm simply by replying. Maybe even give an incentive to reply (e.g. $10 off your next ticket) or to report if they won't make it (e.g. partial refund which they otherwise lose).


In every one of these instances, it would result in holding the plane longer at the gate (rather than pushing earlier if possible), repeatedly paging the customer over the intercom system, etc. It also delays much of the work the gate agents need to do - if I know everyone who has checked in is on board, then I can start clearing the standby list, etc.


But what difference does it make if the passenger has checked in online or confirmed by mail/text (apart from being more convenient)? If they still don't make it, they wouldn't have made it either way..


In short, check in gives the airline an early, 100% accurate count of the maximum number of customers who will arrive for a flight and allows them to identify anyone they definitely don't have to look for. Also consider that a portion of tickets aren't even booked by the traveling party and may not have accurate e-mails/phone numbers listed.


I see your point, but I still think the process could be improved just by not thinking so "traditionally" about it - make an e-mail / phone number check an obligatory part of the booking process; give incentives for no-shows to report early; simply don't page any more (if people don't make the gate on time then tough poop); move the boarding forward a few minutes if you need to accommodate standby passengers.

As long as the rules are simple and clear (e.g. once I'm on the plane then I'm not got to get dragged off it again... ;) ) and the passenger knows it's his own responsibility to be on time or lose it (*) then it should make everyone's life easier.

(*) Otherwise inform the airline before a certain cut-off and they can be re-accommodated - with different fees and conditions for different ticket types, of course.
"As with most things related to aircraft design, it's all about the trade-offs and much more nuanced than A.net likes to make out."

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