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Why do we still need to check-in for a civil commercial flight?

I’ve always wondered that. I got the ticket, it’s with my name, so what does the check-in procedure bring? Before the internet and smart phones it was a way to get your boarding pass but why do we need that either? Maybe seat allocation but otherwise why not board with my ticket?

OK, luggage drop-off. But today every airline has a web check-in and you then go and drop-off the luggage. Flying with Swiss a fortnight ago I found out that they now even do “automatic check-in” which means there is nothing to do from the passenger’s point of view.

So why are passengers still bothered with this procedure? Couldn’t it just be “got the ticket, I’ll drop off my luggage with the ticket and board the plane with my ticket” (of course “ticket” is just a number in a system and can be represented on paper, phone, card or a barcode on my forehead). Then I only need to be bothered with additional procedures if I need to change my seat, order special meal, etc. but not if I am happy to fly as it is.

Am I missing something? Or am I just too early and airlines haven’t organized that yet?

LSZH, LSZF

I’m afraid I have no answer, but can add another question: Why do we need boarding cards for business flights in some countries / airports (mostly in Austria)?

EDDS - Stuttgart

Vladimir wrote:

so what does the check-in procedure bring?

Lots of people end up not going, postponing and cancelling. Maybe they want to know, so they can sell the seats to others? You can check in at home days before, and then they know those seats are very unlikely to be cancelled.

LeSving wrote:

Lots of people end up not going, postponing and cancelling. Maybe they want to know, so they can sell the seats to others? You can check in at home days before, and then they know those seats are very unlikely to be cancelled.

With web check-in, 48 hour in advance check-in and automatic check-in this is not valid any more. The probability of me not showing up does not change a lot if I did or didn’t make my check-in 48 hours in advance and they still have to wait until 45 minutes before the flight (last check-in time) to be sure I won’t show up, so they can’t really say if I am traveling or not much before the gate closes.

LSZH, LSZF

Check-in closing figures are needed by dispatch to know how much of the released cargo can actually go on a plane. Loading and securing pallets / containers takes time so you can’t wait until the last straggler got on board to start loading. Not much of an issue on easyJet but on the other companies it is, and cargo generates good margins as the extra cost in fuel burn is marginal.

And if I make a web check in and don’t show up?

LSZH, LSZF

Vladimir wrote:

And if I make a web check in and don’t show up?

Well then the aircraft is lighter than planned so not a problem.

EGTK Oxford

Also on top of cargo – luggage containers have to be wheeled to the aircraft. In small airports this is not a problem, but in large airports like say Dubai they might well need 10-15 minutes to get from the sorting facility to the plane. So you have to have some cut-off time after which the last waiting container(s) is / are sent to the plane.

Vladimir wrote:

And if I make a web check in and don’t show up?

Whatever your method of checking in may be, when passing the gate to the airplane, you will be counted and your name will be ticked on the passenger list. Either by showing your paper or electronic boarding card or some other ID. This method works equally well with and without advance check-in, therefore I can understand Vladimir’s question very well.

BTW: I don’t fly as passenger very often, but whenever I do, I always check in with the nice ladies at the luggage drop-off stations. Even if I only carry hand luggage. More and more often they say “you know you should check in at one of the machines over there, don’t you?” and I will reply: “the day everybody is doing that will be the end of your job” and most of them understand and print a nice little boarding card for me, “window or aisle?”. When I travel in uniform and they tell me that story about using the machine, I answer “sorry, but I can’t operate such complex machinery” – loud enough that the passengers around me can hear it

Last Edited by what_next at 23 Jul 09:04
EDDS - Stuttgart

@what_next: You cannot check in with the nice ladies in Zurich for a Swiss flight any more. It’s web or the machine, then baggage drop-off and off you go. If you haven’t checked in they don’t even allow you to queue in front of the ladies.

LSZH, LSZF
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