HLO Day 14: Online Check-In Saves The Day

onlineboardingYou have to love it when a plan comes together. Having had the undignified experience of being forced to part with my beloved blue bag on the flight from Devonport, I was determined to avoid the same fate when I next boarded a DHC-8 with skimpy luggage limits.

That happened on Thursday when I flew from Sydney to Coffs Harbour. The solution turned out to be quite simple: I used the Qantas online check-in facility to print myself a boarding pass in advance by dropping into the Allure Media offices. That meant no confrontations with potentially scale-wielding staff. The case fitted neatly under the seat in front of me, and a quick look around suggested that I was far from the only person carrying more than 4kg of stuff.

Of course, this strategy does depend on having access to a printer (Qantas has run trials of mobile phone check-ins but it's not yet universally available). In a large city like Sydney, that would probably always be manageable by finding a suitable net cafe, but I have to admit that Devonport didn't seem to offer any solutions to that dilemma. Maybe I should have tried begging on Twitter.

Throughout May 2009, Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman will be travelling throughout Australia with just one carry-on bag for the Hand Luggage Only project.


    I kindof thought that some of the weight limits aren't just arbitrary $$$ gouging exercises, they're in place so the pilot can calculate an 'accurate' estimate for the weight of the plane and how much thrust will be needed for takeoff etc.

    The emirates plane that recently bottomed out at Melb airport (http://foxyurl.com/2SB) was due to a pilot doing these calculations wrong.

    Enough people using this workaround in excess could be a problem couldn't it? Especially for the little dash8s where kgs matter more than a boeing.

    That said, the calculations the pilots use don't take obese people into account either...

      The total weight of the plane will be the same whether I carry the bag on as hand luggage or put it in the hold though.

        Whilst the weight may remain the same it is about weight *and balance* - which is particularly important on aircraft such as the DHC-8 and the Q400.

        If you have too much weight up front (or back) then you compromise the stability of the aircraft.

        Numerous incidents have occurred because of incorrect balance - the aircraft weight is based on an average weight per passenger and an average weight per cabin bag. If most people are over, then they won't know and appropriate power settings may not be applied - the same outcome as the Emirates incident at Melbourne, but a different cause (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Midwest_Flight_5481 for an example of the impact of being over weight with a small aircraft)

        The *key* difference is that your bags are weighed to the nearest 100 grams when they are checked, but not when they are carried on. This means they know exactly how much your checked baggage weighs (and can leave it behind if they need to), but not if you sneak it through.

        The fact that they fit under the seat or your own convenience is really irrelevant.

          Point taken -- though as the flight wasn't full I really can't imagine that it would have created a safety incident in this particular case. The fact that so many airlines routinely ignore weighing cabin baggage also suggests that their margins for this calculation are quite broad (unlike smaller charter planes where they actually do weigh the passengers before boarding).

        The weight will be the same wherever the bag is on the plane but the pilot relies on the ground staff to inform them of what weights are going onto the plane.

        Your 'system' avoids that safety measure by putting more weight on the plane than anyone is aware of, when you take hand luggage on you are asserting that it doesn't weigh more than the limit whether it's been weighed or not.

        My only issue is that if everyone does what you've described there could be problems. Or the airlines could catch on and start weighing at the x-ray section.

    Mobile phone scanning worked well at CeBit the other day, so it seems a bit anachronistic that you need to find your own printer to do online check-in ...

    You can perform Online check-in then pick up your boarding pass from the kiosks at the airport. You then avoid the need to have a printer as well as not having to deal with those pesky staff.

      But Qantas doesn't have kiosks at all its terminals unfortunately. When it does, that's what I use.

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