Paying For Check-In: The Price Of Convenience

Automated technologies like mobile phone check-in when flying often make life easier. However, there's always a trade-off: eventually the manual methods become the exception rather than the norm, and companies start charging to use them.Earlier this week, we wrote about Jetstar's new SMS check-in service. In the comments, a Jetstar rep confirms the unsurprising news that the next stage of this evolution will be charging customers who don't check in using automated methods:

People using self service options such SMS Boarding, web check-in or airport self service kiosks will pay less for travel than customers who choose to check-in at the counters from 1 November 2011. By incentivising people to use self-service options it enables Jetstar to speed up the check-in process so people can get to their flight on time. This is similar to other Jetstar initiatives such as lower prices for booking online compared to using the call centre.

I don't have a problem with this; the last thing I want to do at an airport is join any kind of queue (other than the unavoidable ones for security and boarding). But it reflects the same pattern we've seen with ATMs (initially a convenience, now a source of revenue) and self-service checkouts in supermarkets (which are the dominant system in most newly-built stores).

If you're happy with the automated options, then you've got no cause for alarm. But if you belong to the "I want human interaction" crowd, I suspect life is going to keep getting nastier and more expensive. Thoughts? Share them in the comments.


Comments

    Don't want human interaction before a flight - but I do want it at the checkout at Coles or Woolies.
    Checkout operators in shops are an essential source of second income for some people who are underemployed, or students, or parents working part-time to supplement income for the family. The last thing we need is more machines sending people to the back of the queue at Centrelink.

      I can confirm right now that many of these machines were made by someone underemployed. e.g. me, myself being a student

    I prefer to use the self service options when it comes to flying anyway, but the problem I have with this is the way they worded it:

    "People using self service options [...] will pay less for travel than customers who choose to check-in at the counters..."
    It's not making it cheaper to self serve, it's making it more expensive *not* to.

    "By incentivising people to use self-service options..."
    It's not an incentive to check yourself in, it's a punishment if you choose not to.

    Maybe I'm just having a "glass is half empty" kind of a day :S

    Personally I couldn't care less. But I've heard a few questions from the disabled & aged community that make this kind of policy evil.

    One question how does a blind person check using the Airport kiosks?

    I completely agree with Awnshegh - the policy is fine, as long as it doesn't discriminate against those who can't check in using other means.

    I flew up to Sydney last year both my children (at the time, one was 4 years old, other other under 2). As the younger did not require a seat, we were told we'd have to check in at the desk to provide necessary proof of age documentation prior to boarding.

    So, now that fees will be put in place for at-desk check ins, will there be other free options in place for those travelling with infants? I don't have a problem with the new fees, as long as its not continued as being mandatory as the only form of check in for certain ticket and passenger types.

    Once its hit mainstream they will charge more for it, i remember when booking movie tickets online was the same price as face to face, but once they introduced the fees i hardly ever book online for movies.

    I dislike the self-service check in options for one key reason: choosing your own seat. To ask for an exit row seat (if any are available), you have to check in in person - or pay about $50 ahead of time to have one guaranteed.

    The main outcome of this is I'll probably count jetstar out as an option unless they're having serious discounts, since they just wont be price-competitive for me.

    The thing I don't understand: what does the check-process *do*? You don't need to check in for a train or bus. You buy your ticket, turn up, and get on. Why do we still have to go through this process? Is it just so they can re-sell your seat if you don't turn up?

    (I'm assuming you don't have luggage.)

    Most of the airports Jetstar operate from are regional airports which do not have self service kiosks. How does this change affect checking in at these airports?

    The main annoyance I have with this is when I'm travelling overseas and don't have access to a printer to print out my boarding pass. I don't think I should have to try and find an internet cafe on my last day in a city else risk paying more to check in at an airport desk. (Not to mention having to pay to print out the ticket and for the internet cafe time.) Lose-lose, I guess.

    No problem with this provided the machines at the airports actually work. My recent experience is that the Jetstar SMS option doesn't work (both myself and another person I was travelling with). So I certainly hope they don't charge you if you go to the counter when their machines fail to do their job!

    I showed up today at a Jetstar gate at Brisbane domestic and the SMS check-in was out of order. I had my message ready to go but was asked to proceed to the counter early to have a boarding pass printed. Had a chat to the girl at the counter and she was of the opinion that they rarely work...It's really quite disappointing because when they do work, they work really well. She really felt as though it just added effort due to having to print passes all the time.

    Thromby Air's new Autocratic Check-In system is extremely fair... we treat everybody the same, and there is not a human in sight:
    http://www.thrombyair.com/2011/06/autocratic-check-in/

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