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.


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