Bargain basement airline Tiger is finally introducing online check-in for domestic flights in Australia. Will that give you the option of escaping its draconian baggage policies? Here's what you need to know.
Web Check, as Tiger has imaginatively branded the service, is in operation for all 12 Tiger Australian destinations as of today. You can check in between 72 hours (that is, three days) and 2 hours before the flight.
Tiger charges extra if you want to choose your seat when you book, and doesn't offer you a choice if you haven't paid: a seat will be assigned automatically. That said, presumably you'll have a better chance of a decent seat if you check in earlier.
If you have baggage to check, there's a dedicated drop-off queue, which opens two hours before departure and closes 45 minutes before departure (essentially the same policy as Jetstar).
Note that you have to be able to print out your boarding pass: unlike the other major domestic airlines (Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar), you don't yet have the option of presenting a boarding code on the screen of your mobile phone. That's a nuisance for holidays (though in theory you could always check in on your phone to claim a seat and then check yourself in
One of the major annoyances of flying with Tiger has been its rigorous enforcement of carry-on luggage limits. Back when you had to check in at a counter, hand luggage was always weighed. Clearly that's not practical anymore, but despite Tiger's release announcement breezily proclaiming "if you have carry-on luggage only, then you simply turn up at the airport and head straight to the boarding gate", the reality is a little more complex. Further down the release is this warning:
Carry-on bags will be checked at various points at the airport including the departure gates and must meet carry-on baggage restrictions. Bags that exceed these restrictions will be checked into the hold, and passengers will be charged an excess baggage fee.
I'll be keeping an eye out at airports to see if pre-boarding weigh-ins happen -- given the speed with which most flights have to turn around, it may not be a priority. What does seem likely is that size limits will be enforced fairly strictly. If you have a single bag that's clearly within the size limits, I suspect you'll be OK -- but caution is advised.
The carry-on weight limit is two pieces weighing no more than 10kg, with no single piece allowed to weigh more than 7kg. That's doable for brief trips, but you will have to pack carefully. If you end up going over the limit, you'll have to pay airport fees to check your luggage, which are insanely high -- $70 purely to check the bag.
The other restriction? You can't use Web Check if you're travelling with an infant, or if you've paid for an emergency exit row seat -- not especially surprising.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is contemplating flying on Tiger again just to see how all this works in reality. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.