Qantas’ Next-Generation Check-in system is now in full-swing, with the associated reduction of baggage allowances from June 1.
Here are the top 10 things you need to know about the new check-in system.
#1 You might not be able to use it yet
While most Frequent Flyers have now received their new Next-Generation Check-In Kit (containing the new smartchipped “Q Card”, which replaces the Frequent Flyer card, and electronic bag tags) there are still some people saying they haven't yet received theirs. Qantas had promised everyone would receive their pack by “early 2011” -- so if you haven't received yours, it might be worth calling Qantas Frequent Flyer customer service to check that they've got a current mailing address for you.
(You can check out our photo gallery of what the new card and tags look like for a Platinum Frequent Flyer.)
#2 You might never be able to use it
At this stage, Qantas is only ploughing money into providing new wireless cards and tags for Silver, Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers. If you’re a Bronze Frequent Flyer, or (gasp) an ordinary person with no membership, you won’t get the bag tags for free – and you'll still have to stand in line and front up to a (gasp) real person to check your bags.
#3 You can buy a bag tag ... for $50
Qantas is now selling electronic bag tags to bronze Frequent Flyers and non-members for a rather incredible $50 apiece. However, you still won't get the chip-embedded Frequent Flyer card to enable you to simply "tap" to check in. (And if you're not getting that, you'll be standing at a touch-screen punching in your flight details anyway, so sticking the printed bag tag on your suitcase won't take much longer.)
#4 You can buy one cheaper on eBay
Lots of Frequent Flyers have excess bag tags (for example, if they were silver-level and got two silver tags, and then soon qualified for gold, and got two gold bag tags as well.) They're turning those extra bag tags into a bit of money for beer on eBay -- and you can pick them up considerably cheaper than what Qantas is charging.
#5 You can lend your bag tags to family members (or use one bought on eBay)
Wondering if you can lend or give one of your wireless Qantas bag tags to a friend or family member? The answer is yes. Following Australian Business Traveller enquiries, Qantas has confirmed that the tags are not linked to any one traveller's frequent flyer profile, but rather, are linked to a specific check-in. See our full explanation of this tip.
#6 Qantas will give you two free bag tags a year
If you lose your bag tag, or it is damaged, Qantas will send you two replacement bag tags each membership year, free of charge.
#7 Your bag tags won’t work for international flights
This new check-in and baggage system is the most advanced in the world in terms of using wireless RFID (radio frequency identification) chips for everything from check-in, baggage routing, lounge entry and boarding. So, naturally, the rest of the world hasn’t caught up (some countries are still coming around to the idea of print-at-home boarding passes).
Qantas says you can use your Q Card to check-in for an international flight if you are first taking a domestic flight and then transfering to the connecting international flight. But after check-in at the kiosk you will still have to front up to a service counter for passport and identity checks.
#8 Nasty new baggage restrictions
Next Generation Check-in comes with tighter baggage restrictions.
For tickets purchased after December 1st 2010, and flights taken from 1st June 2011, Qantas is limiting the number of bags, not just the total weight of the bags – and the limits are pretty tough.
Read our full breakdown of who is (and is not) allowed to have more than one bag.
It's worth noting that Virgin Australia is not limiting customers to one bag; just the traditional 23KG limit with any number of bags.
#9 You can’t change your seat (sort of…)
The Q Card reader at the airport where you check in just requires you to swipe your card, and you’re then checked in. You get a confirming sound and an SMS sent to your phone as proof of successful checkin - but you can’t change your seat, as there’s no screen functionality to allow you to do so.
Qantas says you can go to one of the older style self-checkin kiosk computers to make seat changes, or approach a service desk to get it done.
You can, of course, use advance seat selection at the Qantas website in the manage your booking function.
#10 It may not be as fast and efficient as claimed
First-hand testing by Australian Business Traveller has shown that the speedy check-in promised by Qantas isn't always the case -- the self-serve luggage carousels quite often have trouble reading the electronic bag tag. As a result, check-in helper staff are apparently so fearful for their safety due to angry passengers that they've started having to carry personal panic buttons.