The end of self-service check-in for domestic flights?

By Rahul Raja, January 9 2011
The end of self-service check-in for domestic flights?

Federal authorities in charge of airport security are considering some major overhauls to the way airport security is conducted at domestic Australian airports - and the news doesn’t look too good for business travellers.

Amid concerns that smugglers and criminals are able to move easily through Australian domestic airports with false identifications and e-tickets, police have advised a federal parliamentary committee that airport security in domestic Australian airports is not rigorous enough.

The chairman of of the committee discussing the issues, Senator Steve Hutchins, was “surprised at the rapid development” of e-ticketing and self-check-in and just how easily it can be misused by “organised crime figures”.

While e-ticketing is by far the most popular method of distribution for airline tickets these days and self-check-in is growing in popularity, these latest security concerns do not bode well for the services.

The issue lies in the fact that electronic check-in can allow passengers to check-in, print a boarding pass and check baggage without being identified first - while this is helpful for frequent travellers, the Australian Federal Police Association sees it as a major loophole that is being exploited by criminals.

A growing number of airlines allow passengers to check-in themselves, rather than dealing with a customer service agent. Qantas’ still rolling-out ‘Next-Generation’ check-in system is one such service that would be directly affected by any changes to this area of the law.

A Qantas spokesperson stated that such a change would be inconvenient for passengers - an understatement to say the least, considering the sudden increase in time spent at the airport if all passengers had to be checked-in by airline staff.

While currently no decisions on the subject have been made yet, the rhetoric seems to support the adoption of stronger security measures for domestic airports in Australia, at the expense of efficiency, ease and convenience for business travellers. 

12 Jan 2011

Total posts 1

Based on my last several flights, I don't believe for a moment that there would be "a sudden increase in time spent at the airport if all passengers had to be checked-in by airline staff."

The time required to check in by e-ticket at the little computer kiosks, followed by checking in luggage, is actually slightly longer than the time required to do both at once at the counter. It just seems a little quicker because it is broken into two steps.

What is quicker is the queue before you even get to the service point; the e-ticket queue typically being less than 1/3 the length of the conventional queue. However this has nothing to do with the technology, it's just that -- for the time being!! -- there are ferwer people using e-tickets. If they become more popular, it will be much slower than the old fashioned way.


Of course from the airline's point of view, the great advantage of e-tickets is fewer salaries to pay. Like all such streamlinings of customer service, that works fine so long as everything sticks to the script, but when something goes awry, the automated version sucketh mightily.

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