The Cranky Flier noted a new feature offered by Ryanair following their website changes over the weekend, on line check in (OLCI) up to 5 days before departure, and wondered what the point of it all is.
I've wondered as well, ever since Air New Zealand rolled out OLCI at time of booking for their domestic flights (subject to a few conditions) last March. Yes, Air NZ allows you to check in up to 12 months before departure. Presumably they expected the increased numbers of no shows and passengers requiring changes after checking in would be more than offset by efficiency savings at airport check-in. I'm not yet convinced this is the case - 12 months is a long time for changes in plans to happen, and if passengers lose the print out (or fail to save the generated pdf) they will still need to check in at the airport (either at a counter or using a quick-check machine). Anecdotally I've noticed an increase in the number of passengers being paged for boarding.
Cranky Flier has me thinking a bit more though. Given there are no ID checks for domestic travel in New Zealand, what is the boarding pass required to do? (1) It reminds the passenger of the flight number and departure time (the gate number is not available when OLCI'ing a long way before departure). (2) The printed barcode provides a quick way for the gate agent to confirm the passenger has boarded - however this can also be done by typing the seat number. (3) Possibly used for tracking of checked luggage? I'm not sure on this as it has been many years since I've checked bags when flying Air New Zealand. (4) It provides proof of eligibility for using the lounge (though a non-foolproof method in the case of OLCI as frequent flyer status or airline club membership may change between check in and departure).
That is all, at least for Air NZ. The boarding pass is not needed to clear security. There is no stub retained by the gate agent for reconciling passenger numbers. The boarding pass is not used to identify where passengers are (except possibly for those checking in manually at the airport).
Are there other airlines that allow OLCI so far before departure? The ones I am aware of that are more than 24 hours before departure are
- KLM - up to 30 hours
- Cathay Pacific - up to 48 hours
- Singapore Airlines - up to 48 hours
- Ryanair - up to 5 days
- Air New Zealand - from time of booking.
Note rules may vary slightly in respect of connecting or return flights, some destinations/origins may not allow OLCI, and some passenger types are not eligible for OLCI.