Continental’s Auto Check-In: What’s the Point?

I was recently talking to someone and the subject of Continental’s relatively new auto check-in came up. It sounds pretty cool, but I honestly can’t quite figure out when I’d want to use this feature. Let’s see if you guys have any ideas.

The premise is simple. When you check in for your first flight on an itinerary, you can check a box that will then automatically check you in for your return flight once the check-in window opens up for that flight. You can then choose how you want to receive your boarding pass. It could be via email, fax, or on to your mobile device (where they currently allow mobile check-in). I understand that it saves you a little time by not requiring you to go back to the website to check-in, but it’s not really that useful.

Think about it. If you get it emailed to you, you still have to log on to get your boarding pass and then print it out somewhere. And if you have that printer, you can easily just check-in yourself when it’s time. I suppose a fax could be interesting, but this assumes you’re in a place (like 1985, apparently) where you have a fax machine but no printer access. I think there’s probably a limited benefit there. Of course, the mobile device is most interesting because once you receive it, that’s all you need to walk on the plane. But if you have your mobile device functioning, it’s just as easy to go online on your phone and check-in. Again, not much benefit.

In fact, this can take away some of the benefits of checking in yourself. With the exception of when you fly Southwest, can you think of any reason that checking in earlier rather than later really matters? The only time it matters is if you’re trying to snag some better seats that were released for check-in only. And in this case, you wouldn’t be able to change those seats unless you went back online again, and that defeats the purpose. So, if you’re happy with your seat, there might be a minor benefit in that it saves you a minute, but that’s about it.

Am I missing something? I’ll read your comments when I return next week.

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