Topic of the Week: Does JetBlue’s Automatic Check-In Matter?

JetBlue announced last week that it is going to put an end to the practice of making people check-in. At launch, anyone on a domestic itinerary sitting in Even More Space seats will be automatically checked in 24 hours in advance. An email will be sent with a boarding pass that can be printed or a link to a mobile boarding pass. This will roll out to others, including those sitting in regular seats, starting next year.

Is this going to make your life easier? Considering all the automation that’s out there today, does this matter?

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26 Responses to Topic of the Week: Does JetBlue’s Automatic Check-In Matter?

  1. Sanjeev M says:

    It may work for JetBlue because they don’t overbook and operate point-to-point, which makes sense given JetBlue’s leisure focus – everyone’s gonna show up for those Dominican flights. It’s not that people can’t do mobile boarding passes already, it’s that they aren’t used to it or feel more comfortable with paper. If this changes that behavior than great for JetBlue.

    However, from an operations perspective it sounds like a bad idea and I doubt larger airlines could do this. Lots of changes happen in the 30 min before flights, particularly when a flight is under gate control. The 30 min is valuable for many things, including holding confirmed (HK) seats for misconnects, offloading baggage if needed, seating people together. Knowing who plans to show up and who doesn’t is valuable, and that’s why even WN introduced a no-show policy.

  2. David SF eastbay says:

    So people who don’t have a computer have to check in the same way in person so it doesn’t matter to them, but I’m sure road warriors will like it if it works as promised.

  3. David says:

    I’m a little puzzled on one thing – what does the concept of check-in really mean nowadays ? Why do we check in ?

    AFAIK, the purpose seems to be:
    – confirm you aren’t carry explosives onto a plane
    – obtain a piece of paper or a bar code on a phone which can be presented to various people to allow you to get on a plane

    • Wes says:

      Can’t say I ever found online check-in burdensome. Seems to me that this serves JetBlue more from a marketing perspective than anything else. They can use this to tout how they are innovative, convenient, etc., and generate some buzz for being the first U.S. airline to implement something like this. Functionally, the benefit seems marginal at best. I doubt the emailed ticket would allow the functionality for one to change their seat assignment, etc., without logging in to the website first. As mentioned by others, this could easily be more trouble than it’s worth if the result is JetBlue having less accurate information regarding who is actually showing up to fly and who isn’t. Then again, the fact that they don’t oversell helps mitigate that problem to some extent. Again, just looks more like a marketing stunt than anything else.

  4. Jared says:

    I was always under the impression that the earlier you check in the less likely you were to get bumped. If you wait until you get to the airport and the flight is oversold, they would probably bump the unchecked passengers, since they don’t know if you will actually show up, right?

  5. Alison says:

    United has this option too, on the return. What if you want to change your seat assignment? Nice but I like to control my destiny to a degree.

    • gobluetwo says:

      I don’t know about JetBlue’s implementation of it, but how does United’s auto-checkin on the return prevent you from changing your seat assignment? I like it as it let’s me check in about 24 hours prior when I might be otherwise occupied. For example, 3pm flight the next day, but I’m sitting in a meeting from 2-5pm the day before, or 5:30am flight – I’m NOT getting up at 5:30am just to check in at 24 hours prior if I already have auto-checkin.

      • DAB says:

        UA used to block you from being able to make seat changes outside the airport once you were checked in. However, I think you can make a seat change on their app after you are checked in. I always have it auto check the return.

        I have seen a case where they were going to bump people for plane weight and they didn’t get enough volunteers and were going to pull off the last person checked in… I, however, was platinum and had checked in the day before and so wasn’t worried (and wanted to get back to my son’s baseball game and so wasn’t taking the $200 or whatever they offered, though if I didn’t have that I would have happily been bumped and avoided the 50 seater in favor of a 737…).

        I would think that for the legacies the comment that auto check the first leg interferes with gate ops is probably valid (example above and others).

    • Noah says:

      you could select a seat at booking or from the website before check-in. Seeing it again in the flow is redundant. It’s a nice convenience, but I am not sure how many people will miss it if its not prompting them, and presumably they can still change it after auto check-in on web or kiosk or at gate.

  6. Carl says:

    In these days of e-tickets and electronic boarding passes, I have assumed that the purpose of the user-initiated check-in is to demonstrate to the airline that you are actually intending to fly on that flight. It’s sort of like opting-in. That way the airline can better know who will actually show up for boarding or if they have some extra seats. With this process B6 won’t know that someone decided not to fly or forgot until boarding is completed. Maybe that doesn’t happen very often, but I would assume it does happen.

    Automatic check-in for connections and return flights make more sense in that you are clearly taking the trip and aware of your flights.

    At the end of the day it is not all that different than the emails we already get that prompt us to check in and print/save our boarding passes.

  7. Mike says:

    I love it, especially when on the road and I can’t get access to wifi, or an in meetings or in transit or even just driving. Offering a convenience is the JetBlue way. I hope others follow.

  8. Michele McDonald says:

    If somebody no-shows, JetBlue still gets the money. And user-initiated boarding passes don’t guarantee that you’ll show up, because lots can happen in 24 hours.

    I don’t know how a user-initiated boarding pass confirms that you are not toting explosives.

    You still get a boarding pass — it’s e-mailed to you — but you don’t have to take that first step of sitting down at a computer and asking for the boarding pass. I think over time even more steps will be taken out. This is just a start.

  9. John says:

    Interesting, not a big deal. I would want to potentially change my seat, so if I couldn’t do that, then it would be annoying…BUT the bigger deal is what impact will it have on ancillary sales? Frankly I would think the airline would want the passenger to come and touch the site to sell them something…so from a shareholder point of view (and I’m not), I would be very dissatisfied. I think generally it is a mistake and pointless to auto check-in and creates missed opportunities.

  10. Jon says:

    Will not matter to me. Still have to access mobile app to get boarding and TSA precheck.

  11. Chris says:

    I like the convenience. In my case, I travel often Friday afternoons with carry on luggage and usually have a tight window to make it to the airport. Sometimes I did not have the time to check in and print the ticket, or the iPhone app does not work. That way I can avoid using the check in kiosk or if it is almost boarding time, having to go through the check in counter.

  12. David M says:

    I’m like one of the other David’s above: I don’t really understand what check-in is for anymore. Think about the name. The general definition of “check in” is “to report one’s presence or arrival”. The whole idea of “online check in” even before mobile apps came on the scene, didn’t seem to make sense to me as it seems to run contrary to the very definition of “check in” and reduces its usefulness to the airline in knowing who had actually managed to show up at the airport.

    Of course, I’m also an AvGeek who collects his boarding passes, so I treat online/mobile checkin mostly as a way to try for a lower boarding number when I fly Southwest.

  13. Denny says:

    People keep saying that they want to change their seat assignment when checking in – why aren’t you doing this days ahead of time? Sure, sometimes other seats become available at the last minute, but I don’t find that to be the case that often.

  14. MIkeee says:

    How about giving us an option?

  15. ShowMeInDC says:

    I think it’s more of a marketing trick. Tomorrow, I’m forced to fly Southwest (out of necessity only, I can assure you) and even though I checked in online EXACTLY 24 hours to the minute before my flight, I was still slotted at A-58. I know Southwest is trying to sell the advance check-in to appeal to business travelers, but seriously….

  16. Chicago Chris says:

    This will work for JetBlue because it doesn’t oversell, but I’m not sure about other carriers.

    With United, for example, 15 minutes before departure gate agents will pull people off the flight who haven’t checked in and start clearing standbys with those seats. At 10 minutes everyone else who hasn’t boarded yet will get pulled and then those seats are given to standbys.

    I think those extra five minutes help speed up the standby process, especially when you have dozens of people on the list.

  17. MeanMeosh says:

    Meh. I fly Southwest a fair amount, and they already have a form of automatic check-in (EarlyBird). I still have to log in to my account to print the boarding pass at home/at the office, stop by a kiosk at the airport to print one, fire up the mobile app at the checkpoint. It cuts out one button I have to push, I guess, but it doesn’t strike me as much of a time saver.

    I don’t necessarily see it as an issue for legacies with oversells, though, because even now, you still have the issue of people who “check in” online but then don’t show up for one reason or another – get sick before leaving for the airport, meeting runs late and have to change flights at the last minute, misconnection due to late incoming flight, etc. In the first two scenarios, you would have to call the airline ahead of time to let them know anyway to avoid a no-show, so there would be enough time for the airline to un-check you in and release the seat for a standby. You might end up with a few more passengers that are checked in but ultimately don’t show up, but I doubt it would really have any meaningful impact on ops.

  18. No Fly Zone says:

    I’d guess this to be of some benefit for some customers. Here, not so much. Even when booking most travel though an expert agent, for one reason or another I still have to check in at the counter. It just happens. Best of luck to JB, but I don’t think this will help a lot of flyers.

  19. Bob S. says:

    You’ve got to “check in” in order to get a boarding pass and you need a boarding pass to pass through security. There are a couple of factors at work here. I check seats when I go to check in at the 24-hour mark and I’m often able to move to a more desirable seat. If not, I wait to check in until later and then look again for that more desirable seat. Also, being “checked in” or just “ticketed” are two different things to the airlines. If you want to change your flight, it is much easier to do if you haven’t checked in – especially if you go through a travel agency – because after you are checked in and you want to change anything, you must cancel the previous ticket and get a new one. (Don’t worry, the airline will do this … or your travel agent will but it’s much more of a hassle.) Otherwise, you just change it and pay whatever change fees are required. I’ve often had to do this when there was an accident or other jam up on the expressway leading to the airport and I realize I can’t possibly make the original flight.

  20. Bob S. says:

    You’ve got to “check in” in order to get a boarding pass and you need a boarding pass to pass through security. There are a couple of factors at work here. I check seats when I go to check in at the 24-hour mark and I’m often able to move to a more desirable seat at that time. If not, I wait to check in until later and then look again for that more desirable seat. I continue to check this option until I am either able to get that more desirable seat or time’s up and I have to check in. Also, being “checked in” or just “ticketed” are two different things to the airlines. If you want to change your flight, it is much easier to do if you haven’t checked in – especially if you’re going through a travel agency – because after you are checked in and you want to change anything, you must cancel the previous ticket and get a new one (as I understand the process). (Don’t worry, the airline will do this … or your travel agent will … but it’s much more of a hassle.) Otherwise, you just change it and pay whatever change fees are required. I’ve often had to do this when there was an accident or other jam up on the expressway leading to the airport and I realize I can’t possibly make the original flight.

  21. Bob S. says:

    You’ve got to “check in” in order to get a boarding pass and you need a boarding pass to pass through security. There are a couple of factors at work here. I check seats when I go to check in at the 24-hour mark and I’m often able to move to a more desirable seat at that time. If not, I wait to check in until later and then look again for that more desirable seat. I continue to check this option until I am either able to get that more desirable seat or time’s up and I have to check in. Also, being “checked in” or just “ticketed” are two different things to the airlines. If you want to change your flight, it is much easier to do if you haven’t checked in – especially if you’re going through a travel agency – because after you are checked in and you want to change anything, you must cancel the previous ticket and get a new one. (Don’t worry, the airline will do this … or your travel agent will but it’s much more of a hassle.) Otherwise, you just change it and pay whatever change fees are required. I’ve often had to do this when there was an accident or other jam up on the expressway leading to the airport and I realize I can’t possibly make the original flight and I must re-book before the original flight departs.

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