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British Airways to trial ‘automatic check-in’ at Heathrow and Gatwick

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British Airways announced the launch of a new ‘automatic check-in’ service.  This is being trialled on a selection of routes from both Heathrow and Gatwick, including Vienna, Copenhagen, some Canadian routes, Cancun and Mauritius.

I am not desperately keen, as I will explain.

British Airways

This is how it works, to quote from BA’s news release:

6 days before travel, eligible customers will be sent an invitation to opt-in, asking them to set their preferences.

At -48hrs before departure the option to be automatically checked-in closes.

Between -48hrs and -26hrs seat assignment will take place and customers will be automatically checked-in.

Customers departing from London Heathrow Terminal 5 will be sent an email with boarding pass attachment at -25hrs.

All remaining customers will be sent email at -25hrs confirming check-in and asking how they would like to receive their boarding pass.

Can you see the snag here?  You receive no option to allocate your own seat.  This is not an issue for BA status customers, of course, but is for the rest of the passengers who do not get free seat allocation until check-in opens.

Unfortunately, if you want full control over where you sit, this new scheme will make it harder for you.  Because, if you don’t opt-in to automatic check-in, many others passengers will and that will reduce the seating options for you to choose from when check-in opens.

I would have slightly more faith in this if it wasn’t for the fact that BA’s seat selection software works in hugely mysterious ways.  If you have status, BA gives you a seat when you book and then gives you the option to change it.  The software is perfectly happy to split up family groups or – if you both have ‘aisle’ as a preference in your profile – sit a couple directly behind each other in two aisle seats.

If you don’t like the seats you are given, I am told:

Should customers wish to change their seat allocation following ACI they must call their local Contact Centre for assistance as this cannot be actioned online.

…. which may lead to a lot of telephone calls heading BA’s way.

At present, people already receive an email asking them to use the online check-in service.  BA clearly thinks that not enough people are using it, so wants to roll this out.  Let’s see how it goes.

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Comments (10)

  • Mark says:

    I noticed earlier in the year that on full flights to and from Dubai, BA seemed to have allocated seating to everyone prior to online check-in opening. It just wasn’t possible to see what we’d been allocated.

    In particular on the flight back I was aware for some days prior that there were a couple of seats available on the UD. At some point prior to online check-in opening these were showing as taken on expertflyer, but on going into online check-in they’d been assigned as our default allocation.

    We checked in the moment it opened, and that there was only one other free seat in the whole of club to choose from (not likely one of us was going to move downstairs…).

    That may have been unusual due to the flight being full, or maybe the cabin was full of people with status or who’d paid to reserve. In any case, auto check-in on those flights would have made very little difference.