Airlines won't mandate online check-in

Most airlines have extended their services online to provide passengers added ease and accessibility. However, these carriers have no plans to remove traditional service channels, preferring to offer Web-based services as an additional channel for customers.

ZDNet Asia spoke with three airlines--AirAsia, British Airways and Singapore Airlines--all of which run portals that offer their passengers a range of online services, including flight reservation and Internet check-in. Passengers can also choose their seats and pre-order meals for their flights via the portal.

However, these carriers said they have no plans to make online check-in a compulsory procedure for travel, a move that was recently announced by a European budget airline.

RyanAir last month said it will remove all of its check-in counters from 146 airports and make Internet check-in compulsory for its passengers. RyanAir customers will also need to print their own boarding pass online, or face a US$64.50 fee if they fail to do so. In addition, passengers will have to fork out about US$8 for the online check-in service.

The three airlines said they will continue to operate physical check-in desks at airports, where online check-in will remain as an additional option for passengers. This, the carriers said, offers their passengers added "flexibility" and convenience.

According to a British Airways spokesperson, online services give passengers complete control of their flight details and provide "speedy" progress through airport procedures.

Nicholas Ionides, vice president of public affairs at Singapore Airlines, said online services facilitate shorter queues and faster counter check-ins at the airport.

Ionides explained in an e-mail interview that passengers with self-printed boarding passes will have to get these documents verified, and drop off their luggage, at designated counters in the airport. This reduces the processing time, compared to physical check-in counters, he added.

A spokesperson from AirAsia's communications department, said in an e-mail: "We have always used technology to grow our business across all fronts. It has enabled us to offer cutting-edge products, and to continue to offer quality service to our constantly expanding passenger base."

The spokesperson added that over 80 percent of their flights are booked via the Internet. The mobile platform has also allowed AirAsia to disseminate information to its customers, allowing passengers to receive these updates via their handheld devices, he said.

RyanAir did not respond to ZDNet Asia's queries at press time.