Ryanair, the low-cost carrier based in Dublin, has announced that they will shorten the window of free online check-in. Starting November 1, 2016, customers who wish to check-in online more than 4 days in advance will be charged a £6 (~$7.36) fee. Previously, Ryanair has allowed free online check-in up to 7 days in advance.
To be honest, I have never understood the concept of “online check-in.” Historically, a check-in meant that you intended to get on the airplane, since you were already at the airport. But with the digital age, you can check-in at just about anywhere. Many airlines let you do it way in advance, and you can “cancel” a check-in easily. The tie between the meaning “checked in” and the intention to fly has become somewhat diminished.
Regardless, Ryanair already doesn’t have the best reputation in terms of nickel and diming. I doubt this change will bring in that much more revenue for Ryanair, but is leading to some backlash among travelers. This change will reportedly apply to both new and existing reservations, and some are calling it a bait and switch. Customers are also comparing Ryanair’s policy to easyJet’s, which allows a 30-day window for fee-free check-in.
Apparently checking in way in advance has been popular among travelers on the airline. Many people check in for both the outbound and return flights at the same time, and this new change will limit their ability to do so. If you are going on a week-long trip, you will now have to check-in for your return flight while on vacation.
Granted, that might not sound like a huge deal, but the repercussions for missing online check-in is huge with Ryanair. Customers who don’t check-in online 2 hours before their flight must do so at the airport, which costs £45 (~$55). Ryanair allows check-in through their app, but not all airports accept mobile boarding passes. In those scenarios, customers will have print out a boarding pass at their destination.
But the strangest thing about this change is Ryanair’s reason for doing so. Kenny Jacobs, marketing chief for Ryanair, says,
We’re continuing to listen to our customers through our “Always Getting Better” programme and this change reflects the customer feedback we have received. From November 1, we’re offering those customers who wish to reserve seats more time to choose their preferred seat, by reducing the check-in window from 7 to 4 days pre-departure for those customers who prefer a random seat.
Customers who purchase the seat assignment option has the ability to choose their seat up to 30 days out. This change will apparently allow them more time to choose their seats, without the interference of other passengers. So in theory, it’s a “benefit” that will help those who bought seat assignment, however minor. Though I do have to wonder…how many customers actually petitioned for this change?