Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hello machine, can I charm you into an upgrade?

Who stole the checkin counters?
I flew from Sydney to Adelaide last weekend.  Sydney Airport Qantas terminal is deserted! No staff, only uniformed security and columns with screens. From a design perspective I like the minimalist space - just a sea of marble tiles, with the occasional vertical sculpture sprouting a screen that you (apparently) tap to check in.

Next Generation
Fortunately, I didn't have to actually engage in the Qantas brave new world (called by Qantas - Next Generation Check-in).  I had checked in online, and given I only had carry-on, went straight to the Club lounge. At least there you can ask stupid questions, like 'Even though I have checked in online, do you need to give me a boarding pass?" (they don't).

If I am nice to you - will you be nice to me?
At the risk of sounding like a sentimental old grump - I am mourning the days when at check in, you could compliment the (usually female) staff member on her hair/jewellery/general demeanour and gormlessly ask "Is it a well booked flight?" and if they said yes, you could try, "Any possibility of an upgrade?"

Sounds stupid, but it sometimes worked, and even if it didn't always get us an upgrade, sometimes on a poorly booked flight, it would get me and my partner three seats for the two of us to share - any extra legroom in a storm.

Not to mention the discretion they had to ignore your blatant ignorance of the permitted luggage allowance.

My airfare used to pay someone else to do that
If I have actual check-in luggage, I will have to print off one of those sticky strips that you have to tear off and wrap round your luggage handles, and load it onto the conveyor belt. Didn't the cost of my ticket include that service by a Qantas staff member in the past? The alternative is to buy their 'Q Bag Tags' at some undisclosed cost - in the future.

So, another small part of the luxury that used to be travel again disappears, on what the industry still laughably calls a full-service airline.

For a full report on the experience of the Next Generation Check-in see Dan Hills Blog entry at City of Sound.

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