AirBär Web Check-in — what’s in it for me?

Print your own stuff, so they don't have to!

AirBär generally are pretty good as far as the cheapo European airlines go. I don’t think they’ve ever gotten a black mark on their record with me…until today, that is (and this gripe is an admittedly small thing).

Yesterday morning, about thirty hours to take-off, I got an email from AirBär that we could do a web check-in and print our own boarding passes.

“Great,” we thought. “This’ll make our departure from Munich tomorrow even easier.” So, I clicked on the link in the email to check us in on-line and downloaded an eight-page PDF with barcodes in the top left corner of every page. Eight pages, because we’re two passengers with two flight segments each (layover in Palma de Mallorca) and for each segment there’s an “Original” and “Customer Copy” page.

“Uh…that’s fine,” we thought. “We only need the customer copy electronically and not at all with us on the trip.” So we didn’t print out the “Customer Copy” files or even bring them with us. And besides, apart from the red “Customer Copy” heading, they appeared identical to the “Original” print-outs.

We waited in line in front of the ticket agent desks just like everyone else to check our bag. There was no short(er) or “express” or bag-check line for passengers who already had checked in and printed their boarding passes. “Well, OK,” we thought. “Surely there is a benefit here for those without a bag to check because they can go right to the gate.”

Upon reaching the gate, however, the rather haughty gate agent with terrible English pronunciation* took our Originals to be scanned and we were a little surprised that she kept them.

Hoppola, jetzt weiß ich nicht mehr, welchen Sitzplatz ich habe!” I apologetically exclaimed, as I realized she intended to keep it, and I hadn’t memorized the seat assignment. Her response was not technically incorrect, but her tone (hard to reproduce here) was really not helpful: “dafür haben Sie ja eine Kopie bekommen!

Maybe I missed something in the fine print. But I really think it’s dumb that they scan the boarding passes’ barcodes and then still need the paper (for what, exactly?). So far — greetings from the tarmac on Mallorca — we haven’t needed any paper proof of our claim on these seats. But otherwise I’d have no post-boarding proof of our boarding passes.

I really don’t see the benefit of a “web check-in” if you have to wait in line with everyone else to check a bag in, TWICE the paperwork is involved, and you have to print it yourself. I’m totally on board for printing out my own documentation (gotta fire up the printer once a quarter or so to keep the ink heads from drying out), but this seems to be wasteful and confusing and of no benefit whatsoever. Except maybe that AirBär uses my printer, paper, and ink instead of theirs.

*Lest ye think ill of my Aussprachenbeurteilung: I don’t begrudge anyone’s efforts in foreign languages, but if your daily tasks on the job require you to make announcements in English, and it is unrecognizable as such, and remains unimproved (I gather this was not her first day on the job), then whom are we kidding here? Just stop doing the announcements in “English.” Clearly nobody needs them.

7 thoughts on “AirBär Web Check-in — what’s in it for me?”

  1. Scott

    Funny, I’ve used mobile checkin with Air Berlin, had them scan the barcode from my smart phone screen when boarding, and didn’t have to print out anything. And I got to keep my smart phone.

  2. cliff1976

    Yeah, next time I’ll go pure paperless, I guess. As long as it’ll get onto and scan off of my iPod touch OK, that oughta work. Ideal would have a been a simple piece of paper with my entire itinerary on it, which I would carry with me from flight to flight today.

    And I think I’ve actually done mobile device check-in with AirBär before. But it’s not foolproof: flashing our iPhone / iPod touches with the barcode image they emailed us to the GermanWings staff at Schönefeld in November, the ticket agent who checked our one piece of luggage issued us paper boarding passes with which we could proceed through the security checkpoint and on to the departure gate.

  3. TravelingServiceMan

    I travel quite a bit and I hate the web-checkin for a different reason. Because I am always working on machines that have an unknown failure, I will book my ‘best guess’ for time, this usually means I either extend my stay for a day or fly home a day or so earlier because things went better or worse than planned. This means I spend loads of money on change fees, can’t check-in ahead of time because changing the flight is more difficult when I have already checked in, AND, all of you who HAVE checked in via the web have taken all the good seats. So, I will be that slightly disgruntled person sitting in the middle seat at the back of the plane and will have paid between twice and four times the amount for the privilege. And don’t get me started on the stupid mindestaufenthalt!

  4. cliff1976

    Well, I hope you appreciate it, TSM, but we couldn’t use the web OR mobile check-in options on our flights back from Seville to Palma to Munich. They don’t offer a mobile check-in option on that route, and I didn’t feel like asking the hotel to print out eight pages of PDFs for us. Though I am sure they would have — they were awfully helpful. More on that later.

  5. annonamoose

    The answer to your question is in what TSM said. Better seats, no? I hit a similar situation with bus travel and nearly had troubles when the first driver wouldn’t give us back our ticket for our transfer leaving us with no proof that we’d paid for a ticket. Fortunately, we got it sorted, and now I always print that darn customer copy.

  6. J

    Online check-in is supposed to let you bypass the normal check-in line and go right to a bag drop. It’s worked everywhere for me except Hanoi. Sorry that your first experience with it wasn’t good, but if you do it again (or mobile check-in), it’ll probably save you time. At least it has for me.

    1. cliff1976

      My first experience with online check-in was great! It just was not effective with AirBär (i.e., this was not the first one). I guess the key things here are:

      Just don’t online check-in to save you any time if you’re going to be checking a bag, given the risk that you’ll have to wait in line with the unchecked in anyways. A good hint: if the mobile (i.e., paperless) check-in option is not available for your route, they probably don’t have a separate speedlane for bag-checkers, either.

      And if you decide to print the paper boarding passes yourself, you can print your customer copies 4 sheets to a side of paper (or however small your eyesight will allow) or keep the PDFs on your phone or something instead. Should have thought of that the first time around. Only the non-customer copies have to be on DIN A4 to be scanned/collected by the gate agent (if they even do that).

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