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.