Charging fliers for checking in online defeats the very purpose of having online check-in.
On Sunday, IndiGo told its passengers, “As per our revised policy, all seats will be chargeable for web check-in. Alternatively, you may check-in at the airports for free. Seats will be assigned as per availability”. The airline has been charging Rs 100-800 for such selection since November 14. However, after a massive social media outcry, it later clarified that “there would be some seats that may be available for free depending on the market dynamics of the flight”. As there were always certain seats available for free while checking in online, IndiGo’s clarification thus doesn’t deviate from the policy they were already following which effectively made the vast majority of seats chargeable, leaving the flier checking in online with very little choice.
What most providers of many services, be it booking cinema tickets online or booking Railway tickets through the IRCTC website, fail to appreciate when they impose a convenience charge, is that a customer using the online services is providing them a spectrum of relief. Imagine if a multiplex had to deal with long queues of cinema-goers right before screening starts. Not only would it have to invest in crowd management, it would have to spend on overheads such as infrastructure, personnel, security, etc. Indigo’s move—notwithstanding the clarification—punishes those fliers who are actually reducing costs for the company. Charging fliers for checking in online defeats the very purpose of having online check-in. If airlines charge for booking of tickets online, customers might stop flying with them, raising the costs for these companies as the alternative is investing in more counters and personnel even as fliers choose to fly with rivals that offer free online check-in. And imagine what it means in terms of travel time for passengers who have to factor in waiting at the counter. If costs for airlines are increasing due to higher fuel costs and economic troubles, the cost should be passed on via higher ticket costs rather than selectively charging those using online facilities.