The current state of the airline online check-in

Share of online check-ins today vs. 2020 (complete infographic below)

There are many different ways to check in for a flight. Each airline has its own, often slightly different process. Although the check-in process usually only takes a few minutes, most passengers still see it as unnecessary and stressful., the world’s first airline-agnostic check-in assistant from Lufthansa Innovation Hub, analyzed the check-in process in 2018 and took a closer look at major airlines around the world.

A survey of 850 highly-active users identified the aspects they found particularly stressful about the standard check-in process. The following infographic gives an overview of the most important pain points as well as other relevant insights from the Lufthansa Innovation Hub research team.

Read our three central findings below the infographic.

1. Online check-in still has massive potential

According to data from SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunication Aéronautique; around half of all travelers still use the traditional check-in desks at airports. In a time where we order food and taxis from an app, this figure seems surprisingly high. Around 15% of passengers use the self-service check-in terminals at airports, meaning that in fact only around 39% use online check-in via their computer, tablet or smartphone. According to SITA forecasts this distribution is going to shift in favor of online check-in by 2020.

2. The level of frustration with online check-in is high

The surprisingly small share of passengers using online check-in may be explained by various different factors. For example, the results of our survey show that the online check-in process is frustrating for many passengers. Only 5% of people surveyed said that they are satisfied with the current online check-in process. There is a lot of unnecessary effort associated with this process. We are all familiar with the classic scenario: You want to quickly check in to your flight to the US but the system asks for a booking number, your address while staying there, and your passport number. Even if entering certain information is legally unavoidable, more than half of those surveyed said that having to repeatedly enter booking and contact details is annoying.

3. Airlines make the check-in process complex and confusing

“The early bird catches the worm” — many passengers try to check in as early as possible to get the best available seats (a window seat, for instance). But it’s not all that easy because the check-in window (the time frame before departure where you can check in online) differs greatly from airline to airline – from 72 hours to just four hours before departure. has found 17 different check-in windows amongst major international airlines alone. Even for frequent flyers, trying to keep track of all this information is a pain. The email reminders from airlines don’t make much of a difference either. The result: the online check-in window comes and goes and with it the prized window seats.

In summary, the check-in process has a lot of potential for improvement. Frequent flyers in particular find this process unnecessary. This is a very strong use case for digital travel assistants, including services like Online travel agents as well as Travel Management Companies (TMCs) for business clients should bear this in mind, too.

The first airlines have already begun introducing automatic check-in. Shortly before departure, passengers are sent their boarding card with seat allocation. But airlines like SWISS remain an exception. The amount of airlines offering this option, however, is set to significantly increase by 2020.

In addition, airlines will increasingly have to confront the question of whether check-in should still exist at all. In the long term, the needs of passengers will take precedent. Airlines will find an answer to this problem with the passenger in mind.

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