One of many reasons to print a boarding pass at home


Allegiant apparently decided to leave a quarter of the plane behind on a flight last week, arguably due to understaffing their station in Lafayette, Louisiana. According to passengers the agent working the ticket counter simply walked away with about 30 customers still in line trying to get checked in and obtain boarding passes. The passengers claim this happened more than 60 minutes prior to the scheduled departure while the airline claims it happened 32 minutes prior, actually inside their published 45 minute rule.

The part of the story that simply doesn’t make sense at all to me, however, is this claim from an Allegiant spokesperson:

We made every effort to contact the flight crew and hold the plane, however, we were unable to do so.

In what world are we living that an airline is unable to contact the crew operating a flight while the plane is still on the ground? Did they not have the number to connect with the local station office? Or the gate? Or the pilot? Or the tower? Or the ACARS system? Seems to me there are a lot of ways they could have held the plane; it is shocking that they all failed.

The other rather awkward part about this is that they’ve basically admitted they are understaffed at their stations. Having the same agent responsible for the ticket counter, baggage and the gate is just begging for something to go wrong. It is certainly possible to share some of those responsibilities amongst a limited staff, but if there’s really only one person doing that stuff then they’ve got a problem.

And this brings us back to the post title. Always check in online in advance, even if you think you’ll be at the airport in plenty of time. There are so many different things that could happen – many of which I’ve personally experienced – where having already completed that online check in process more or less saves the day. It is a couple moments out of your life at any point in the 24 hours leading up to the flight that can mean the difference between making the flight or not.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

10 Comments

  1. The other day I tried to check in on United and was going to be charged baggage fees even though I used my Continental Chase card to book the tix. I called and was told I HAD to visit the ticket counter to get the free checked bags and the counter agent said it would be March before the problem was fixed. I was nervous having to hit the counter each direction but was NOT going to pay $200 to check our bags…

    1. That’s a fair reason, Sice, but the general concept still holds. Checking in to the flight online in advance is rarely a bad idea and the number of potential problems it can mitigate is rather large.

  2. And that’s why I won’t fly Allegiant or Spirit…

    But I agree about checking in. I always check in, even if I’m checking a bag. You can just say no and do it later. The only reason to say you’re checking a bag online is because there might be a discount, but not if you have status or a CC.

  3. Of course, on-line check in is only available if you pre-select your seat, which runs from $6.99 (back 5 rows) to $12.99 per leg. Priority boarding, an additional $9.99. Buying your ticket on line? an additional $14.99 – to save this, you have to get to the front of the counter within 30 minutes following takeoff of their 4x per week or less flight. Remember to click and remove the round trip hotel shuttle for LAS or it’s an additional $14.99. Plus bag fees, etc.

    At least their planes will always take cash for food and beverages.

  4. At Monterey California, all of the airlines (not just Allegiant) have bare-bones staffing. The counter will close about 45 minutes before departure and the agents will go work the gate.

  5. Doesn’t the ‘not able to contact our plane’ seem like a basic safety issue? Or is it just a canned excuse from an overworked/understaffed PR dept?

  6. Is there any possible downside to checking in online? What if your plans change due to some emergency before you get to the airport?

  7. You’re missing James’ point as it was unavoidable for these travelers unless they wanted to pay for a reserved seat. From personal experience on a Sept. 2011 flight, Allegiant does not allow passengers who do not pay for a seat to check in online.

  8. I have to assume that they just used really poor grammar and they mean that they weren’t able to hold the flight.

    1. A corporate spokesperson who is that challenged in forming a coherent thought is nearly as awful as the idea that they couldn’t contact the plane to have it hold. I’m guessing it was simply an attempt at misdirection that failed the sniff test.

      Yes, it is a shame that it would cost extra to do OLCI because of the seat assignment thing; that’s a pretty good reason to avoid Allegiant, if you needed any more. Still, the value of having checked in online in advance is very real. I’ve had a few flights where I’ve arrived “late” at the airport and was still able to get my boarding pass because I was already checked in, flights where I’d have been screwed had that not been the case.

      As for negatives associated with checking in online in advance, the only one I can think of off the top of my head is that some airlines might have to undo the check in prior to allowing you to change flights or such. But the agents are pretty good at that usually and the benefits are more significant, at least to me.

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