Thursday, 19 June 2014

Ticking the wrong box

I went to check in on-line for our Qantas flight to Canberra.  Yes, I ought to have been more careful, but unfortunately on the page asking if we had any dangerous goods, I inadvertently ticked the wrong box.   Result - I was locked out of the on-line check-out process, with no way to go back to the beginning.  Oh well, I thought, I'll ring Qantas, surely it will be easy for them to re-set the process.   After 35 minutes waiting on hold (fortunately I had other things to do while waiting), the operator informed me that, yes, what I had done was not uncommon, but there was no way the process could be re-set.  The only option was to queue at the check-in and explain the situation to a real person.   She was adamant that this was a "safety" issue, and explained that Qantas were worried that having ticked the wrong box, I had to be checked in by a real person.

She was horrified when I suggested that perhaps if I was really out to sneak something on to the plane, I would have just checked the "I aren't carrying anything that I ought not to" box, rather than tick the other box and wait for 35 minutes on the phone to change it.  Ah, airline bureaucracy!

At the airport, the staff were very understanding, and we were checked in without any difficulty.

In fact, with hindsight, I see that the on-line check in process is almost certainly linked in to the database in the same way as the airport self-checkin stands, so perhaps the lack of flexibility is understandable after all.    Just the same, why the check-in personnel at the airport can override the system and the call centre operators can't remains a bit of a mystery.   The cynic in me wonders if this has anything to do with the fact that Qantas (like other airlines, I guess) doesn't wish to encourage phone calls?

However, I was a little unnerved when, on our return flight, the next day, once again, I wasn't able to access the self-checkin process at the airport.  The flight was again on Qantas, but it was a completely separate booking, made at a different time, and with a different reference.  But no, the self-checkin machine refused even to commence the process, and so we had to explain to a real person that we weren't carrying anything we weren't supposed to.

I'm now apprehensive that the Qantas computer has locked me out of the self-checkin process!  Surely, not as a result of my discussion over the phone?   We have a flight in the near future with Jetstar, so time will tell whether we have demonstrated ourselves trustworthy! In the meantime, two lessons have been reinforced:  be very careful about which boxes you tick and don't take issue with anything an airline person says.

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