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EasyJet's option to print your boarding card at home means you board last

By Mike on October 13, 2006 in Business, Business Travel, Marketing
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I fly a lot as part of my job and I find myself frequently flying Barcelona to London Gatwick round trip. When I do I’m usually flying EasyJet. The last time I flew I noticed that I could print my boarding card at home and thereby avoid the check-in line at the airport provided I wasn’t checking bags.

EasyJet is Europe’s Southwest Airlines in the sense that there is no assigned seating. Passengers are divided into boarding groups. Before home printing of boarding cards became available through EasyJet you had to go to the airport and stand in the check-in line just as with most other European airlines. Those who get there early get to be in Group A which means getting to board the plane first and enjoying the “luxury” (not a word that should be in a post about EasyJet but bear with me) of choosing your seat; window, middle or asile – front, middle or back of the plane. Those in boarding Group B can usually get a pretty good seat as well but by Group C the pickings are pretty slim. If you’re in Group D you probably got to the check-in counter moments before the pilot switched off the fasten seat belts sign at 10,000 feet and you were more than likely stuck between sweaty fat guy and the football hooligan.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw I could print my boarding card at home, go straight through security and to the gate. Except when I got to the gate I noticed that my boarding card said Group D. What the – ? I printed my boarding card two days earlier and the only reason for me to be in Group D I thought was that everyone in Groups A, B and C must have printed theirs three days earlier. Since that was unlikely, I asked one of the gate attendants about it and was told that “since you didn’t have to wait in line at the airport you were relegated automatically to Group D”.

WHAT?

That didn’t make much sense to me. It seemed pretty counter-intuitive to good business.

I think the airline would be better served to encourage people to print their boarding cards at home. It saves the airline workers time and effort herding passengers at the check-in counter and that reduces cost – for both the airline and the passengers. Wouldn’t it make more sense to offer every incentive to the passenger who does more of their own work – i.e. printing the boarding card at home and showing up without bags to be checked? Shouldn’t the passenger who does that get to be in the first-boarding groups instead of automatically placed in Group D?

Next time I have the opportunity to print my own boarding card with EasyJet I will think twice. I may rather get to the airport a littler earlier, listen to a good podcast while I stand in line and get a better seat on the plane. On the other hand, maybe EasyJet customer service and marketing executives are blog readers (or some friends of theirs are) and they’ll get this note.

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