You No Longer Have To Check-In For Delta Flights

Filed Under: Delta, Travel Technology

Yesterday’s Delta iOS app update included an interesting change. Per the description:

We’ve eliminated the check-in process. Your boarding pass will automatically appear 24 hours before your flight.

Very interesting! In many ways, the concept of needing to check-in is outdated. It used to be necessary to check-in for obvious reasons, back when it could only be done at the airport. That’s the only way you could get your boarding pass.

But then airlines started to let you check-in through their website and print boarding passes, and then eventually you could also check-in through their app and use a mobile boarding pass.

The process of “remote” check-in (be it through an app or website) seems kind of pointless. You basically just tap several buttons and then maybe 30 seconds later you have a mobile boarding pass that you can add to your Passbook. There’s nothing to the process, so it’s only logical that airlines would eliminate this.

However, I’m a bit surprised to see this change, especially from Delta’s perspective.

One benefit of requiring passengers to check-in is that it gives the airline a better sense of how many people will show up for the flight. When a flight is oversold, they’ll know at the check-in cutoff how many people consciously checked in, and how many people were booked but didn’t check-in, and therefore won’t be on the flight. It helps them determine just how much a flight may be oversold (not that it’s a perfect calculation at that point — people can still check-in and no show).

The other reason I’m surprised this was eliminated from Delta’s perspective is that it eliminates a huge point in the process at which airlines frequently upsell. The check-in process is one of the best times to try to upsell people, whether we’re talking about a premium seat in economy, a first class upgrade, bonus miles, additional bags, etc. Heck, I sort of felt like that’s the reason airlines kept the online check-in process around.

From a passenger’s perspective there are also some implications. I haven’t historically been a Delta flyer, so I’m not sure if this is an issue at Delta, but at other airlines there are certain things you can only do if you haven’t checked in, like making a same day confirmed change. Maybe it’s not a problem at Delta, and worst case scenario it’s easy enough to uncheck yourself in, make the change, and then check-in again.

Lastly, as a frequent flyer who likes to stay on top of my travels, I actually sort of don’t mind the online check-in process. I can take another look at the seatmap, upgrade list, etc. The elimination of online check-in doesn’t eliminate the possibility of that, but rather over time I’ll just probably forget about checking on my flight status more often.

So overall I really think this is a positive. Delta is recognizing that there’s no real need for check-in through the app anymore, and they’re eliminating it. That’s a customer friendly move. I’m just curious about some of the little details that rely on the distinction between whether or not you’re checked in, and also am surprised Delta is making this change and eliminating a point in the process that’s historically used for upsells.

Would you like to see more airlines eliminate the need to go through the check-in process?

  1. Delta always asks me for additional information checking in. Usually it’s passport and visa details. But DL can’t get that info from me with an automatic check in, so I don’t know what they’re going to do now.

  2. Also I especially like having my boarding pass ready because my home airport isn’t too busy. If I arrive less than 45 minutes before a flight, I can easily still make it to the gate for boarding, but airlines are always refusing to issue me a paper boarding pass. This change should help everyone avoid the awful process of being refused by a kiosk, waiting in a line, and then begging the agents to just print out a pass so you can pass security.

  3. It is a negative as Lucky points out in some instances. Delta can mess up the upgrade wait list and somehow forget you are a Diamond. You then have to call and uncheck yourself in and they recheck you in on the wait list. Or you want to apply a regional or global upgrade cert last minute if the upgrade list looks especially long to give yourself a better chance. You cant do that after checking in requiring another call to diamond line and getting unchecked in. I would rather just have the control and do it when i want to.

  4. I prefer to check-in myself and I hope Delta gives an option to disable this feature if you prefer not to auto check-in. I usually check-in when I get the email saying “It’s time to check-in” so I can look at the seat map and change my seat if a better one became available.

  5. What about acknowledging when you sit in an emergency exit (willing, able, etc.)…
    You’re asked to do so when purchasing the ticket too, however I rarely book my own flights, corporate travel agency does it for me.

  6. I would prefer to check in manually, for all the reasons stated in the article. I hope there is an option to disable this “feature”

  7. If you take out a checking in requirement the one issue I see is airlines finding intent to fly on the fight you booked. I realize there is probably a pretty small number of people missing flights but knowing can still create a more efficient process.

    As all these airlines focus on D0 the one thing I do think they still need to figure out is how to tell if someone is at the airport in order to create a better customer experience. One way to do that would be to somehow link their system with TSA, etc. (ie if you scan your BP at security they know you probably plan on flying that day). I believe some airlines can already track if you check into an airline club. You could even have location beacons connected to your phone.

    This not only affects upgrades but clearing stand-bys as well.

  8. I prefer my own check in and if near a printer, I like to have paper boarding passes as backup in case my phone finds a dead spot in the terminal and I can’t access my mobile pass. From my standpoint, the system isn’t broken in its current state – one minute effort on the phone or laptop, print passes and done.

  9. To be very clear…. you still need to check-in for your flight. It will NOT happen automatically. The only thing Delta did is allow the app to check you in automatically WHEN you open the app. If you don’t open the app before departure, you will never be checked in.

  10. I looked at the new Delta app and noticed that you will only be automatically checked in to the flight when you open the new Delta app (within that 24 hour period.) So if you do not want to be automatically checked in, just do not open the Delta app within 24 hour of your flight. I have an upcoming flight via DL next week and shall see how it works.

  11. Dear Delta,

    Without any additional information, this is a ridiculously clumsy roll-out of a new “feature.”

  12. Air France ( surprisingly not KLM) has had automatic check in for many years for flights within France, Europe to north Africa and other destinations not requiring additional info
    You can elect to receive boarding pass to your phone or print out

  13. United has been doing automatic check in of return segments for some time, you only needed to manually check in for the outbound.

  14. I think this is great. Who says you can’t still do the seat availability or upgrade or switch flights after the 24 hr mark? You still can on your own. Y’all know most of you would still do it even if you didn’t get a “check-in reminder” email. 😉

  15. I usually take a screenshot of my mobile boarding pass in case I lose internet connection for any reason. I know you can add it to your iWallet but it’s more reliable. Unless you run out of phone battery, that’s just as good as a printed BP. I started this after a very unfortunate and inconvenient situation at the Maui airport where I ended up missing my flight due to not being able to pull up my mobile BP. It was the last flight out of Maui, no staff around to help, no internet connection.

  16. I want to be able to disable that feature except for times when I know I will not be available around check in time. Don’t think I will be happy if it’s just forced on us.

  17. I wonder how well this will work with the infamous TSA crap etc. Boy I miss the old days when everyone got along had fun traveling.

  18. Please no. Or least give me an opt out.

    And those of you suggesting “just don’t open the app in the 24 hours before the flight”, that’s absurd. What if I want to check flight status? What if I have another reservation I need to manage?

  19. I got the “you Boarding Pass is now available” notification on my phone at the T-24 mark, but it didn’t have Pre-Check. Once I went through the regular check-in process, it appeared. (I have GE). This all seems like a huge waste of time on Delta’s part, and goodness knows they could have invested those IT resources elsewhere…

  20. This is likely related to Basic Economy punishment. They want people on BE fares to checkin as early as possible so they can assign the crappiest seats in the back of the plane to them.

    Before this app update if you we’re flying on a Basic Economy fare you could wait until the very last minute to check in and hope that the crap seats at the back were allocated so you could end up with something nicer towards the front of the plane.

    This is super annoying. I won’t be opening the app during my upcoming trip on a BE fare.

  21. This isn’t really a new thing. Airlines in Europe have been doing the automatic 24 hour check-in for awhile now. Swiss Air, Lufthansa, Czech Airways, Air France. It’s quite convenient as it is one less item to have to remember to do and when you get this auto check in boarding pass, you can still make all the changes you want … seats, luggage, meals, e-newspapers, etc., etc.

  22. I would strongly caution any enthusiasm ablut automatic checkin. Several airlines, including LX and LX remove all non-paid (e.g. status or fare based) seat reaservations in this process … It happened to me more than once, that I had a preferred seat assigned based on my SEN status – and when automatic checkin kicked in, I got bumped into the last rows 🙁

  23. I always thought that check-in gave the attendants a chance to observe behavior before allowing anyone with a phone to get on the plane.
    I don’t understand the logic in most things going on these days anyway.

  24. Call me old-fashioned, but I like having the paper BP tix in case my phone locks up, or can’t connect, as described so painful a memory from @K. Putting BP into Wallet is less risky and averts the connectivity issue. I also prefer the control that manual check-in gives me. In fact, I wouldn’t check-in until I safely arrived at the airport, just in case something happened to me, esp. in the big city traffic, accident, health issue, etc. I would be willing to give auto check-in a try a few times, but would definitely want the option to disable.

  25. Interesting but as many people have commented, I have never really “wanted” this or thought about asking for it – I see check-in as a normal and valuable part of the process for all the reasons listed in your article. I also would never want to be checked-in without double-checking my seat assignment and seeing what else has become available. Personally I see this as a big negative – taking automation a step too far.

    Since I almost never fly DL this shouldn’t affect me right now, but of course AA will probably see this and copy it they way they slavishly do everything else from Delta.

  26. I change seats after being checked in all the time via Delta app. After all the higher elites clear into F, I change out of my middle seat Y+ upgrade to one of their pre-selected aisle/window Y+ seats. I often do this 10 seconds before boarding.

  27. Bad idea… for low battery mobile phones and poor signal reception area. Whaddabout those using FlyDelta on a tablet device and no WiFi signals around to pull up the information when approaching airport security checkpoint?

    Worst of all, I’ve never been approached online for bidding VDB (voluntary denied boarding), but almost always when going to the kiosk machine. So, I guess there goes my pre-flight gamble for travelling funds.

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