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Question about OLCI

Quebec City
Level Contributor
524 posts
40 reviews
Question about OLCI

This is more of a hypothetical enquiry, as I am not planning to fly in the near future (unfortunately!), but I am wondering and figured you experts would be able to shed some light on this.

I can see the advantages of OLCI, especially when flying without checked baggage, and/or when flying with a LCC who charges for printing boarding passes at the airport. However, I for some reason feel rather "insecure" when thinking about OLCI.

I've always viewed checking in as a way for the airline to know you are at the airport, which can be useful information, no? While they won't hold the flight for you, I'm thinking of the airlines calling the names of people who are late for the flight, you know "Mr. Smith, please go to gate XX for boarding", etc. So if you've done OLCI (and didn't have any luggage to check), the airline wouldn't know that you are in the airport, and could be wasting their time/breath calling you? Not that this has any significance in the long run, just wondering.

Also, I'm thinking back on a previous flying experience, when I checked-in at the airport, and wondering what would've happened if I'd done OLCI instead (and let's imagine for the purposes of this post that I didn't have any luggage to check-in). I was flying United Airlines, YQB-EWR-TXL. When we arrived for check-in at the airport (3 hours in advance as any good international traveler should) we found out at the check-in counter that our YQB-EWR flight was delayed by about 5 hours, which would consequently make us miss our EWR-TXL flight. The check-in agent then proceeded to book us on other flights to get us to TXL. (For the record, I've already posted my happy review of United for this, contrary to all the angry rants against United: tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g1-i10702-k5774161-… ) Now, if I had done OLCI, didn't have any luggage to check-in, what do you suppose would've happened? I would've gone through security, and proceeded to my gate, without any knowledge of the delay (again, assuming I didn't look at any of the departure screens before security). When/how would this have been addressed, then? Maybe then I would've experienced that infamous "horrible" service from UA?

Any insights from you expert travelers who always use OLCI? I'm not saying OLCI is bad, I've just never used it (yet) and I'm wondering what would happen in such situations. This way, on my next flight with OLCI if something "bad" happens I don't come back here with an angry rant! :-) (I don't think I'd ever actually post an angry rant, but well, who knows, right?)

Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
6,273 posts
44 reviews
1. Re: Question about OLCI

You are over thinking it, IMO.

I have never checked in any way except via OLCI since it was introduced/available for both domestic & international flights. If a flight is delayed/cancelled, I have received an SMS advising me so that I can make alternate arrangements. For "big" flights i.e. international I always check a few hours before we are due to leave for the airport that everything is as it should be.

Managing your own bookings/arrangements means being organised and pro-active. OLCI makes life a hell of a lot easier.

Grayslake, Illinois
Level Contributor
2,021 posts
36 reviews
2. Re: Question about OLCI

Hi Barbanellie,

I am signed up for e-mail notification from my airline's website. If my flight is cancelled or delayed, they will notify me by e-mail. I check my e-mail just before leaving home - I also check the airline website, to make sure the flight is still on.

When the airlines call out passenger names at the gate.....they are calling the standby passengers who are able to get on the flight.

I do remember a time when airlines paged "late" passengers....long time ago, though! The 60's, 70's....

Detroit, MI
Destination Expert
for Detroit, Travel Gadgets and Gear
Level Contributor
5,705 posts
3. Re: Question about OLCI

The airline will assume you are in the airport and call your name, if it is an airport that does so. Some airports are "silent" and won't page anyone. In some cases your seat will have been given away to a standby passenger if you didn't board 15 minutes before departure. Even if you checked in at the airport, you could have been called away for an emergency and left.

It is always your responsibility to check flight status. Even if you checked in at the airport, your flight could have been delayed five minutes later. You should always check the monitors after clearing security and periodically thereafter. It is also a very good idea to sign up for notifications.

OLCI saves about 60 seconds for me normally, but often lets me check out the seat map ahead of time. It used to determine upgrade wait-listing back when I was an elite too. I'll often just check in at a kiosk again just to save digging for the boarding pass I already printed.

Quebec City
Level Contributor
524 posts
40 reviews
4. Re: Question about OLCI

PerthiteOZ: Yes, I am probably overthinking it! You could probably also say I'm a bit insane, I think about these little details a lot (you should see how often I check my reservations before flying out, and how carefully I look at the airport plans/transportation methods to get there when I need to fly out of an unknown airport!)

As for the e-mail/SMS notifications, I don't think in that particular situation it would've changed much. I did have e-mail notifications for my flights (received a few when they did minor changes to the flights a couple weeks prior). When we got to the airport, the check-in desk was not open yet, and all the departure screens still showed the flight as being on time. Heck, I think it still showed it on time while we were talking to the check-in agent who was re-booking us on other flights (I remember wondering if we would miss it as the queue was so long before we got to the counter.)

But yeah, OK, I can live with the fact that I'm overthinking things, and should just embrace the wonders of OLCI :-)

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
Level Contributor
21,783 posts
5 reviews
5. Re: Question about OLCI

I use OLCI with United whenever I can. It gives me the security of their knowing that I'll be on the flight.

Another advantage is that once checked in you can "track the tail". That is check the status of your flight and see which aircraft is operating your flight and where it currently is. That gives further insight into whether your flight may be delayed**. You can do that from the reservations section on united.com, but it's even easier if you have the iPhone app.

Also, OLCI doesn't affect the airline's ability to reroute/rebook you if a flight gets delayed. So if you check in at T-24, and then on the day of your flight see a delay, you can still get rebooked either at the airport or by phone.

** - If you do track the tail and see that your aircraft is badly delayed on its existing flight, that's an indication that your flight MAY be delayed. Still double check, as the airline could swap in a spare plane and you'd be ok.

Surrey UK
Level Contributor
1,946 posts
27 reviews
6. Re: Question about OLCI


Your question reflects the airline spin that OLCI is an enhanced option available to passengers.

Not so. They are encouraging us to do part of their work online. The former check in queues have simply been renamed "bag drop". So ask not 'should i do OLCI?". Rather ask "do i really want to join the check in queue?".

Mind you i did once notice tbe check in queue was shorter than the bag drop queue.

Level Contributor
13,988 posts
59 reviews
7. Re: Question about OLCI

Some airlines ( in Australia) are moving away from check in counters completely. If you don't do OLCI at home you have to do it at a self serve kiosk at the airport. All the former check in counters are now just bag drops. Qantas Domesticic are even ,oving away from staffed bag drop counters and installing electronic bag drops. The lasers scanners and scales are soon going to make oversized and overweight luggage a thing of the past as the human component will be replaced by electronics that can indeed tell if a bag is only 1 cm oversize.

Level Contributor
49,528 posts
93 reviews
8. Re: Question about OLCI

Not only are you way over thinking it, you are dreaming of issues that don't exist and missing ones that do.

If you wait until you get to the airport you may experience the following and certainly are more likely to experience them ;

You get the worst seats on the plane.

You get them allocated really late and get split up.

You are one if the last on the plane and finding room for hand luggage is difficult.

You get bumped off the flight.

You miss the opportunity for last minute cheap upgrades (because others took that limited supply)

There is a ticketing / admin snafu that you discover only at checkin, with 3 hours to go when you are at the airport with limited Internet and phone access,rather than at home with access to phones and computer and 24 hours to sort it out. (this happened to me once)

On the upside, errrrmm ..... no I can't think of a single positive reason to wait until you are at the airport.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for London
Level Contributor
50,749 posts
15 reviews
9. Re: Question about OLCI

I like OLCI; it shows intent to fly and for those who need to select seats at that time (or at airport check in) it gives the best available selection. I never print boarding passes, eitherh collect them at the check in / bag drop desk or at a self serve kiosk. If preprinted BPs were required by the airline, that would be a different matter.

The last thing I do before leaving my place and heading for the airport is check flight status with the airline. That done I switch off the computer and carry on from there. If in the hour it takes to travel to the airport the flight status changes so be it; I've committed to the process and will deal with what happens when necessary.

When flying with hand baggage only I still check in on line, but on arrival at the airport check the Departures board for any changes in status before going to Security.

I know people who dislike OLCI and prefer to check in with a person at the airport. Although bag drop desks are becoming more common I can't see getting rid of ground agents entirely. Irrops do happen - I've had to go through manual check in with BA at YVR once - and to that end airlines will need staff to deal with pax.

Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
4,357 posts
105 reviews
10. Re: Question about OLCI

Before OLCI one of the slowest parts of the process during check in was allocating seats. Passengers never seemed to be satisfied with their seats and often wanted a seat change. This all took time and passengers could be very argumentative if they didn't get a seat they wanted. This was one reason queues were so long. Now with OLCI there is no need to allocate seats and so saves time and many problems.

I always use OLCI as I like to know where I will be sitting and it takes out some of the stress of checking in. And as others have said I am able to keep check on my flight and any changes etc.