Silver members of Qantas' Frequent Flyer programme only have three weeks left to use priority check-in.
Qantas is removing the benefit in February as part of its Next Generation Check-in programme, which we covered back in October.
From 1 February, Silver members with hold luggage to check will now have to wait in the main line, a Qantas representative confirmed to Australian Business Traveller today. Access to the Qantas Club check-in desks will also be removed.
Online and mobile check-in will be available, but only to passengers travelling with just cabin baggage, Qantas told us.
Since the new Frequent Flyer cards and luggage tags contain RFID-enabled "Q-chips", which enable touch-and-go functionality at Qantas' new check-in kiosks, the airline has decided to remove check-in desk benefits from Silver members at all airports -- not just the ones with the new system.
It's also more hassle for travellers leaving from airports other than the six with Next Generation Check-in. (Next Generation Check-in is currently in operation in Sydney and Perth. Qantas will roll the programme out to Melbourne in the summer, Brisbane in the autumn, and Adelaide & Canberra in the winter of 2011.)
The logic behind the decision to remove the check-in benefits is difficult to understand. Business travellers wanting to save time will prefer to use the new Q-chip cards and avoid the desks entirely at Next Generation Check-in airports. In the event of IT system problems, though, or during the initial stages of the new technology, it would have made sense to continue the premium check-in privilege.
Next Generation Check-in: the current state of play
Check out Australian Business Traveller's full Next Generation Check-in coverage for the low-down.
The new cards will also replace boarding passes, sending an SMS confirmation to a registered mobile phone once check-in is complete. Scan the card (or a mobile phone showing the check-in barcode) on the reader at the gate and the machine will generate a boarding receipt with seat number.
This paper receipt doesn't sound all that different from a boarding pass, apart from not having to carry the boarding pass from check-in to the gate. Is having to carry a small piece of paper across the domestic terminal a serious gripe?
In addition, RFID bag tags will replace paper bag tags at the bag drop. The new tags -- free for Platinum, Gold and Silver Frequent Flyers, and available for purchase for Bronze members and people who aren't part of the Qantas programme -- store trip and member details and are routed on by the new bag drop machines.
If, as we reported yesterday, the federal government bans self check-in, we hope that Qantas reinstates priority check-in for its Silver members.