While checking in for my KLM flight yesterday there were long lines as usual, both for economy class and for business class. They seem not to be able to reduce these lines, even in the business class line you normally have to wait for half an hour. But there was one very short line, in front of a single computer terminal. I had not seen this before, so I checked with one of the KLM staff. This person said that it was the self check-in for people with an e-ticket who already checked in at home. I did not know they now also offer online check-in for Shanghai (in Amsterdam I often check in online), and made a mental note to do this next time. Because our line was so long I decided to take a look at the computer. To my surprise it was a normal laptop with a slow (probably CDMA) connection to the KLM website where people could check in. So the information of the staff was not right, because the passengers in this line did not check in at home yet, but were doing it here.
Because I also had an e-ticket (unusual in China, most people still have printed tickets) I decided to check-in here as well. But as this line seemed to move very slowly, my wife stayed in the other line. That was a good idea, because the laptop check-in was a total disaster. Not only did most people who were checking in not have any clue about the online procedure, but the staff who were trying to help were not much more knowledgeable either. My hands were itching to help, but I decided to stay out of it, because most people were quite stressed already and probably did not want to be helped. In top of that they had an extremely slow connection, likely due to either the CDMA card and/or the fact that KLM’s servers are conveniently located outside China’s Great Firewall. Loading one page cost around one minute, and you had to load several pages. But the worst thing was that they did not connect a printer to the laptop…. So after checking in you still had to go to the check-in counter to get your boarding pass and drop off your suitcase. This was of course extremely stupid, and makes no sense at all.
The result: very unhappy passengers, staff who had no clue and who were therefore being harassed, and in the end even a delay of the flight (not everybody could be checked in on time, according to the captain). KLM, if you are reading this a short advice: Set up a server in China for checking in (less than EUR 2000), and program the laptop so that you only have to type in your eticket number, choose your seat and click OK (programming cost in China less than EUR 1000), put a wifi connection on the laptop (very cheap) and connect a printer (EUR 200). Then get at least 3 of these computers and put them next to check in. Train 2 staff members (takes one hour). And of course ask all passengers to check-in at home already. Total cost less than EUR 10,000, implementation time maximum 2 weeks. Result: happy passengers, shorter lines and planes that depart on time.