HomeAirlinesBritish AirwaysBritish Airways Will Let You Book A Check-In Time Slot

British Airways Will Let You Book A Check-In Time Slot

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If you’re lucky enough to have mid-tier airline status or higher or if you only fly in premium cabins, you’re probably not accustomed to having to worry about the length of the lines at airport check-in desks. That, however, is not a privilege shared by the overwhelming majority of travelers around the world.

The lines for Economy Class check-in are often depressingly long at most of the world’s major airports and that’s why British Airways has now announced a trial that will see it try to slash wait times at its home base at Heathrow Terminal 5.

Qmatic is a technology company that offers line management systems for a variety of public sector, retail, healthcare, and financial organizations around the world and now it is partnering with British Airways to help ease the pain of unacceptably long lines at airport check-in.

For a trial period of three months (BA hasn’t said when the three month period will commence), passengers traveling on select British Airways flights out of Heathrow Terminal 5 will be sent an email before their departure day inviting them to book their personal check-in time. When it is time for a customer to check in, the Qmatic system will notify them that it is their turn and invite them to proceed to a specific check-in desk where a member of the airline’s customer service team will be waiting to assist them.

Customers who choose not to book a check-in slot through Qmatic, can proceed as normal, or they’ll be given the option to join a virtual line when they arrive at the airport by scanning one of the QR codes that will be placed in prominent areas around the departures hall.

Mark Brackley, Managing Director of Jade Solutions, the exclusive supplier of Qmatic solutions in the UK, had this to say about the technology:

“The intelligent queuing solution will provide British Airways’ customers with the ability to add themselves to a virtual queue and see their position change in real-time, all from their phone. We are excited to be working with British Airways to trial this technology.”

Declan Pollard, British Airways’ Head of Heathrow Customer Experience, says that this is as much about making customers feel comfortable in the post-Covid travel world as it is about reducing wait-times for passengers:

“In this new Covid-19 era we know that customers have been travelling less frequently than they normally would, and in most cases not at all. We understand many people will feel unfamiliar with the airport journey, so we are committed to exploring how technology can simplify that experience for them. 

This technology means that our customers can plan their departure knowing that they have a personalised check-in time. We think this technology, coupled with digital travel apps, will help efficiently manage the flow of customers in the airport at any one time and give our customers reassurance.”


I love this idea and I really hope the trial goes well so that this can be rolled out to more flights, to more terminals, and to more airports.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that I don’t remember the last time I had to wait in a long line at an airport bag-drop or check-in desk, but I’ve seen my fair share of lines that were pictures of pure misery. Anything that can help save fellow flyers from that unfortunate experience should be encouraged.

It will be interesting to see how well British Airways will be able to keep to the timings and the schedule that the Qmatic system will set and how the airline deals with passengers who turn up at the airport with missing paperwork, issues with their bookings, or who do a more than passable impression of a clueless idiot.

These people will all take up a lot more of an agent’s time than an average passenger and how successfully BA deals with them will probably determine if the trial is a success or if the system break down just a couple of hours into the first day.

For this to work, British Airways will have to deploy sufficient recourses to ensure that one or two “problem passengers” don’t push back all the timings for people with slots behind them and throw the whole system out of whack and I can’t help but wonder if the airline is ready to commit to that.

BA hasn’t exactly been known for being generous with its resources over the past few years (just ask the overworked cabin crews on most short-haul flights) and it has just scaled back its workforce considerably, so is it really ready (or in a position) to make this work?

I have no idea, but I’m going to enjoy watching how this plays out.

Bottom Line

British Airways is set to begin trialing a system that will allow customers to book a check-in time slot when they travel on select flights out of Heathrow Terminal 5. Time slots will be bookable ahead of the day of departure and passengers should therefore be able to plan to arrive at the airport not much sooner than they absolutely have to. When the world is still looking to minimize the amount of time people are spending in large indoor crowds, that’s probably a very good idea.

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  1. Given how unreliable transport to Heathrow can be I wonder how anyone dare book a timeslot with any certainty of being able to keep to the allocated time!

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