Written on: 25/01/2014
Last month I flew Air New Zealand from AKL - SFO. Check-in at the Auckland Airport was the worst check-in I've ever experienced. (I'm a frequent flyer so that's saying a lot - I've had better check-ins at airports in developing countries!)
The check-in area was disorganized & chaotic, with no signs telling people where to go or what to do. The machine wouldn't print out our tickets due to a minor technicality, but the problem was that if you needed help, there were NO queues whatsoever where you could line up for assistance. There were 3-4 staff members at kiosks scattered around the self-check-in area, but NOWHERE to queue, so people clumped around the staff in a disorganized fashion, which means people were not helped in any kind of order. It took us over an hour to get help, which is unacceptable. It's not that we are impatient - we wouldn't have minded waiting an hour in a proper queue, because then you know at least you'll be helped when you get to the front. But with the Air NZ's queue-less check-in system, people were cutting in line and the poor staff were in over their heads, unable to tell people to wait in line because there was no line and nowhere to line up!!
The staff were incredibly friendly but the system was a complete mess. By the time we got to the "front" (which means, we were standing nearest to one of the staff) the staff member had to leave to go to the gate, which meant we had to go stand amongst another crowd of people waiting around another staff member! At least 2 of the computers were down so we had to follow the staff back and forth like ducklings as they rebooted computers to try to make them work. At one point, there was a staff member who didn't have a computer so she was wandering around trying to help and she helped the people standing "behind" us, instead of us, even though we thought it was clear we were standing nearer to the staff member who DID have a computer - but without a queue, she obviously had no idea who was next! So you see, even the staff saw that there WERE no "queues"!
It was incredibly frustrating beyond belief. It was like a game of Survival of the Fittest - whoever was rude enough or oblivious enough to others were helped before everyone else because they would barge in without realizing that others were waiting, and the staff was helpless to prevent this. At one point we saw a long line of people queued up at what would traditionally have been a check-in desk. There were NO signs saying what the queue was for, but since it looked like a typical check-in desk, we got in the queue. 20 minutes later we were at the front, only to be told the queue was for Baggage Drop-Off only... even though there were NO signs saying this, and people were actually dropping off bags to the far left of the desk, not where we were standing. Confusing!! So we waded back into the chaos and saw a staff member wandering around holding some paperwork and looking frazzled because she didn't have a computer to use. By now we were old pros at which computers were actually working, so we flagged her down and pointed her to a computer that was free, then we tried to stand as close to her as we could so that she would help us next.
By the time we finally did get help, the staff member told us that the check-in process was a new system, and that the people "upstairs" thought it was working. We told her it wasn't, and she agreed - it wasn't working. The poor woman was very sweet but it was clear she was as frazzled by the stupid system as we were. I'm afraid I'll never fly AirNZ again for fear that they'll implement this ridiculously stupid & chaotic check-in system at all their airports. I never want to experience a check-in like that again. I'll also never recommend AirNZ to others, for the same reason. I've used self-check-in at several other airports with other airlines and NEVER experienced the same chaotic, frustrating set-up. AirNZ need to add 2 things to their Auckland check-in: QUEUES and SIGNS that show people where to queue.
It's a shame, because otherwise AirNZ is a fantastic, top-notch airline. The flight itself was fine, the seats were roomy and comfy, the staff was always friendly and professional, the entertainment system was good too.