Travel rules have changed frequently throughout the pandemic. International travel is far more complicated than domestic travel, since you need to think about,
- The rules for your destination, which may include requirements for proof of vaccination (and what counts varies) and now even potentially proof of booster shots
- The rules for any connecting city, first whether transit is permitted and whether you qualify, but also – ideally – whether you’d be eligible to enter the country where you’re connecting in case of a flight delay or cancellation that forces you to spend the night enroute.
Since the details vary by destination, and are fast-changing, airlines have turned to third parties to keep up with these rules and verify documents. Getting passengers to upload and process these details in advance saves the carrier staffing at the airports, long lines and delays which can be costly, and risk that they’ll transport a passenger who is ineligible to fly (with all of the costs and hassle associated).
American Airlines, British Airways and Aer Lingus use the VeriFly app. So do some cruise lines. In general it’s been well-received by passengers, and having documents verified in advance reduces stress while traveling. You go through the app process for many international itineraries in order to complete online check-in.
This service is free to travelers, it’s a benefit to the airline, but VeriFly in the past few weeks has introduced an ‘upsell’. They’ll say that processing volumes are high (even though travel numbers have been down), but they’ll expedite review of your documents letting you jump the queue for a fee, generally
- $8.99 for a solo traveler
- $14.99 for a party on the same reservation
There is no discernable benefit to this offer of priority review! Even if it takes an hour for VeriFly to review your documents, you’ll still going to be fully checked in. And you don’t have to use VeriFly at all, you can always go to the check-in counter where agents will review your documents.
If you’re especially concerned about having everything set before arrival at the airport just make sure to do your online check-in earlier. But since they won’t take documents through VeriFly close to departure anyway, you had to do this in order to use the app to start with.
I asked American Airlines whether there was any consumer benefit to this? And an airline spokesperson offers, “The paid option is offered by VeriFLY as a convenience for customers if they choose to use it. ..The airline does not receive any revenue for the app’s use.”
They also note that a customer can submit their documents without extra charge or “show their documents at the airport without using the app.”
This revenue enhancer from VeriFly seems to prey on customer fears – on inexperienced and nervous travelers – more than anything else.