Alaska Airlines was an early believer in the efficiency and advantages passenger kiosks could bring to the airport check-in lobby. Now the airline believes that era is over. After trialing the removal of check-in kiosks at key airports across its network it is ready to remove them all.
We realized the majority of our guests were doing most of the kiosk actions on their own phones and we could reduce the congestion in our airports. Alaska was the first airline to introduce kiosks more than 20 years ago, and we’ll be the first airline to remove them. We’re looking forward to offering the new full guest experience next summer.– Charu Jain, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of innovation and merchandising
Which is not to say that the airport lobbies will be empty. Indeed, they’ll still have plenty of technology placed throughout the space. But the new hardware will be focused on printing tags for checked bags, not providing the myriad other customer service features the kiosks offer today.
Read more: Alaska Airlines going digital to slash bag check-in time
Additionally, the airline will update its bag drop offering to a self-service solution. Rather than present bags to an agent for intake (and payment, if needed), a fully automated solution scans a traveler’s ID, face, and bags. Once all the factors are validated the bag is ingested into the handling system and moves through TSA screening and eventually to the aircraft.
Alaska Airlines is not alone in moving to automate the checked baggage intake process. In September 2022 Delta Air Lines said its trials with self-tagging and facial recognition of ID slashed the manual bag check time by half, to around two minutes. Switching to automated baggage induction further reduces the entire process to just 30 seconds, while also more than doubling customer satisfaction scores.
Spirit Airlines offers a strong endorsement of biometric ID checks and automated induction of bags into the handling system. In addition to reducing dwell time, the process improves ancillary revenue generation and improves both employee and customer satisfaction; there’s no argument to be had with the computer. Mike Byrom, the company’s VP for Airports & Crew Services explained:
Nobody likes to be asked for money. But when a machine is doing it, that just takes all the tension out of the equation. What’s also great about it is it’s made the job easier for our agents, because the machines are doing the work. The agents are guiding coaching, counseling, etc. But they’re not they’re not having those contentious interactions.
And while Alaska Airlines is investing heavily to transform the lobby technology hardware, it is also working to eliminate the need for those tags. The airline was the first in the US to adopt the BagTag digital luggage tag solution. With those tags installed travelers can update the details digitally via the app, allowing them to go straight to the bag drop stations rather than printing a new tag each trip.
Read more: BAGTAG targets North American expansion, adds homing solution
Supporting transition to a more digital experience requires a change in passenger behavior, to be sure. But travelers appear to be at least somewhat capable of such adjustments. Alaska Airlines says 75% of its travelers already arrive at the airport with a boarding pass printed out or available on a mobile device. It expects many of the remaining 25% to move in that direction. And the remaining passengers will still have the option for full-service support from agents.
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This is terrible. Put some kiosks in the basement to discourage use is ok but taking them away is bad. Where am I going to print if I am staying in a hotel without a business center or one with a broken printer?