By Mark Chesnut
The writing is on the wall: The amount of interaction that future travelers will have with human airline employees is decreasing.
Alaska Airlines currently allows passengers to print and tag their own checked luggage in Seattle and San Diego, and will be adding more airports before the end of the year. Delta Air Lines has been testing a turnstile self-boarding system at the gate with the goal of speeding up the boarding process. And the new Terminal 3 at Las Vegas International Airport, which opened this year, has the capacity to allow self-boarding and even self-tagging for baggage, for any airline that so desires.
In Australia, Qantas has introduced an array of “next-generation” facilities for domestic flights, including self-tagging for baggage (passengers print their own bag tags, place them on their luggage and then scan a boarding pass at the bag drop area before dropping off the bags).
A German company called Materna GmbH continues to develop technology to take the check-in, security and boarding process to the next stage. Its SecureAccess product features a flexible boarding pass scanner that is already in use in Germany and South Africa, to speed movement from landside to airside parts of the terminal. Additional products include the automated CUSS Baggage Drop-Off device, which was adopted this year in Poland’s Rzeszow airport, and SelfBoarding, a machine that reads the passenger’s home- or kiosk-printed boarding pass, and then opens doors to provide access to the aircraft.
To see the future, a good place to go is Future Travel Experience 2012, a conference that takes place September 5-7 in Vancouver, where vendors show off their latest developments. Among the expected attention-getting items: self-bag drop products from companies including Type22, SITA and IBM, which is involved in the expansion of Qantas’s futuristic check-in programs on an international level.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. His passport might be too ragged to scan well.