Alaska Airlines Is Getting Rid of Check-In Kiosks at Airports—Will Others Follow?
The carrier says the changes should speed up the process of catching your flight.
The process of getting through the airport to catch your flight can add some serious time to your travel day. From long security lines to struggling with baggage, there's a chance you might spend just as long trying to board as you do in the sky. Fortunately, some carriers see the benefit in making passengers' lives easier and are implementing some changes to smooth over the air travel experience. And now, Alaska Airlines has announced it's getting rid of its check-in kiosks at airports as part of its initiative to move things along. Read on to see what this could mean for your next trip and if other companies will follow suit.
Alaska Airlines is changing its airport experience by getting rid of check-in kiosks.
Technology is changing a lot about the way we travel, from how we book flights to how we board aircrafts. Now, Alaska Airlines has announced that it will be getting rid of its check-in kiosks at the airport.
In an April 18 press release, the carrier said the changes were part of its $2.5 billion investment toward improving the airport experience for travelers. Ultimately, the airline says its goal is to get travelers through the lobby and to security in five minutes or less.
"As we thought about how to provide the most caring experience for our guests, it was clear the lobby was a pain point," Charu Jain, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of innovation and merchandising, said in the release.
So far, the airline has already removed its kiosks at airports in Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas, Nevada; Indianapolis, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; Missoula, Montana; and Boise, Idaho, The Points Guy reports. In addition, the carrier said it would be phasing out the stations at its busiest destinations in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anchorage next before completing the changes company-wide by the end of the year.
Passengers will use their phones as boarding passes and check luggage at new stations.
After being the first airline to introduce check-in kiosks to the airport experience roughly 20 years ago, Alaska Airlines is now coincidentally the first to remove them. But the company says that travelers are now ready for the change, with three out of four passengers already showing up with a boarding pass ready to go thanks in part to its dedicated app.
"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," Jain said in the statement.
The company says the "dated" kiosks will be replaced with new iPad stations that will allow guests to pay for checked luggage and print bag tags. From there, passengers will take their luggage to an automated bag drop station, where they will scan their face, government-issued ID, and tags before their luggage is whisked away on a conveyor belt.
According to the statement, the airline says most airports will transition to the new bag tag system by the end of 2023. The carrier's hubs will transition to the new luggage drop configuration by spring next year.
Travelers will still have access to support staff in lobbies.
Despite the many changes that will automate the pre-flight process, travelers won't be without a helping human hand when they need one. The company says that the changes will allow airline staff to better assist anyone with an issue or question and ultimately speed up the process of getting to the gate.
"As part of this there's no plan to reduce any staffing. We want to make sure our agents are available to take care of our guests," Jain said, per USA Today. "As the airports are getting more congested, how do we improve the throughput through it? It's not cost driven, it's really reimagining the guest experience."
Alaska Airlines is experimenting with other time-saving features.
This isn't the only time recently when the carrier has announced changes in the name of efficiency. Last September, Alaska Airlines announced it was ending its at-home luggage tag printing amenity and experimenting with a new electronic bag tag.
The groundbreaking feature allows travelers to activate an e-paper screen using their phone when checking in 24 hours before their flight. As of January, the airline said it had extended the program to 2,500 "elite flyers" who are providing feedback to refine the process, Skift reports.
But will other carriers follow suit by ditching check-in kiosks? When reached for comment, a spokesperson for American Airlines directed Best Life to information on their existing kiosks, which offer an express bag-tag printing feature. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue Airways have yet to provide comment on any potential changes.