I’m going to make a prediction at the outset: Alaska Airlines will ultimately restore check-in kiosks to its airport lobbies when it finds that many people persistently wish to check in at the airport.
Alaska Airlines Will Eliminate Check-in Kiosks As Part of Plan To Streamline Airport Check-In Process
Alaska says it wants to create a more “seamless travel experience” that will eliminate long lines at airports. The goal will be to get you through the airport lobby and to the security checkpoint in five minutes or less. To do so, it will eliminate traditional check-in kiosks, and install new self-tagging kiosks for checked baggage. Per Alaska, 3 out of 4 guests already arrive to airports checked in with their boarding pass(es) on their smart phones. The goal is for 90% of guests to arrive at the airports with boarding passes on their smart phones.
This experiment will first launch at Alaska hubs and focus cities, including:
- Anchorage (ANC)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Portland (PDX)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
By late 2024, Alaska plans to introduce facial ID recognition which will streamline the process even further.
My Prediction: This Will Not End Well For Alaska
I admire the boldness of Alaska Airlines’ plan. But I also note that people are creatures of habit. Furthermore, I know I am not the only one who checks in online (so I am part of the 75%), but virtually always stops at a kiosk to collect a paper boarding anyway. That’s not to be wasteful, but because sometimes phones malfunction or there are gate agent shenanigans. Having a physical boarding pass is tantamount to an insurance policy.
What I don’t understand is why not create a kiosk that quickly prints baggage tags, but also allows for check-in or the printing of boarding passes? Would that really destroy the new efficiency model?
Alaska says that its full-service agents will still be available at the counter for those who wish to check-in the old way, but like One Mile At A Time I wonder how long these lines will get?
Sure, Alaska is attempting to modify people’s behavior and it may well work (after all, everyone seems to have a smart phone these days), but I already see long lines every time I walk by the full-service Alaska counter at LAX. Does Alaska really think that line will diminish when check-in kiosks are eliminated? I am not convinced.
Alaska Airlines is removing check-in kiosks in favor of a new generation of kiosks that simply prints baggage tags. The Seattle-based airline hopes that more passengers, nearly 90% to be exact, will arrive at the airport with a boarding pass already on their phone. While I admire the aim of making the check-in lobby experience more efficient, I question whether Alaska will actually improve the process by eliminating check-in kiosks.
Do you still print boarding passes or use check-in kiosks at airports or is it all done on your smart phone?
image: Alaska Airlines
Taking a screen shot of your boarding pass serves most of the same purposes as having a paper boarding pass (not dependent on cellular data or wifi to display the boarding pass, evidence in case of gate shenanigans)
If there are lines in the ticket lobby, that’s the penalty for not checking in electronically before arriving at the airport.
I’m not sure that I like the universality of facial recognition, but it appears that DHS has already put that in place without most of us noticing. I recall hearing boarding announcements before boarding an international flight last year stating that facial recognition was being used to board our flight and that we could opt out. When I said to the boarding agent that I wanted to opt out, she told me that my identity had already been verified and I was free to board.
That screenshot will do you no good if your phone display breaks or your phone runs out of battery or if there is a mobile scanner outage.
Ryanair already trained people to do this years ago in Europe, because they charge you to print a boarding pass at the airport. Here the penalty will be having to wait in line for an agent. People will adapt.
difference being Alaska is not an ULCC like RyanAir….rip Virgin America
Great for Europeans who “Do Not Expect Any Type of Customer Service” from bargain airlines (Ryanair, Wizz) nor from legacy carriers (I’m pointing at you BA) nor from EuroStar (what a dump). And don’t look to the Kangaroo as a role model. It’s a national disgrace.
In America, we expect a certain level of Customer Service. If not, we have a tendency to take our money else where. Even Spirit (which has been kicked around on this web site harder than a soccer ball) has full service kiosks.
The ever growing indignity of airline travel….
I don’t think anywhere in the world, full service carriers offer less than in the US. European low costs are clear about what they offer, far more clear than American, United or Delta.
Not too sure about that. Tried to get hold of Virgin Atlantic on behalf of an elderly couple. Absolutely no way to “talk” to anyone. Kept handing us off to pre-recorded messages. When they hit the 24 hr mark prior to departure, they received separate VA and DL confirmation numbers. A call to DL with the DL confirmation number resolved the issue in 10 minutes.
Recommended to the couple to purchase their tickets directly with DL in the future. Elderly gentleman was in full agreement!!
This is true, but as others have noted, Ryanair is a fairly different type of airline. If AS wants to start a model of offering $15 seat-only fares for 3 hour flights, they can start restricting airport BPs like Ryanair. (Not all of Ryanair’s fares are that cheap, but it’s not uncommon at all.)
Ryanair also allows check-in up to 30 days in advance under certain fare families. Besides the fact that it’s a bit crazy, it does allow passengers an additional avenue (and huge window) to check in at their leisure. Some European holiday makers even check in for their return flight, before even departing their home country!
Key point on Ryanair’s extended 30-day check-in.
This is an inherit bias against the elderly!!
Many still carry flip phones for convenience or rely on others to load boarding passes on their smart phone. If an elderly couple are on the return portion of a trip, Alaska won’t be around to help with the ticket process nor luggage.
In the later years of his life, my father’s patience grew thin. If he would have encountered such a situation with Alaska, he would have walked across the terminal and bought a set of tickets for him and Mom at Delta (home town favorite) while cussing under his breath.
Cool story bro. Sounds like his problem
Totally agreed. I fly Alaska a ton. I check in online but always print a boarding pass at the kiosk. And I don’t care what anybody says, using your phone is a pain in the ass. And for those that say it isn’t….Standing behind you in the security and boarding lines while you mishandle your phone and it doesn’t scan would seem offer a different story, This a terrible idea. Moreover, Alaska has been cutting costs in all the wrong places for way too long. I have been gold or higher for 20 years in a row, and I won’t fly them transcon any more because the first class inflight amenities are just awful vs. AA flagship for the same price. Or even United with a lie flat seat (and crappy food) is better. Yo7 can’t even get a pillow for your back. No thanks!
Penny wise, pound foolish.
I’m sure there’s some associated costs to maintain the machines, but they’re already installed and working.
The should have kept a small percentage in the airport next to the newer bag tag machines in case there is a need.
Now everyone who needs a BP or some change that the kiosk could have done will need to wait for an agent.
This move is r word worthy
I will continue to use the premium check-in counters to get a printed boarding pass and have my bags tagged by an agent. I am sorry but it is really not asking too much to expect a full service airline to offer some kinds of service. I always get a printed boarding pass even at gates. You never know what will happen!
Carfield! My God! You’re alive! Miss your premium flight reviews.
I do too, but he’s on Twitter!
There seem to be two arguments against this:
1. I’m old: It sucks that you don’t have a smartphone and don’t use mobile apps. If you can’t DL an app, you were probably going to the counter anyway, so I don’t see any changes.
2. I like a paper BP: Fine. You can still have one, but it’ll take a little longer to get one. I had a friend in college that preferred a check instead of direct deposit from his employer. They obliged, and he had to drive to the bank every Friday. If you elect to use an old technology, you may have to pay a penalty. On AS, your penalty is time, on Ryanair it’s money. I’ve probably taken 1,000 flights using a mobile BP and I can’t recall a single time I encountered a problem that would have been mitigated had I been in possession of a paper BP.
AA got rid of the in terminal kiosks a while back. There’s clearly a cost to operating them. AS, as usual, is just ahead of the curve.
Interesting point about AA but it’s kind of a slap in the face to the elderly who will experience longer wait times but could have handled the kiosks. I see elderly every time I fly. They are part of the business. It’s hard enough for them to be on their feet and now they need to wait longer.
Not everyone had adopted the technology of today, and with good reason. A good friend of mine is almost 70 and her voicemail message is “leave me a message on my brand new smartphone, and yes, I’m one of them now”.
As someone who has often felt that they were an old soul and born in the wrong generation of technology, I respect peoples wishes not to adopt if they so choose. I wonder what Branson would say. He disapproved of the merger so I’d be interested to hear his opinion.
I think if you want people to adopt mobile then figure out a better way-include incentive, free points, free drink or whatever. Marketing seems somewhat dry for many airlines and/or it’s just not reaching me.
Plus take IRROPS. You have people needing to be rebooked but people who also just need a boarding pass they could have got at a kiosk?
Yes, I know you can go through security without your boarding pass at many airports and get one at the gate (could also be a long wait) but again, to marketing, these things need to be communicated and encouraged to the public for adoption to even have a chance at occurring.
And while I haven’t seen AS mobile app functionality personally, it wouldn’t be LALF if we didn’t give props to United for theirs which was certainly ahead of the curve, if we are talking curves.
I guess I struggle to see what’s really changing — so check in kiosks will be replaced with bag-tagging kiosks?
I would love to see an airline re-think the whole check in process by taking advantage of mobile technology. How about instead of machines, a dedicated agent with a tablet who can efficiently process and print bag tags in the kiosk area and take the process away from the “counter/desk” setting.
Matthew can you elaborate on instance of ‘shenanigans’ here or in a future post? First or reliable second hand instances?
Personal experience, though on United, not Alaska.
A lot of older folks do not get how to use all features on a smart phone, myself included. Not having kiosks would be frustrating and add to the already long lines trying to get thru TSA by having to wait in a line to get help from an agent. More and more travel is a nerve racking experience already so why make it more so.
I’m more inclined to think that digitization will benefit the airline, as paper tickets, for example, can also be lost or damaged, while electronic check-in methods will significantly speed up the boarding process.