They were the first to introduce them and and now they will soon be the first to have them removed. Alaska Airlines is on a push to have as many people check in online rather than have customers use kiosks at the airport.
The carrier plans to spend $2.5 billion over the next three years to outfit its hubs and focus airports to include new technology to potentially shorten check-in times. Their aim is to have passengers through its lobbies and on to security in less than five minutes.
More mobile app usage
The first step involves more promotion of its online and mobile options. They now prefer that passengers check in on their phone or desktop in order to generate an online boarding pass which can be scanned at the airport. The app or website can also be used to pay for checked bags so travelers don’t have to line up in a queue to pay at the airport.
Even though Alaska is a making a big deal about a push towards self check-in, it’s not really a big deal for those traveling with no bags or carry-on baggage only. The app/online check-in option has been out for quite some time, so if you’re accustomed to checking in that way, there’s nothing to report here.
Goodbye traditional airport kiosks. Hello baggage tag kiosks
If you used airport kiosks to check in, Alaska will soon take this ability away as it will replace all its traditional airport kiosks with baggage-only check-in kiosks. This means that if you’re traveling with no bags and have the option to check in online, they’ll direct you to using that option instead of doing so at the airport. So much for physical printed boarding passes.
Starting at the end of 2023, customers checking in baggage will be directed to new kiosks to print their bag tags. Assuming that all your details were already correctly entered during online check in, customers will only need to scan their mobile boarding pass and tag their bags once the sticky tags are printed. Those needing to pay for checked bags can still do so at the new kiosk.
Some of the first cities to see these new kiosks include Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Anchorage.
Initially customers will be required to have a gate agent physically take their bags, but the plan is to introduce more autonomous technology from Spring 2024 where the customers themselves will be responsible for having their bags scanned during drop off.
The idea is that after passenger print their luggage tags, they will then go to different machine to have their face, government ID and bags scanned automatically. From there, the machines will then forward your bags for loading. No humans necessary.
Limited number of physical agents will still be on stand by to assist
As technology evolves, we all have to get with the times, but there are going to be instances where some travelers may be less tech savvy or may not own a smartphone. Alaska will still have physical agents on stand by to offer the option of physically checking in, but I imagine the wait times may be long until they streamline as many passengers over to the online option.
Customers “should” ultimately benefit from shorter lines, even though I doubt you’ll save much time during the baggage drop off. I suspect that there may be longer wait times during the initial phases as customers may take some time getting used to the automatic bag scanners (assuming they work as expected). There will also be cases where some items may not pass automatic scanning, resulting in these passengers now having to go to a physical agent to check their bags in.
Alaska isn’t the only airline moving towards tech like this. United started trialing self drop off baggage machines back in 2022 at select airports.
Most of the efforts here seem to benefit Alaska as they ultimately won’t need to hire as much agents to man the lobbies. I’m a fan of new tech and given the introvert that I am, the quicker I can do things, the better. However I do hope they still offer proper support for those who have difficulty with these new changes.
[Featured Photo: Alaska Airlines]