Way back in the day, it was online booking. Next came check-in kiosks. Then, mobile boarding passes. Now it's airport avatars.
As ABC News columnist Rick Seaney recently asked, where have all the humans gone?
Tuesday's Wall Street Journal picks up on the trend of an airport void of human interaction. The Journal quotes Ben Minicucci, chief operating officer of Alaska Airlines saying, "Your first interaction could be with a flight attendant."
In May, the airline introduced self-tagging for baggage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Passengers print and attach their own luggage tags from a self-service kiosk, then show ID and drop off their bag(s) for security screening and loading. The service has expanded to the San Diego airport, with eight more airports expected to sign on this year.
Alaska isn't the only airline using self-tagging. American Airlines tested it at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and plans to roll it out at airports in more cities this year.
The practice of self-tagging is far more common abroad than in the U.S. Amsterdam, Dublin and Zurich, as well as come Canadian airports, offer the option. Stateside, the International Air Transport Association's Fast Travel program aims to offer self-service options for check-in, bags, document check, flight rebooking, self-boarding and bag recovery in at least 100 airports by 2012.
Seventy-five percent of passengers worldwide want more self-service options, the group estimates.
"Historically, the U.S. has always been a leader in self-service solutions," Stephan Copart, Fast Travel Project Manager at IATA, said on its website. "However, due to security reasons, self-tagging was an obstacle to overcome in order for the overall program to go live."
IATA projects the full outroll of Fast Travel will save the industry up to $2.1 billion annually.
Readers, what do you think? Are you in favor of a do-it-yourself airport from start to finish?