Airline Self-Service Takes Off

By Brian Curtis
|  Friday, Nov 5, 2010  |  Updated 11:10 PM CDT
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The airport kiosk is so yesterday. Airlines are launching a new wave of self-service features.

Brian Curtis, NBCDFW.com

The airport kiosk is so yesterday. Airlines are launching a new wave of self-service features.

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The airport kiosk is so yesterday.

Airlines are launching a new wave of self-service features for travelers.

"I think it's going to go as far as our digital lifestyle will take us," said Rick Seaney of Farecompare.com.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines is on the leading edge of the trend. The carrier will test letting passengers at Boston Logan International Airport tag their own checked luggage.

"They want to know that the tag is on," airline executive Monte Ford said. "They feel better about it when they tag it themselves."

American will also test self-boarding at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Passengers, not airline agents, will scan their boarding passes at the gate before walking down the jet bridge and onto the plane.

American is working with the Transportation Security Administration on both trial projects.

The airlines like self-service for a couple of reasons.

"It's very efficient for us, operationally," Ford said.

It also saves airlines money, Seaney said.

But travelers also seem to like self-service.

"It'll make it a whole lot easier, " flier Jay Ceitlin said.

In a recent survey by Swiss technology firm SITA, two-thirds of airline passengers said they wanted more self-service options.

"They want to touch as few people and touch points as possible," Seaney said.

But there may be limits to how many passengers will embrace self-service.

Traveler Veronica Ferro doesn't want airlines to go too far, but also knows it might be impossible to avoid the trend.

"I don't think I have a choice," she said.

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