AA passengers will soon be able to get out of line and get boarding passes printed, flights rebooked and other services from gate agents.
Some passengers at major American Airlines hubs will soon be able to check in without stopping at a ticket counter or an airport kiosk.
The Fort Worth-based airline is arming gate agents with mobile devices, allowing them to help passengers anywhere in the airport. Agents will even be able to print boarding passes and luggage tags from portable printers they will carry on a shoulder strap.
"She just got my record locator number, keyed it in and checked my bag, and good to go," he said.
He never had to stand in line. The ticket agent met him in the terminal before he ever reached the counter.
American calls the program YADA, for Your Assistance Delivered Anywhere. Agents equipped with the devices can also rebook passengers on a different flight and dispense up-to-the-minute gate information to passengers as they come off one flight and try to connect to another.
"We really want these YADA devices to meet customer needs and customer concerns right where they are, as they are going through the terminal and not necessarily asking them to go stand in line," AA spokeswoman Stacey Frantz said.
In testing, the airline has already seen situations where the devices significantly shorten lines and help speed the check-in process especially during rough weather situations, Frantz said.
For years, airlines have been behind their own customers when it comes to mobile technology. More passengers carry smart phones that allow them to check flight times and even book tickets. But until now, gate agents have been tied to a desk and a computer.
The mobile devices will also help the airline close a loophole that allows some passengers to avoid paying baggage fees. Gate agents will be able to charge credit cards at the gate if passengers try to sneak through with a bag that's too big for the overhead bin.
Outside of DFW, the airline is currently using the devices in Albuquerque; Boston; Chicago; New York, both JFK and LaGuardia, Miami; St. Louis; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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