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Delta undergoes automated boarding trials

July 6th, 2012

Kinny Cheng

The StarTribune reports:

“Delta Air Lines recently tested a self-service turnstile that lets fliers scan their own boarding passes. If implemented, the device could make it possible to bypass all interaction with airline employees, from the time travelers enter the airport until they’re on the plane.”

Could, being the operative word here…

The opportunities to create greater efficiencies in pre-boarding are most certainly there. Clunky processes, along the infamous security checks experience, are areas that can be improved upon, to possibly further improve the passenger experience.

But two things come straight to mind: the market in which the trial is being taken out; and the device being used to facilitate the automation.

Anyone who flies outside the US, and have also experienced “the US way”, will know just how horrendous the process of getting on a flight can be. Attempts at streamlining can prove difficult where cultural dynamics play a role in drowning positive developments.

“Some airlines that have tried the machines say they free staffers to assist customers with pressing problems. But unions representing airline workers see nothing more than a cost-saving measure.”

This is just one example of how counter-intuitive efforts can hamper developments and possible innovation.

“Delta has tested the device in Atlanta and Las Vegas, with agents on hand to help passengers if necessary. Delta has no plans to expand the test to other airports, said spokesman Morgan Durrant, who declined to discuss customer feedback or other details of the test.

Officials at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas said Delta’s test was positive. The airport plans to make 14 gates with self-boarding machines available to interested airlines by the end of summer, but did not disclose which airlines will be using the gates.”

Many uncertainties, but at least things are moving forward in the right direction!

And the use of the word “turnstile” in both the title and introductory paragraph — why is that, when (subsequently in the article) it later refers to Kaba’s self-boarding gate product as:

“The German manufacturer behind the airport’s self-boarding gates…”

As far as I’m concerned, this is not a turnstile:

Kaba’s self-boarding gate, being used by Lufthansa

Kaba’s self-boarding gate, being used by Lufthansa (source: Kaba)

I can’t imagine a real turnstile being used at an airport to board a flight. Not only will each boarding process get progressively ugly, but also create unnecessary chaos for the broad range of passengers — from the elderly and immobile, to those with carry-on baggage of different shapes and sizes.

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