Alaska Airlines is testing a number of new technologies to enhance its airport passenger experience.
The airline is looking at modernising at all major airports it flies from. The trials are in a number of areas, including:
- self-service check-in
- self-service bag drop
San Jose’s Norman Y. Mineta International Airport is the epicentre of the trials by Alaska. The airport is a natural choice as many of its passengers work with the technology companies based in the area and are comfortable with new ideas.
The innovation here is the use of Apple iPad Pros. There are a number of these on tables for passengers to use. You can’t check-in on them though. To use them, passengers have to check-in beforehand. They are actually fancy bagtag printers.
Passengers check-in and pay for bags in advance. At the iPad, they scan their boarding pass and print any bagtags – just like a kiosk. They attach the bagtags themselves and then go to the bag drop.
Self-service bag drop
After self-tagging their bags, passengers then head for the self-service bag drop.
Again, they put their bags onto the kiosk and scan their boarding pass. The bag drop checks size and weight and, if all is correct, puts the bag into the airport baggage system.
Alaska is using biometric boarding for international departures from San Jose, mainly to Mexico.
Passengers who chose to use the facial recognition boarding can board without showing any documents. Their facial biometrics are captured at an earlier stage. At the gate, a high definition camera pictures them again and checks their biometrics against the previous details.
The airline says that using biometric boarding saves up to five seconds per passenger boarded.
More innovations on the way
Alaska says it passengers flying out of the San Jose Airport can try more innovation firsts in the coming months. That surely will include more biometrics to replace the boarding pass in the process.
The airline has often led the way in testing new technologies. For example:
- 2007 – the first U.S. airline to introduce self-service check-in kiosks.
- 2016 – trialled electronic bagtags.
- 2014 – introduced home printed bagtags.
The airline is the sixth largest in the U.S. and carried over 46 million passengers in 2019 (before COVID).
Technology at San Jose Airport
San Jose Airport has also trialled various technologies.
- Earlier this month San Jose did a trial of an autonomous wheelchair for passenger use.
- In 2017 it opened a robot playground.
- In 2016 it trialled robot customer service agents.
N.B. All images: Alaska Airlines