If you’ve flown through major international hubs outside the United States in the last decade, you’ve probably noticed that some airlines offer self-service turnstiles at the gates. Passengers either slide their magnetic-stripe boarding pass or swipe their barcoded passes over the scanner. The turnstile opens, and off you go. And now, Continental is bringing the concept to Houston, where it’s testing a single self-service gate.
The image above shows a Lufthansa self-serve gate — the German airline has been doing this since 2003. 13 other airlines in Europe and Asia do this as well.
You may be thinking, “How will this ever meet the often-arbitrary standards of the TSA?” Well…:
The Transportation Security Administration, which is in charge of air security, “determined it does not impact the security of the traveling public,” says Greg Soule, a TSA spokesman, adding all passengers are screened at airport checkpoints prior to arriving at boarding gates.
With self-service, you’ll also be more likely to sneak an extra or oversized carry-on. Just sayin’.
The self-service option won’t be the only way to board. Customers who can’t (or won’t) use self-service can typically hand their boarding pass to a human being, as before.
Lufthansa spokesman Martin Riecken says while loading customers at self-boarding gates is “a little faster” than traditional gates, the airline’s primary goal was to free agents from the mundane task of scanning boarding passes. It frees them to handle other customer issues that require individual attention, such as upgrading seats, he says. The number of agents assigned to automated gates isn’t different from other gates: one or two agents for short-haul flights, three or four for longer ones, he says.
I’ve used these gates at Munich and Frankfurt; they’re loveless but efficient. I don’t mind the self-service option, since the taking of boarding passes isn’t really a deep, meaningful interpersonal interaction that I am going to miss. But I realize that others might feel different.
I’ll look forward to hearing the details of how Continental will change their boarding process at the gate. For example, what does this do to zones? Better enforcement of the zone, or the opposite? And if you add a self-service line, though, that makes it harder to leave room for red carpeted (or in Continental’s case, blue-carpeted) lines for early elite boarding.
Thoughts? Is this something you’d want to use, or something to avoid? Hit the comments.