The airline industry has changed dramatically since I began flying more than three decades ago. It has become increasingly self-service with the advent of booking tickets online, printing our own boarding passes and even tagging our own bags.
Delta Air Lines is the latest U.S. carrier to test the next self-service function likely to spread in the years to come — automated boarding turnstiles at departure gates. It allows passengers to scan their own boarding passes and proceed down the jetway onto the aircraft without interacting with an airline employee. Delta tested the machines recently in Atlanta and Las Vegas.
The former Continental Airlines, now merged with United , also began testing similar equipment at its hub at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport in previous years. And Lufthansa has been actively using self-service boarding gates for years at airports across Europe.
Delta currently has no plans to expand on the test at this time, company spokesman Morgan Durrant told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The airline declined to discuss details of the test, or the feedback received from customers using the machines, according to the report.
I've used the machines, when flying with Lufthansa in Europe, and I absolutely love them. With a scan of my boarding pass at the waist-high machine, a barrier retracted into the unit and I could walk right through. I'm a highly tech-savvy traveler and prefer to use automated systems to handle almost every aspect of my experience from booking tickets to scanning my own passport when checking in for an international flight. But will they catch on with everyone?
The machines aren't anything new, really. Similar self-service devices are already in use at train stations and subways all across the U.S. You slide your ticket into a slot, and pass through a turnstile-like gate for entry to the platform. But air travel isn't as commonplace for everyone, so it might take some time for the infrequent flier to get used to the automated change.
While the machines are expensive — Lufthansa reportedly paid between $19,500 to $26,000 for each unit — airlines could possibly benefit from reduced staffing levels and other efficiencies.
Tell us what you think. Would you enjoy self-boarding or do you see it as air travel becoming even less personal?