Self-service is in at airport check-in.
To shorten lines at airline check-in counters, major U.S. carriers are rolling out hundreds of do-it-yourself check-in machines in preparation for summer travel.
The stand-alone machines let a traveler confirm a flight, choose a seat and print a boarding pass in about one minute.
Many also enable fliers to apply for upgrades, record frequent flier miles, check in luggage and make changes to flights. Eventually, fliers will be able to get refunds and even purchase items such as headsets to hear onboard movies.
Self-service machines aren't new. Pacific Southwest Airlines installed the first self-ticketing terminals in the 1980s, and Continental Airlines rolled out the first e-ticket check-in machines in 1995. But technology and functionality have improved, and airlines are rapidly stepping up installation of the machines to reduce airport waiting times.
"Even though carriers aren't in the best financial shape, after 9/11 we're finding airlines are really increasing the penetration of these machines. We've been surprised by the number of orders that have come in," says David Melnik, CEO of Kinetics USA (www.kineticsusa.com), which makes the machines for six major U.S. carriers and is working with two others to install them this summer.
IBM and Sita are also suppliers.