Continental Airlines Testing Self-Boarding In Houston

While it’s been used overseas for years, Continental Airlines has become the first airline to try out self-boarding — i.e., scanning your own boarding pass as you board a plane — at a U.S. airport.

The airline is currently testing out the process at one gate at Houston Intercontinental. Instead of handing your boarding pass to an airline staffer for scanning, passengers scan their own passes at a turnstile-like device. If the passenger has problems or wishes to have their pass scanned by a gate agent, the option will still be available.

The Transportation Safety Administration has “determined it does not impact the security of the traveling public” since passengers are already all screened at the security gates before arriving at the gate.

German airline Lufthansa has been using self-boarding at several gates in Europe since 2003. A rep for the airline says that while it has made boarding “a little faster,” it has mainly functioned to free gate agents to handle more pressing tasks than scanning barcodes.

Does this sound like something you’d prefer?

Continental tests ‘self-boarding’ at Houston airport [USA Today]

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  1. DarksSideMoon says:

    Seems like it’d be easier to sneak onto a different plane.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      You scan your boarding pass and it only opens the gate if you’re checked into that flight.

      • nbs2 says:

        Which would actually increase security, since sometimes people end up on the wrong plane because nobody notices the “error” beep (or the GA isn’t looking when the scanner is down. That was how almost ended up spending my freshman year of college Christmas break in San Juan instead of DC. Looking back, I shouldn’t have gotten off the plane.

      • DarksSideMoon says:

        But without anyone there watching it seems like it’d be easier to jump the gate or something.

        • Liam Kinkaid says:

          I think there’s still an agent working a manual line for people that can’t use self-board (like wheelchair customers, for instance). Plus, when they do the final count on the plane and it doesn’t match up with the number of boarding passes entered, I think they’d get caught pretty quick. I haven’t been in through a self-board gate yet, so I don’t know for sure.

        • drizzt380 says:

          These are probably full height turnstiles. There is no jumping over one. Unless your the Hulk.

  2. ConsumerPop says:

    You know how those self service automated machines at the post office always have a huge line, and no one knows how to use them but still stands on the line anyway? Yeah….

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      exactly what I was thinking

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Funny, those machines always have much shorter lines at the post offices I go to.

      • ConsumerPop says:

        Really? In NYC (especially during peak hours) the lines are always really long. I actually had a guy in front of me one time turn around and ask me to help him mail his letter. I don’t mind showing someone how to use it, but why don’t you just stand in line and wait if you have no idea how to use it??

        • qwickone says:

          Well he prob never had to ask someone again. Maybe the peak time isn’t the best time to learn though…

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        There’s NEVER anyone using them at the one I currently go to – but a line of 4-10 people waiting for a human.
        I think people are a lot slower in the area I live now. Not to sound rude – but everyone is just southern and old-fashioned and enjoy human interaction. And they don’t trust machines.

        I like it though, because that means I can be in and out of the post office in 2 minutes.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It reminds me of self-checkout at the grocery store. Inevitably, someone’s just going to have no idea what to do – granny knows to hand their piece of paper to the gate agent, but I doubt we can trust granny to know how to scan her own boarding pass.

      • ConsumerPop says:

        Or what about items that you have trouble scanning and it keeps giving you an error code. Please swipe again! Please swipe again!

  3. fs2k2isfun says:

    I’ve used them in Frankfurt, pretty easy, nothing to exciting. If you try and board a different flight, the turnstile doesn’t let you through and I believe it dings as well.

  4. nbs2 says:

    As long as the system will note what your boarding priority is and lock you out (perhaps with a nicely audible alert to the general public of a cheater in their midst), I’m all for it. Also, to raise the hackles of commenters, it should keep the non elites out of the elite line.

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      Absolutely! I propose an audible “embarrassment” alarm, along with a very mild electric shock (like when you walk across the carpet in socks) in order to aid with memory formation.

      • sonneillon says:

        I have been known to use mild electric shocks in… other areas. This might just encourage me.

    • ARP says:

      I’m all for it. People who jump their boarding priority number should be publicly shamed.

      Actually, I think the system should reset that passenger’s priority so that they can’t get on until after everyone else boards (or at least until after the last priority number). You jump line, you go to the back.

  5. econobiker says:

    And how about teaching people to lift the movable aisle side seat arms (when equipped) for easier entry and exit?

  6. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I think it’s kind of a waste of money, really. The people at the gate are usually super fast.
    Now a machine will slow all everything down because some people aren’t really good with anything “automatic”
    I’m thinking of Tampa or St.Pete/Clearwater airport. i’m usually the youngest person on my flights. There is no shortage of frail, elderly, confused people. I can’t imagine all of them standing inline trying to “figure out” the machine.

    • Muddie says:

      They will just re-define “Those customers that require special needs that are allowed to board first” as those that also can’t figure out how to scan a barcode.

      If this will help the airlines save some cash *and* they stop this nickel and diming of fees, I’d be the loudest supporter. Of course, I’m also the guy that uses the self-checkout registers every chance I can (and get in and out faster because of them), so I’m all over this self-service sector.

      • bastion72 says:

        You actually think they’ll drop the nickle and dime fees? This means that they can have one agent at the gate instead of two, therefore saving them $x that they can give to the CEO as a bonus and shaft the customers out of in flight snacks.

    • JMILLER says:

      People said the same thing about self service kiosks, Self service gas, and every other thing you do self service now. People adjust, and those older people eventually will be the 20-30 something swho only know the “new” way. Short term pain, for long term gain.

  7. quirkyrachel says:

    Sounds like self-checkouts at the supermarket where it’s slower due to lack info on how to properly use the machines. I mean, shoot, people in Chicago can’t figure out how to have their bus passes out and ready so that they can board the bus quickly. How the heck are people going to manage when they’re carrying bags, too?

    • ConsumerPop says:

      That gives me mental images of “Please Swipe Again” over and over again!! WHY WONT THIS PLANE ACEPT MY BOARDING PASS!!

  8. Narmical says:

    It already works on the subway and buses all over the country. Why would it not work here?

  9. pb5000 says:

    I’m on the fence, while I think it’s great and I’d have no problem using it myself, I can also picture a few people screwing up the line because they are idiots.

  10. AnonymousCoward says:

    I’ve used this on a couple of flights in other countries, and frankly, I didn’t notice that there was anything unusual until I read this article.

  11. Shadowman615 says:

    I wouldn’t mind, unless I had to get in line behind a bunch of old people who couldn’t figure out how to use the machine.

  12. Big Mama Pain says:

    NO NO NO NO! Who will be there to stop the assholes who try to bring huge luggage pieces as “carry on”??? It works a lot quicker if that gets nipped in the bud before reaching the plane.

    Also, how can scanning a pass, waiting for a turnstile to let you through, be faster? This isn’t a convenience for Continental customers, this is a cost cutting measure.

  13. tweeder82o says:

    the u.s. general public cannot, i repeat, cannot handle this feat of intelligence without any supervision from someone in uniform who may be less intelligent

  14. mikey_a says:

    I’ve gone through Lufthansa’s self-boarding turnstyles in Europe several times and found them to be… absolutely terrible. I’m very tech-positive, very do-it-yourself positive. But the self boarding process just doesn’t work. People are encumbered by all the things in their hands (luggage, kids, boarding pass, etc.). The scanners have trouble reading the bar codes, so the shortest line ends up being the slowest because of a scanner having trouble reading one boarding card. I can check myself out at the grocery store in no time flat, yet I couldn’t even make Lufty’s self-board scanners work for me.

    The agent spends the whole time trying to troubleshoot the machines and help out the confused, frustrated people. So, there ends up being no net benefit. The staffing still has to be there doing, essentially, the same thing they would have been doing, and people get pissed because the process is more complicated than it should be.

  15. sanjaysrik says:

    So, wait a second, when the plane is overbooked and you scan your boarding pass, and are told you’ve been bumped, do you yell at yourself?

    Of course, the waitresses in the sky will have even LESS to do.

  16. TVGenius says:

    If you wish to have your pass scanned by a gate agent, you can stand there and wait for an agent to walk down from six gates away.

  17. dg says:

    Sounds like a great way to print out a boarding pass with whatever name you want on it, and have someone else take your place on a plane… just like in the day of “transferrable” tickets…

    As soon as some terrorist type does this, that’ll be the end of it…

  18. menty666 says:

    I don’t need someone to hold my hand when I get on the ground based buses, why would I need someone there when I get on a flying one?

  19. evilpete says:

    Priority boarding for all ?