Self-Service Airports Of The Future?: Avoid Airline Employees Until You're Actually On The Plane

Sometimes you’re grumpy, sometimes you’re tired or sometimes you just don’t want to have to talk to anyone at the airport. If you’re all about avoiding human interaction at the airport, prepare to be excited for the future, where there will likely be a lot less facetime as many airlines are trying out new self-service bag tagging kiosks and automated boarding systems.

Alaska Airlines is all about this new kind of humanless system, wherein “your first interaction could be with a flight attendant,” explains the airline’s chief operating officer when talking to the Wall Street Journal. Alaska Airlines uses self-tagging of baggage in Seattle and San Diego already and is planning on expanding to eight more airports soon.

American Airlines is also heading in an automated direction, with baggage kiosks in many cities, while JetBlue is the first U.S. airline to officially start using self-boarding gates. Of course, there are always snags where a machine won’t accept a boarding pass or print the right bag tag, which is when airline employees would step in.

Critics of the self-service system include the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which says airlines want to use this automation to get rid of humans altogether and cut costs.

“Clearly it’s not something passengers are clamoring for,” said a spokesman. “More technology, fewer people? I don’t think so.”

Well… maybe think again: A recent survey cited by the WSJ found that self-boarding would be pretty much awesome for 70% of passengers, and almost as many travelers would be in favor of self-tagging.

As one passenger interviewed by the WSJ notes however, a machine isn’t going to tell you to have a good flight — unless it’s programmed to of course. But that might be okay with any number of grump travelers seeking to avoid any human interaction. Another step in the domination of the world by machines, or an efficient way to fly?

The Self-Service Airport [Wall Street Journal]