Anyone who harbors a fear of accidentally getting on the wrong flight might cringe at this news. So-called “self-boarding” airport entrances, which let flyers board a plane without an agent checking tickets, have touched down at the Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH), where Continental will test the system.
Similar to public transit entrances, the gates let passengers swipe or scan tickets before walking through a turnstile onto the jet-bridge. Although 14 international airlines already use self-boarding entrances, including Air France, Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Lufthansa (which implemented them as early as 2003), Continental’s experiment is the first stateside go at the machines.
Because all passengers pass through security before boarding flights, the Transportation Security Administration determined that the turnstile entrances don’t pose any safety issues. The move also requires one major switch should more airlines migrate to automated boarding: The machines use the more complex two-dimensional bar codes, which contain even more passenger information than traditional codes and magnetic strips.
Although some flyers might ruffle at the idea of unmanned boarding (and info-packed barcodes), this ultimately seems like a smooth move for carriers. Planes are more overbooked than ever, and automated ticketing frees flight attendants to take care of what really matters to passengers – like sifting through standby lists and rerouting when take-offs are delayed.
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