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Self Boarding being Tested in Houston

Travelers who fly using cheap airplane tickets and/or cheap vacation packages often wish that the boarding process was easier.   Continental is testing having passengers board planes without an agent to inspect or take their boarding passes at its hub in Houston Intercontinental Airport. 

This is the first “self boarding” test in the U.S.

The process of self boarding a Continental plane is similar to that which riders of the New York subway experience.  Passengers simply swipe their boarding passes at a kiosk reader at the gate which then opens a turnstile or door to the jet bridge.  An agent is usually present to handle any problem or fill other customer service tasks.

Self boarding does not impact the security of the traveling public, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  All passengers are screened at airport security checkpoints before arriving at boarding gates.

Self boarding is only the most recent in a series of steps that airlines have taken to automate the boarding process.  Others include printing out boarding passes at home using computers, check in kiosks that print out boarding passes, and boarding pass barcodes being emailed to wireless devices.

14 airlines worldwide used self boarding gates in 2009, including Air France, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines and Korean Air.  Lufthansa started using “quick boarding gates” in 2003 and now all of its gates at Frankfurt and Munich are automated.

Lufthansa says that loading passengers via self boarding gates is a little faster than traditional gatesPsychology Articles, but the real reason for the shift is to free up their agents from the mindless task of scanning boarding passes.  This allows them to spend more time handling other customer issues that require individual attention such as seat upgrades. 

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