Alaska Airlines has partnered with San Jose International Airport (SJC) in California to set up a technology incubator in Silicon Valley.
The incubator will test new technology for its ability to advance the way people travel. The team intends to modernize several aspects of travel, ranging from lobby design to biometric boarding. Currently, the airline is testing a new check-in and self-bag-drop system that has been designed to streamline the check-in process, reduce confusion and decrease the time needed for passengers to drop off their baggage.
The partners have set up tabletops with Apple iPad Pros that scan passengers’ boarding passes and print bag tags. Customer service agents are also equipped with iPad Minis to assist travelers at Alaska touchpoints if needed. To use the tablets, guests need to use the airline’s mobile app or website to check in for their flights and pay for their bags before arriving at the airport. People usually spend an average of eight minutes in the lobby; the enhancements are intended to cut that time in half and give travelers more opportunities to bypass congested areas.
The airport has also implemented facial recognition to speed up the boarding process for international flights. Rather than looking for their passports and boarding passes to hand over to an agent at the gate, passengers who choose to board using facial recognition can get on the flight without having to exchange their documents with an agent. On average, the use of biometrics during the boarding process has been found to save travelers up to five seconds.
Charu Jain, senior vice president of merchandising and innovation at Alaska Airlines, said, “We’re thrilled to give our guests more choices that will enrich their travel experience. Our bag-drop system powered by iPad is just the beginning. If you’re looking for the quickest way to get from the lobby to your gate, we recommend checking in for your flight on our mobile app or online before arriving at the airport. While on the app or website, you can check in, pay for any checked luggage and pre-order your favorite meal for your flight. Additionally, boarding with biometric technology uses facial recognition to verify identity and shorten security procedures for those passengers who opt in to the programs.”
“I am excited to shape the future of the industry with our new tech,” said Sam Frost, lead customer service agent at SJC. “It will ultimately make our guests feel more in control of their journey and align our guest experience with the retail spaces of leaders in the tech industry like Apple and Microsoft.”
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, said, “Alaska Airlines’ use of emerging technology to enhance and streamline the passenger experience at San Jose Mineta International will provide more seamless transit of flyers coming to SJC – and create a more welcoming gateway to San Jose.”