United announces plans to install 1,100 check-in kiosks

United Air Lines Inc. is following the lead of several competitors to help customers help themselves. The Chicago-based air carrier announced Thursday it would develop and install more than 1,100 self-service kiosks at airports during the next two years.

While it isn't the first company to install self-service check-in kiosks, this is the largest deployment to date, according to IBM Corp., which is supplying the kiosks. In addition, United will install 800 self-service check-in kiosks in 25 airports before the end of the year. The check-in kiosks will be for the use of passengers with electronic tickets.

Passengers can check in using a United Airlines Premier card or major credit card for identification. They will also be able to do the following things: have boarding passes issued, enabling them to proceed directly to the aircraft; print an electronic ticket receipt; view a graphical seat map and change seat assignments; request a seat upgrade; keep Mileage Plus accounts current; and check bags at designated kiosks.

IBM has also installed, or signed agreements to install, similar kiosks for several other airlines, including US Airways Group Inc., British Airways PLC, Air Canada as well as at airports including Ansett in Sydney, Australia, and Inchon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea.

The kiosks will use IBM PCs, touch screens, card readers and Airline Ticket Boarding (ATB)-2 printers. They will be driven by IBM's kiosk middleware product, Consumer Device Services (CDS) and NetCDS. The middle tiers will be implemented using IBM's Kiosk Transaction Server middleware.

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