US Air Installs Kiosks for E-Ticketed Customers

Shuttle flyers on US Airways Inc.'s busy Northeast routes were greeted by new self-service kiosks Thursday, which will allow them to purchase tickets, check baggage and receive boarding passes without having to wait in line for an attendant to do the work.

The airline placed 13 kiosks at Boston's Logan International Airport and 17 machines at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. Another 16 kiosks will be installed at New York's LaGuardia Airport before year's end.

IBM Corp. manufactured the machines, which will allow passengers to purchase same-day tickets aboard US Air flights and enable passengers with electronic tickets to check-in for flights.

Kiosks have become increasingly common at major airports over the last several years as national carriers seek ways to leverage technology to reduce terminal lines.

United Air Lines Inc. has been testing self-service systems in San Diego and Aspen.

Al Lenza, vice president for distribution planning at Northwest Airlines Inc., said at a travel conference last month in Orlando that his company processed 4 million customers through kiosks last year.

In addition, Northwest this month will unveil Internet check-in for non-luggage customers on all of its flights. Lenza added that employees will start "busting lines" by going into the waiting lines to check in passengers using handheld devices similar to those used by rental car companies.

Delta Air Lines Inc. already operates self-service kiosks along its Northeastern corridor and plans to test a new smart card check-in system in Jacksonville beginning next year.

Krista Pappas, director of travel analysis for Gomez Advisors Inc. of Lincoln, Mass., said the airlines will need to do a better job of making their customers aware of the new technology and teaching those customers how to use it.

Pappas said many customers currently bypass such machines because they either don't have the proper identification card to activate the machine or they don't understand how the machines work.

She also worried that such machines would add to the already formidable number of plastic cards business travelers carry in their wallets, but guessed that wireless technologies like IBM's Blue Tooth will bypass the need for travelers to use anything other than a handheld device to perform these sorts of check-ins in the future.

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