The E-Check-In Revolution

Check-in keeps getting easier, as airlines worldwide are trying their level best to make it less of a hassle for you to get aboard your flight.
Mostly, they`re relying on cutting-edge technology. For all its troubles this year, Alaska Airlines is ahead of the pack in terms of novel ideas to make checking in quicker and easier for its passengers. Like many other carriers now (Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways among them), Alaska has ATM-like airport kiosks where you can purchase a ticket, print your own boarding pass, select a seat, log in your frequent flyer number, and check your baggage (dropping it on a nearby conveyor belt for loading onto the appropriate aircraft). Alaska and Northwest passengers with domestic e-tickets can also check in online right from their home or office computer and print out boarding passes on regular paper. British Airways is the first airline to begin online check-in and seat selection for international flights; the services are expected to be available system-wide by March. Also in the U.K., American Airlines will soon open “Park Avenue,” a totally separate check-in facility for its premium passengers flying out of London Heathrow. With its own canopied drive-up entrance, first- and business-class passengers can completely bypass the main check-in area and go straight to a comfortable lounge or departure gate. Back in the U.S.A., American Airlines has equipped roaming agents in several airports with Palm devices that can print out boarding passes, allowing passengers with carry-on baggage to avoid the check-in line and go immediately to the gate.
For its part, Delta has chosen to test a toll-free telephone check-in system for frequent flyers with e-tickets and carry-on baggage. One other check-in procedure has been automated by forward- thinking Alaska: It has scanned into its database the driver`s licenses of hundreds of its frequent fliers. When an agent swipes the barcode on the passenger`s boarding pass, the passenger`s photograph is retrieved. That`s one less document to fiddle with. So some things at the airport are improving, or at least getting faster.