National Consumer News

Airlines expand DIY processing at Atlanta airport


Kelly Yamanouchi – The Atlantic Journal-Constitution

Southwest’s ‘self-tagging’ kiosks at Hartsfield-Jackson propel trend.

Airlines are finding more ways to have their customers process themselves at the airport.

Carriers are getting closer to the day when you might make it all the way from curb to cabin while barely speaking to a single person.

Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, in July installed kiosks at the Atlanta airport that allow passengers to check in, print their own bag tags and slap the adhesive tags onto their luggage. The Dallas-based airline is rolling out the new kiosks around the country.

Having passengers tag their own bags means fewer tasks for Southwest employees to handle, and ideally, less time that passengers have to wait in line.

It also “frees up agents to do more of the customer value work, instead of the repetitive tagging of bags,” said Joe Licitra, vice president of airline sales in North America for SITA, an air transport technology firm with regional headquarters in Cobb County that makes the Southwest kiosks.

Passengers still walk up to the counter to hand their luggage to an employee to be weighed and checked, and the airline has agents in the kiosk area who can help customers with the devices. In fact, Southwest said it hasn’t reduced its number of customer service agents.

The airline started testing self-tagging kiosks at Dallas Love Field in 2014, before this year rolling out new kiosks made by SITA.

Grocery store self-check led the trend that has customers “wanting to self-serve” in many situations, said Southwest innovation team consultant Cindy Ritner.

“It’s an opportunity for them to be in a little more control of how they get through the airport,” Ritner said.

Regular kiosks are still available, as well as full-service counters for those who “really need end-to-end service,” Ritner said.

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