Self-Boarding in Houston? Weird.

Another day, another interesting travel story.

According to MSNBC Travel, Continental is going to start using “self-boarding” at some gates in Houston as a type of pilot program. The way it works is that there is a type of turnstile at the gate  that can read your ticket and then open and let you through to the jetbridge.  I’m envisioning something like what the MTA uses for the NYC subways, although who knows what it will look like. Honestly, it sounds totally fine to me. I’m not worried about security–the checkpoints won’t change. I’m not that concerned about the technology working–I’m sure there will be a gate agent nearby to assist with any issues. Do I think the airlines will see a substantial cost savings that they will then pass on to their customers by getting rid of the ticket agent at the door? Uh no.  The article says that this will help people board faster, but I don’t see how. One thing that could be a problem–what about when they are boarding the priority passengers and that one guy who’s not listening and is in group 6 tries to board? Maybe the turnstile just won’t open?

My interest in this article doesn’t really come from the substance. I am actually very interested to see how this experiment turns out.  What I found really interesting were the insane quotes used. First, the “against” side:

Isaac Yeffet, former director of security for El Al Airlines, thinks self-boarding is a bad idea. “It’s not a secret that the United States of America is the biggest target for terrorist organizations, especially al-Qaida,” Yeffet told msnbc.

“Instead of moving forward in security … we prefer to go backward” because we don’t want to inconvenience passengers, Yeffet said, adding that airline security is “an illusion.”

First of all, you still have to go through airport security. That doesn’t change. Self-boarding has nothing whatsoever to do with security.  Airline security is an illusion? Target for terrorists? Way to be scary but not add anything to the dialogue. Do you really think the person scanning your ticket is looking at your name? And the “pro” side quote isn’t any better.

“It’s a great idea,” aviation analyst Michael Boyd told USA Today. “Any reduction in human contact between employee and customer is good these days.”

“As long as you have someone to tell grandma where to stick the paper,” he added, “you’re fine.”

I think this guy is crazy. Either that, or it’s an incomplete quote. Who really thinks that a reduction in human to customer contact is a good thing? Has he never been stuck in automated system hell when he’s called the phone company?

What do you guys think about this? The self boarding, or the ridiculous quotes?


  1. Hopefully, it will be similar to the self check-in kiosks and there will be an agent around to make sure that there are no problem!

  2. If they have to have someone there to “tell grandma where to stick the paper” isn’t that the same as having someone doing the boarding?? I don’t understand.

  3. SAS were doing this for Eurobonus card holders at Oslo at least 5 years ago. At boarding time, you swipe your EB card through, it puts a seat reminder on the screen, and it lets you through. It seemed to get the EB customers through quickly.

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