Transport Airlines

Miami airport to test self-boarding and considers kiosks in customs, too

@denschaal

Jun 20, 2013 3:00 am

Skift Take

Some skeptics believe that passenger self-boarding will be slow to get adoption across U.S. airports because of security concerns. Self-service kiosks in customs face similar hurdles, and have much greater potential to really benefit airline passengers.

— Dennis Schaal

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Miami International Airport intends to test passenger self-boarding, and cynics might say that the prime benefit to passengers would be not having to deal with sometimes-grumpy airline gate agents.

In theory, the boarding process also could be speedier, with reduced delays and better passenger flow, once all the kinks are worked out.

Maurice Jenkins, the airport’s director of information systems and telecommunications, says the airport already has already procured the necessary equipment for self-boarding, and that the test will be “upcoming,” although he declined to specify a date.

The test would come as the airport has carried out a $6.4 billion capital improvement program, and signed a seven-year deal with SITA to provide the behind-the-scenes technology to power the self-boarding technology. Jenkins’ comments came at SITA’s airline IT conference today near Brussels.

Several U.S. carriers, including Delta Air Lines, and 17 Asia and European airlines are testing self-boarding, the StarTribune reports.

Miami airport, if it secures the necessary regulatory approvals, could take a novel approach as Jenkins says the airport may try to pilot self-boarding with several airlines, taking a “gate by gate or concourse by concourse” approach.

While passenger self-boarding could help airlines with staffing and other efficiency issues, another feature that Miami airport is considering — self-service kiosks in customs — could have a much more far-reaching passenger benefit.

Jenkins noted that Miami airport, which handles nearly 40 million passengers annually and considers itself the “gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean,” suffers at times from a several-hour wait to navigate customs, and kiosks could help streamline the process.

Both the passenger self-boarding and kiosks in customs ideas, however, face significant regulatory hurdles because the airport and airlines will have to satisfy security concerns.

On the security front, Jenkins said legal authorities need to crack down on travelers and others who cause security issues. He couldn’t recall the airport, but recounted an incident where a traveler phoned in a bomb threat because the traveler was late for a flight and hoped the incident would delay the flight’s takeoff.

Authorities need to increase awareness that “oh by the way, when you do certain things [to harm security], the repercussions can be phoneomenal,” Jenkins said.

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