Alaska Airlines has completely revolutionized the airline industry, and it’s gotten virtually no credit for it. First to sell tickets online. First to allow check-in online. Now, the WSJ looks at how Alaska Airlines has changed the entire check-in process at Anchorage’s airport. In short, there are no check-in counters (they’re also building a new terminal in Seattle with a similar layout). Passengers either proceed to a kiosk to check in or to a bag drop area once they have a boarding pass. At the bag drop area, they put their own bag on the conveyor, while a staff member handles two lines of people checking in at once. In short — the whole system is self service, though staff are around to help you if you have questions. The airline says that costs have been cut by half from a traditional ticket counter, and that check in times have dropped significantly.
The key piece of this is that customers don’t feel abandoned (which is often the case when there’s a huge line at a ticket counter or, as other airlines have done, hidden all staff members away when you have a question). Self service does not mean no customer service — nice job.