As a frequent traveler, I am always noticing shifts in the processes that get us from one airport to another, and all of the steps in between.
Usually 24 hours prior to the flight, you check yourself in via your smart phone and simultaneously receive a text or email with your electronic boarding pass. Next, if you have a bag, there is the self-check for baggage at an airline kiosk, facilitated by having your flight ID code handy. You type in this code and out pops your luggage tag. The desk attendant will check your id, take your bag, add your luggage tag and hand you back a baggage claim check.
Then, up to security you go, showing your electronic boarding pass and photo id. If you have completed the application for TSA( Transportation Safety Administration) Precheck ahead of time, sometimes weeks ahead of time, your boarding pass will indicate TSA Pre and you can enter what ought to be a much shorter line to go through the scanners. TSA precheck allows you to speed through security without removing your shoes light jackets, laptops and liquids. It costs $85 for a FIVE year TSA number!
(I highly recommend TSA Pre especially if you travel through hub airports like Chicago and LaGuardia. I virtually sail through the lines)
Then off to the gate. Here is where the fun really begins. As the gates are usually overflowing with passengers, the din from this population is often a low roar. Lately, though, it’s actually eerily quiet. What is behind this change? It’s the IPads!
A few years back, I went through LGA on Delta. Returning to Tampa I arrived at the Delta concourse and there were iPad everywhere and virtually no noise. IPad were installed at each seat at the restaurant/bar area so that patrons could order up their own meals, slide their credit card through the adjacent card reader and have their food and libation ordered and delivered seamlessly. No longer are there waiters/waitresses – rather simply food deliverers!
The iPad is useful in a variety of ways in addition to having your food prepared EXACTLY how you want it, given the number of options you can select from. Once you order, you are asked your flight number and the kitchen knows how much time pressure they are under! Inputting this information also serves to remind you that your flight time is near and that your flight is boarding. How wonderful to be able to attend to each person individually through this system.
Ipads are loaded with dozens of games and website portals. I have become quite adept at poker, having played many hands through the iPad game selection. I am not quite ready for Vegas, but after a few more flights through LGA I might be!
Truly, the implementation of technology at the airport demonstrates a stunning shift in how the consumer is put to work to complete tasks that used to be performed by humans/employees. It is no longer necessary to stand in line to obtain a boarding pass. It’s pretty simple to get a bag checked and receive a claim check, with limited human interaction. And you can order up a martini and a filet for an early dinner, prepared and presented to you with nearly no human interaction. It’s tough to estimate the staff reductions as a result of technology although I expect it’s a large reduction. The cost of providing these services to the traveling public has been shifted to you, the consumer, ever so subtlety. How much time and effort would you say you put in to get all of these steps accomplished? How much are you getting paid to do this work? Should you be?