December 14, 2004

Airline Boarding Passes at Hotels

By next summer, some Northwest Airlines' passengers staying at Hilton Hotels will be able to print their boarding passes at a self-service terminal as they check out and head to the airport.

That's one initiative Eagan-based Northwest has planned for expanding its customers' electronic check-in options.

"We are working with Hilton to have the Hilton kiosks spit out Northwest boarding passes,'' said Al Lenza, vice president of distribution and e-commerce. "It will not happen until the second quarter next year, though."

Northwest would not provide specifics about the extent of the initiative or details of its arrangement with Hilton.

Worldwide, there are more than 500 Hiltons, the flagship brand of Hilton Hotels Corp. The firm's other brands include Doubletree, Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn.

Northwest has several other enhancements in the works or in mind - for its self-service check-in terminals.

They already check in and rebook passengers for flights and help them with many other tasks and services.

Before long, travelers also will be using Northwest terminals to check in for connecting flights on more of the airline's alliance partners, including Aeromxico, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, and Korean Air.

Under development are plans to have the terminals permit one person to check in a large family or entire group. Northwest is mulling setting up the terminals to take orders and payments for in-flight meals.

"We want them (the terminals) to be able to do 100 percent of what an agent can do," said Lenza. "And we want them to be completely intuitive."

Last month, a record 80.1 percent of Northwest e-ticketed passengers that's just about everyone checked in for their flights via one of the airline's self-service terminals or Northwest's Web site. On the Web, they can do virtually everything they can do at a terminal.

Northwest now has 1,015 self-service kiosks in 208 airports, including 10 in Asia, up from 753 kiosks in 188 stations 14 months ago.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has 125 kiosks, many deployed in banks where a Northwest employee stands by to accept checked bags.

Airline kiosks can pay for themselves within 60 to 90 days, primarily through reduced labor costs, said Jim Brown, spokesman for Orlando, Fla.-based Kinetics Inc., which supplies Northwest with kiosks.

Kiosks can cost about $10,000-$20,000 each to deploy, counting everything from wiring to programming to the kiosk itself.

Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt estimates that a self-service terminal check-in costs an airline about 16 cents per passenger, compared with $3.68 for one involving an agent.

A Forrester survey of consumers indicates that 54 percent of airline passengers have used an airport kiosk to check in for a flight at least once this year. Meanwhile, 55 percent have used the Internet to check in, Forrester estimates.

The rates are almost double what they were in 2003, said Harteveldt.

Northwest's higher than average rate of electronic check-ins reflects its early adoption of self-service terminals and use of them, starting in 2002, for international flight check-ins.

In the coming year, airlines will introduce many more services via the terminals, Harteveldt said.

"You'll see functions such as buying coupons you can redeem on the plane for alcoholic beverages, meals or headset set rentals," he said.The downside to kiosks? Industrywide, the average kiosk is out of action about 15 percent of the time, Harteveldt said.

Northwest says its terminals, however, are down less than 1 percent of the time.
Source: Pioneer Press

Posted by Craig at December 14, 2004 02:15 PM