/ Travel & Leisure

Do you use self-service kiosks at the airport?

Self-service airport kiosks

More airlines are encouraging us to check-in electronically – whether that be online or by using self-service kiosks at the airport. But is this really the best option for air passengers?

Self-service kiosks have become ubiquitous in our everyday lives. From buying bus or train tickets to getting a mere pint of milk at the supermarket, you can’t seem to avoid them.

But opinion seems to be divided when it comes to using self-service kiosks at the airport.

New research carried out by airport technology group SITA shows that more airline passengers want to use self-service kiosks to board planes, check in bags and hire cars. But then these results are in SITA’s best interests, since they sell kiosk technology to airports.

Checking yourself in the way forward?

I, for one, happen to be a huge fan of kiosks at airports. I’ve always found them to be quick and really easy to use. And, anything that means I don’t have to spend aeons standing in lengthy queues is ok in my book.

Online check-in is even better. Printing out your boarding pass from the comfort of your living room and sauntering to the departure gates at your own leisure has to be the way forward.

But these options only work if everything else runs smoothly. For instance, speedily checking in at the kiosk is pointless if you have to queue at the bag drop. And waiting behind people who don’t know how to use these kiosks is equally frustrating.

The dangers of self check-in

Self-service kiosks can be a daunting prospect. If you’re not familiar with the technology, by the time you’ve punched in your reference number, followed all the onscreen instructions and swiped your passport, it might actually have been quicker queuing up at the desk.

A colleague of mine recently witnessed first hand an elderly couple struggling to use the kiosks at Stansted airport. In the end she had to help them (by entering all the details for them!) as they were in danger of missing their flight.

Online check-in may not be a viable option either, especially if you don’t feel computer confident or simply don’t own a PC. My mother, for instance, doesn’t have one (but that’s another story!)

Even if you are computer savvy and feel confident using the kiosks, you may just like the reassurance of an actual person; being told you have the correct paperwork at the check-in desk can put your mind at ease rather than fretting all the way to the departure gates worrying that you may not be allowed on the plane.

As much as I’m in favour of self-service kiosks and online check-in, these shouldn’t be the only options available. Getting rid of manned desks altogether can’t be the answer – machines are pretty useless when something goes wrong and sometimes you just need a real person to speak to.

Peter Lawrence says:
25 October 2010

What is the point of check-in if I can do it at home? I would have thought that an airline needs to know that I have reached the airport and so will appear on the plane in due course. If they do not need this reassurance why not abolish the bureaucracy completely?