The International Air Transport Association wants 80% of global air passengers being offered a complete range of self-service tools by 2020.

In some respects this seems like a relatively simple task.

Known as the Fast Travel initiative, airlines must be able to give their passengers the following six “time-saving, self-service options”:

  • Self-check-in and/or automatic check-in
  • Bags ready-to-go
  • Document check
  • Flight re-booking
  • Self-boarding
  • Bag recovery

The idea is that self-service improves the traveller experience at airports and when dealing with airlines, with self check-in, flight re-booking and bag-tagging considered by IATA to be the most important elements.

Whilst many airlines boast of their facilities and capability in some of these areas, it appears that very few are in a position to win over the the likes of IATA and be heralded a “Fast Travel Platinum” member.

In fact, there are only five carriers in the entire world that have achieved such a status.

IATA announced today that Alaska Airlines is the fifth member of the Platinum club, joining SAS, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Hawaiian.

The organisation says during 2015 it is targeting a global tally of 35% of passengers being offered “Fast Travel access”.

Yet why does it appear on the outside that airlines are so slow to, well, get with the programme?

IATA says there a number of challenges affecting airlines and their desire to introduce all or even some of the self-serve options to passengers.

In short, administrative hurdles are stalling the process dramatically.

For example, European regulators are currently considering a change to the self-bag tagging rules.

IATA’s head of passenger experience, Paul Behan, says the new system for flights that involve a European landing has monochrome bag tags: those originating from EU airports have the main body of the tag black, with the details reversed out in white, while flights from other airports have the details printed in black on white.

The US has “largely resolved the problem”, IATA says, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) appriving all forms tagging by passengers (home-printed, e-tags, etc).

Elsewhere, Indian regulators have an issue with electronic boarding passes, for example, whilst in China there are “limitations” on what passengers are able to do for themselves, according to Behan.

Airports are obviously a key component of this drive towards self-service, with many increasingly willing to install self-service equipment, although time-scales for doing so can often be an issue.

Yet whilst IATA claims it is on target to meet its 2020 target of 80%, there may be one final hurdle which stalls the aspiration further.

This is not a technical problem, nor a regulatory one – just simply resistance from passengers themselves to “adopt the self-service approach”.

In fact, some airline staff are apparently also in need of education on the benefits of self-service.

A long way to go…

NB: Airlines self-serve image via Shutterstock.

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The International Air Transport Association wants 80% of global air passengers being offered a complete range of self-service tools by 2020. In some respects this seems like a relatively simple task. Known as the Fast Travel initiative, airlines must be able to give their passengers the following six “time-saving, self-service options”:...