The end of an era

From today, Air New Zealand domestic travellers will be able to check themselves in. And I mean completely and fully from you arriving with all your family in tow at the airport, to actually boarding the aircraft after mouthwatering over all those nice unaffordable goodies in the shops. You will be able to do what those lovely ground stewardesses use to do for you: Weigh your luggage, give you the snobby “I’m sorry m’am but your luggage is too heavy” spiel, check the luggage in anyway by printing the bag tags, dismiss you with a peevish “Thank you” followed by a weary “Next, please” and everybody would part ways happy. Because that is how it was suppose to go.

Welcom to today however, where YOU print your bag tags, YOU drop your luggage directly on to a conveyor belt and YOU get your boarding pass using your mobile phone….

Now, the self-service check in is not completely unknown up to a certain level. At different airline companies throughout the world it is possible to check in online so many hours prior to your flight. This in order to speed things up a bit at the service desk on the actual D-day. But the whole ‘do-your-luggage-yourself-thing’ however is new to New Zealand.

According to a Mr. Jones from Air New Zealand, this new self-service approach is designed to speed up the check-in and boarding process. It will see almost 40 do-it-your-bloody-self kiosks replace the good old traditonal service desks at Auckland Airport. Apparently this $30 million ‘streamlining’ -you’ve got to love that word-project should see the average queue time drop from 15 minutes to 1 minute.

So, how does it work? You:

1. Self weigh your luggage at the do-it-your-bloody-self-check-in kiosk (-is this truly the end of the dissaproving Air New Zealand ground stewardess look?)

2. You scan your eTicket, mPass, creditcard or airpoints membershipcard at the do-it-your-bloody-self-kiosk

3. You attach the bag tag to your luggage and follow the signs to the bag drop area. where ever that might be.

4. Scan your boarding pass and board the plane.

C’est ca, according to Air New Zealand. “Our goal was to get rid of frustrating queues, cut customer waiting time and make checking in and boarding as quick and easy as possible. (….) Customers will now have much greater freedom and choice.” That’s great, thank you Mr. Air New Zealand-Jones.

Could this really be the end of the others-serving-you-because-you-pay-for-the-service-era as we know it? What’s next in this case, catering your own food and drinks while you’re in the air? Self-service the plane to your destination? Will this ‘service-yourself-trend’ be implemented throughout our whole transportation system? And why are we so keen to replace humans with computers? I mean, don’t get me wrong-computers are neat, but before we know it, everything will be fully automated. Fly for example on Air New Zealand Cruise Control to Christchurch in 2009.

And just hypothetically: You could even make a rental car company fully automated if you’re keen. Type in your details on the screen, select the car you want, swipe your credit card and voila; your keys will drop into the tray of your do-it-your-bloody-self-kiosk. Pick up the car from the parking lot, drive it for the designated amount of days that you’ve rented it for, and drop it off.

At drop off the car will go through some sort of car wash look- a-like where it will be fully checked for any damage. Ofcourse this is fully automated. If all is good no extra costs will be charged and you’ll get your deposit back. And for the naughty driver who thinks he or she can get away with a couple of more days without paying because the stupid computer surely won’t notice it: The car is obviously pre-programmed so it will just stop driving when your days are up. And this would most likely happen somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Because even computers can get a bit…let’s say ‘peevish’.

Just like those good old Air New Zealand ground stewardesses use to get.

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