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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta
 

Airline Check-In System to Start in Fall at Some Las Vegas Hotels

20 July 2004

LAS VEGAS -- McCarran International Airport hopes to have its SpeedCheck computerized check-in kiosks on line in local hotel-casinos by fall.

Clark County Aviation Director Randy Walker said the $2 million high-tech system that prints boarding passes for the passengers of 13 airlines serving the airport has been part of the solution to minimizing long waits in line in the post-9/11 era.

Walker outlined several programs the airport has implemented to move the average 3 million passengers a month through its gates more efficiently.

He told a lunch meeting of the Henderson Development Association last week that while other airports in major cities have more traffic, Las Vegas is one of the top three "origin-and-destination" airports in the nation, meaning that passengers aren't just changing planes there -- they're starting or ending their trips. That means they have to go through a security checkpoint.

One of the solutions to eliminating a wait in line at an airline ticket counter, he said, was to develop SpeedCheck, a system Walker hopes will do for travel what ATMs have done for banking.

ARINC Inc., Annapolis, Md., IBM, White Plains, N.Y., and McCarran developed the system and after debuting last summer, it became fully operational in October.

Passengers who use the system pass a credit card or frequent-flier card through a reader and select the airline they're flying. The computer identifies the flight and prints a boarding pass.

While several airlines have had their own proprietary systems, McCarran's SpeedCheck is the only one to have multiple airlines on one system. Walker said other airports are looking into copying the McCarran system.

Walker said it's difficult to do a cost-benefit analysis for the system, since it's hard to quantify how much time and stress is relieved removing people from lines. Walker said his goal is to remove 10 percent of the people who wade through a ticket counter line with the system. About 650,000 passengers have used it since it became operational.

The system will get a boost at the end of July when American Airlines and JetBlue Airways join the SpeedCheck system.

They'll join AirTran, Alaska, Aloha, America West, Continental, Delta, Midwest, Northwest, Song, Southwest, Ted, United and US Airways, which are already on the system.

Walker hopes to boost the computer system to a higher level in the fall by installing SpeedCheck kiosks as a test in three hotel-casinos. The resorts haven't been selected, but he said he hopes they'll be large properties to test the maximum capability of the system.

In addition to placing kiosks to print boarding passes at the resorts, Walker said he hopes to have personnel that can accept baggage and print bag tags when they check in. He said airlines that agree to be a part of the test must agree to hire a subcontractor to check bags for all the participating airlines and haul them to the airport.

"The normal hotel check-out time is around noon," Walker said. "If your flight doesn't leave until the evening, imagine how much time you could have doing other things, whether it's shopping, eating or gambling, if you already had your bags checked in and your boarding pass in hand."

Walker said the participating airlines would have to establish a timetable to be sure that bags can be transported to the airport and processed through a special security line, allowing plenty of time for delivery.

Not all of the airlines currently on the system would be on it in the hotel kiosks. Walker said the participating airlines and resorts would need to help market the program.

The transporting of bags from the resorts to the airport is similar to a service established by a private Henderson-based company known as Certified Airline Passenger Services -- CAPS. That company shut down after 9/11 when federal security officials stopped allowing independent companies to transport luggage to the airport.

The owners of the Federal Aviation Administration-certified CAPS, which charged passengers $6 to transport their bags to the airport, were given permission to reopen their remote baggage check-in business within three months after the terrorist attacks. But the company said it needed more than $1.5 million to restart operations after shutting down and didn't have the capital to pull it off.

Walker said a subcontractor hauling baggage on behalf of the airlines would be scrutinized by the Transportation Security Administration with similar criteria the FAA used to certify CAPS.

An airport spokeswoman said McCarran and the resorts would share the costs for the expansion of the service into the resorts. It hasn't been determined whether passengers who would use the planned remote baggage check-in service would be assessed a fee to transport suitcases to the airport.