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Alaska Airlines adopts iPad Pro for passenger self check-in tests

Alaska Airlines (source: Wiki Commons)

Starting with field tests at San Jose airport, Alaska Airlines is using iPad Pro to replace regular check-in desks for its passengers.

Alaska Airlines has long seen the benefits of using Apple devices - as well as the problems with Samsung phones. Now it's trialling extensive use of the iPad Pro for its customer-facing operations at Norman Y. Mineta International Airport in San Jose.

According to Fast Company, the airline is undertaking two to three years of testing of many different technologies. It already outfits all flight crew with iPads, and now the iPad Pro is being tested as the check-in replacement.

"What we're doing in San Jose is really testing our lobby vision out and using it as a tech incubator to test various ideas," Charu Jain, Alaska Airlines's senior vice president of merchandising and innovation, told the publication.

Even though the airline is already familiar with the iPad, Jain says that it has been a big undertaking replacing the regular check-in desk

"This is the first time that a bag-tag printer's been connected to the iPad," she said. "So both sides - our bag-tag printer vendor and Apple - obviously were key to this."

"We've been able to reuse a lot of the things we already do on the back end," continued Jain, "and then provide that very simple front-end experience that Apple provides and guests are used to."

Apple's Jeremy Butcher from the enterprise product marketing team says that the focus had been on capability, but also reliability.

"In addition to the hardware side of things and the amazing apps that folks build, you have to be able to execute all of these things at a pretty massive scale, because these deployments are really big," said Butcher.

"And so being able to automate configuration and setup," he continued, "and if things go wrong, being able to fix them really quickly - all of that is what we've invested in quite a bit over the last few years."

Not everything in the Alaska Airlines testing at San Jose involves the iPad Pro. But the company is already testing how much further it can be rolled out.

That includes, though, seeing if the iPad Pro can adapt to very different airports. For Hawaii, for instance, there has been a question about using iPad Pro check-in desks outside in bright sunshine.

"We will probably do some more [testing] work around it," said Jain. "But right now, what we are seeing is that it's keeping up really well with the airport environment."

Alaska Airlines is not the only aviation firm increasing its use of Apple devices. In January 2021, American Airlines switched to iPhones and iPads for all its frontline employees.