United Airlines says a new service it's testing at Denver International Airport has reduced congestion at check-in areas and trimmed 20 seconds off the time it takes some customers to check bags.
The carrier is testing eight kiosks at DIA reserved for travelers who print boarding passes online and need to check luggage once they arrive at the airport.
In the past, those customers had to stand in the same lines as everyone else, diminishing the benefits of checking in ahead of time. But the new kiosks, installed several months ago at DIA and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, have separate baggage lines specifically for passengers who already have their boarding passes.
"Our main goal with this is to further reduce lobby congestion and decrease wait times for customers," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy.
The service is United's response to customer feedback showing that some passengers bypass online check-in because they still have to wait in regular lines to check bags. As part of the service, customers who check in online print out an airport map detailing where and how to check their bags.
United, Denver's largest airline, hopes to roll the kiosks out to other markets if the service proves successful here and in Chicago.
But there are challenges.
"What's critical for United is first making sure they have an adequate number of kiosks and second making sure they staff up again to have enough people to serve those checking bags at kiosks," said Henry Harteveldt, a vice president at Forrester Research in San Francisco.
United says customer response is positive, although some travelers have encountered problems.
Steve Cowell printed his boarding pass before a flight last month but ended up waiting in line at DIA for 25 minutes to check his bags.
"I was actually directed to the main line where I had to wait with everyone else," said Cowell, who lives in Greenwood Village and worked in the airline industry for 32 years. "There were some kiosks that no one was using, but I couldn't figure out what they were for."
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