Tuesday, May 20, 2003 | 11:04 a.m.
McCarran International Airport next month will unveil the nation's first "common use" self-service kiosk system that will enable passengers on several airlines to print their own boarding passes, even before they leave for the airport.
The introduction of the system will lead to changes in McCarran's airport security procedure that officials say should shorten lines.
Airport employees participating in a contest to name the $2 million system are calling it "SpeedCheck." Eventually versions of the system could be duplicated in airports across the country.
The SpeedCheck system will enable passengers flying airlines participating in the program the ability to identify themselves by inserting a credit card or frequent-flier card into a slot with a magnetic strip reader, type a reservation verification number on a touch-screen keyboard and print a boarding pass.
Six airlines -- Southwest, America West, Delta, Continental, Northwest and US Airways -- will be the first on the system.
McCarran spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said the initial roll-out of the system in mid-June would be directed at passengers who aren't checking baggage.
"We'll have 38 kiosks in the first phase and we'll place them mainly at the entrance to the terminal from the parking garage, in the area around the aviation museum, near the A and B gates security checkpoint and some in the ticket counter area," Grey said.
She added that by July, four SpeedCheck terminals would be placed at the Las Vegas Convention Center to allow conventioneers to print their boarding passes before leaving their shows and arriving at the airport.
Getting the common-use boarding pass kiosks on line is the first step in modifying the security screening process, Grey said. Ultimately, the Transportation Security Administration at McCarran will require all passengers passing through airport security checkpoints to have a boarding pass. When the new policy takes effect, TSA officers will require showing a photo identification card matching the name on the boarding pass.
With all passengers required to have a boarding pass, TSA officers will be able to identify passengers chosen randomly by computer for "secondary" screening at the checkpoint instead of at the gate.
Passengers are now required to show their photo IDs when they check in at the ticket counter or at gate counters.
Grey said check-in and identification procedures will continue to vary by airport, but the McCarran system will be studied as a model for other airports.
McCarran's SpeedCheck system is similar to several airlines' proprietary computer check-in systems. In fact, the SpeedCheck system's first page will instruct users to touch the screen to enter their airline's proprietary system.
"Passengers who are used to their airline's system only have to touch the screen on their airline to enter the system they're already used to," Grey said.
American Airlines, for example, is one of six McCarran carriers that has its own computer systems to ease check-ins. American recently installed four self-service check-in devices at McCarran.
Other proprietary systems are operated by Continental, Northwest, America West, Alaska and Southwest.
America West last week announced its newest innovation, Internet check-in. The company said passengers enrolled in the airline's frequent-flier program can print their own boarding passes with their computer and printer if they access the airline's website and type in required information.
Development of a common-use boarding-pass system was an initiative endorsed by the International Air Transport Association and 28 of its member airlines and 25 airports. The McCarran system will be the first common-use computer system deployed in the United States.
Eventually McCarran hopes to expand the system so that terminals capable of printing bag tags for luggage can be installed near ticket counters.
Samuel Ingalls, airport information systems manager at McCarran, has been working on the kiosk project since last year, working with airlines to place their proprietary check-in software packages into McCarran's terminals.
McCarran will bear the cost of maintaining the system, which Ingalls believes will be beneficial in the long run because the airport won't have to expand ticket counters as rapidly.
Grey said the airport offered to pay for technical support for airlines as an incentive for them to participate in the SpeedCheck system. In next month's debut, Continental, Delta, America West and US Airways are planning to be online. Northwest and Southwest are continuing tests to prepare to join the system.
With Southwest and America West -- the two largest commercial air carriers serving McCarran -- committed to the system, it's estimated that more than half of the airport's 35 million passengers annually would be able to use the system for their flights.
Initially, airlines with their own systems will be allowed to keep their kiosks, but eventually the McCarran SpeedChecks will replace them. Grey said it hasn't been determined how many computer terminals would be available at the airport when the system is fully deployed.
McCarran is acquiring the hardware for their kiosks from ARINC Inc., Annapolis, Md. The ARINC system uses an IBM computer platform.
ARINC and IBM installed the world's first common-use check-in systems in 2002 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Tokyo.
"This is a significant and strategic accomplishment for (common-use self-serve) technology and for McCarran International as well," said Mike Picco, ARINC's vice president of airport systems in a release announcing the company's McCarran installation. "The airport will be able to win friends among its passengers by reducing the wait for check-in and the airlines will benefit from smoother operations as well."