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Print a Boarding Pass at Home? It Computes

November 12, 2000|TIMES STAFF AND WIRES

Northwest Airlines this month became the second U.S. airline--and the largest one so far--to let passengers check in for flights and print boarding passes on their personal computers. Alaska Airlines, ranked No. 10 in passenger volume last year, introduced the technology in September 1999.

Northwest, the sixth largest U.S. airline, offers check-in from its Internet site, http://www.nwa.com, for flights departing from 27 U.S. airports, including LAX. It plans to extend the service to all its 140 U.S. airports by year's end.

Northwest spokeswoman Mary Beth Schubert noted that the Internet check-in saves time, especially for the "dreaded 6 a.m. flight": If you have no luggage to check, you can go directly to the gate after passing through airport security.

There are some restrictions. For instance, you must have an e-ticket, and you can access the service 24 hours before your flight but no later than 90 minutes before it.

Internet check-in is one of several new high-tech strategies the airlines are employing. During the Democratic National Convention this summer in Los Angeles, Northwest deployed roving agents at LAX, equipped with portable computer equipment, to check in passengers in departure areas. This month, after trying it in San Jose, American Airlines announced it would extend a similar program to about 25 cities by the end of 2001. By year's end, Northwest expects to have nearly 250 self-service check-in kiosks at airports, a program it began in 1998.

Last month Alaska Airlines opened its Web site, http://www.alaskaair.com, to wireless access, allowing customers to view flight status, schedules and other information via Web-enabled cell phones and other devices.

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