Alaska Airlines is starting up a tech incubator in Silicon Valley to enhance the travel experience

Tech-driven enhancements are coming fast and furiously to airports across the country, including San Jose where Alaska Airlines is testing out new technology to advance the way people travel. 

Our innovation team plans to modernize travel at every major city we fly, from reimagining the lobby to testing innovative technology that streamlines the airport experience to boarding your flight with biometrics.   

As we grow our airline and fly more people to more places, we are looking for unique ways to create a seamless travel experience for our guests. We’re using tech to also empower and equip our employees with the latest tools to offer the most caring service for our guests,” said Charu Jain, SVP of merchandising & innovation. “California is the epicenter of tech and the perfect place to test out these innovations.” 

Faster check-in and self-bag drop. 

In San Jose, we’re testing out a new check-in and self-bag drop system that will streamline the check-in process, reduce confusion and decrease the time needed to drop off your bag(s).

On average, people spend about 8.5 minutes in the lobby. Our new enhancements will cut that time in half and give our guests more opportunities to bypass congested areas of the lobby. 

“We’re thrilled to give our guests more choices that will enrich their travel experience. And our bag drop system powered by iPad is just the beginning,” said Jain. 

If you’re looking for the quickest way to get from the lobby to your gate, we recommend checking in for your flight on our mobile app or online before arriving to the airport. While on the app or website, you can check-in, pay for any checked luggage and pre-order your favorite meal for your flight.  

Alaska Airlines’ use of emerging technology to enhance and streamline the passenger experience at San José Mineta International will provide more seamless transit of flyers coming to SJC—and create a more welcoming gateway to San José,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. 

With technology, we’re giving our guests more ways to have a seamless experience anywhere in our lobby. At SJC, you’ll spot our tabletops equipped with Apple iPad Pro that you can use to quickly scan your boarding pass, print your bag tag(s), and self-tag your bag(s). Our customer service agents are also equipped with iPad Mini to be able to immediately take care of guests at any Alaska touchpoint.

Alaska was the first airline to implement self-serve airport kiosks in 2007—and we hope to be the first to remove them,” said Jain. “Simply because we’re our best when we can meet guests where they’re at and be able to take care of them the second they enter our space.” 

From there, if you’ve checked a bag, you can take your tagged bag and head to our self-bag drop to give us your luggage—no more waiting in line!  

How to use our new iPad bag drop system:  

  1. Check-in for your flight on our mobile app or online.  
  1. Arrive at SJC, look for our iPad stations.  
  1. Scan your boarding pass received upon check-in. iPad can scan digital or paper boarding passes.  
  1. Your bag tag(s) will print at the iPad station. 
  1. Tag your bag(s) and head to our new self-bag drop station to drop them off. 

Boarding with facial recognition. 

Currently, we’re using biometric technology to speed up our boarding process for international flights from SJC. These flights include Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. 

Rather than hunt for your passport and boarding pass and hand them over to an agent at the gate, our guests who choose to board using facial recognition can quickly board the flight without ever having to exchange their documents with an agent. They simply scan their face and are on their way. 

On average, the use of biometrics during the boarding process saves guests up to five seconds and the hassle of finding a boarding pass when your hands are full. 

Boarding with biometric technology uses facial recognition to verify identity and shorten security procedures for those passengers who opt into the programs,” said Jain. “For guests who are concerned about security, we do not retain any imagery and offer our guests the opt-in option to use biometrics. While it will never be mandatory, we believe it is the future of travel.”  

Guests traveling out of the San Jose Airport can try more innovation firsts with us in the coming months. We look forward to introducing new ways to travel in Silicon Valley and beyond to enrich our guests’ travel experiences so that they enjoy every journey while also giving our employees the latest tools to take great care of our guests. 

I am excited to shape the future of the industry with our new tech,” said Sam Frost, lead customer service agent at SJC. “It will ultimately make our guests feel more in control of their journey and align our guest experience with the retail spaces of leaders in the tech industry like Apple and Microsoft.”