Alaska Airlines upgrades boarding by using iPad Minis to scan documents away from the gate

Alaska Image 2A

Alaska Airlines has integrated Scandit barcode scanning and text recognition (OCR) into iPad Minis used by gate agents, so they can scan passengers’ boarding passes and passports away from the boarding gate to facilitate efficient flight boarding.

Industry: Air transportation / Use Case: Mobile boarding pass and passport scanning /

Industry: Air transportation
Use Case: Mobile boarding pass and passport scanning

Alaska Airlines is an international airline based in Seattle, USA serving more than 47 million customers annually. The airline’s 23,000 employees operate more than 1,200 flights per day on a route system spanning more than 115 destinations in 4 countries. For the 11th consecutive year, Alaska Airlines has been recognized as the highest ranked airline in customer satisfaction among traditional carriers, in the J.D. Power 2018 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. The company believes their ongoing success will rely on being at the leading edge of innovation and delivering superior customer service. A core element of their digital transformation strategy is to introduce mobility to customer services and operations.

Goal: Upgrade critical customer-facing processes by going mobile

Alaska Airlines was working with dedicated scanners at boarding gates, devices that only performed barcode scanning. “The old boarding solution required us to use a scanner, a monitor, PCs and a podium at the gate to facilitate boarding,” said Francis Brown, Product Manager at Alaska Airlines. All this hardware was costly to purchase and maintain and tied gate agents to one location with the associated queues and crowds.

Alaska Airlines believed that investing in digital transformation to introduce mobile operations, would pay off in terms of customer experience, efficiency and cost-reduction. They wanted to make the transition to mobile airport operations.

Solution: Replace gate hardware with
high-performance scanning on mobile devices

“We were looking for a solution that would provide us mobile barcode and OCR scanning,” said Brown, “We wanted the best scanner at the boarding door because any lag in scanning can be an infuriating experience for the agents and the guests. We tested different scanning solutions in multiple environments and Scandit consistently came out on top.”

Alaska Airlines’ approach to app-development relied on a close partnership with all stakeholders including frontline employees and native application developers, to design the best possible user experience.

Before choosing Scandit, they had started with open source software, but during testing, found it didn’t provide the level of performance needed for critical customer-facing and operational services.

Having determined that the Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK – which includes text recognition (OCR) – was the best software solution, integration to the mobile app was quick and seamless.

A modernized gate experience for customers and staff, with Scandit software-enabled iPad Minis

Alaska Airlines customer service agents now use iPad Mini tablets to quickly scan a variety of passenger and crew documentation to perform critical processes such as flight check-in, bag checks, seat changes, standby seat assignments, passport and boarding pass verification.

“Enabling our agents to be mobile, frees them from being tied to hardware and allows us to reimagine the boarding experience without the usual podiums. If we need to change gates, we can just walk over with our iPads. If there is a guest that needs special assistance before boarding, we can provide customer service beside them instead of having them come to the podium,” said Brown.

Alaska Airlines agents are impressed with the scanning speed and ease of use of the mobile app. “We have very high standards for customer service, and only the best would do for our agents,” Brown remarked.

Alaska Airlines’ principal goal is to provide safe, reliable transportation for a reasonable price along with the caring, friendly and professional service for which they are known. Their new mobile app enables agents to provide a hassle-free boarding process and to complete customer service workflows much more efficiently.

Scandit continues to provide maintenance and development to Alaska Airlines. “We’ve now identified more workflows where we could use Scandit computer vision-based technology,” says Brown.

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