Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 7 September 2013

10 PRINT "Must use computer"; 20 GOTO 10

I've ranted before on here about my dislike for self checkout machines in shops. But when I went on holiday to Canada a few weeks ago I noticed another form of these sort of machines and there was a telling twist.

We flew from Terminal 5 at Heathrow which I guess is the most modern of them having been built only a few years back. We were checking in at the BA counters. Well I say counters but that is where the computer side of it kicked in. Because we were not allowed to check in at the actual desks, they were just for dropping your bags off. The check-in and generation of the boarding passes etc. was done at a booth just back from the desks before the cordoned off queueing bit.

They're coming for you...

As I was a bit unsure what to do and did not want to make a mistake on something as important as checking in for a flight I called over one of the assistants who helped us through the computer system and made sure we did it right. It went quite smoothly and I suspect the next time I will be able to do it myself. I still find the concept of this sort of irritating though as I do feel like ultimately people are being done out of a job and also that the passengers are having to do more of the cognitive work of checking in, saving the airline money but with this absolutely not reflected in the prices.

The telling part of this was when I talked to the lady who helped us through the process. I asked her whether we could just go to the desks to check-in and was told no, we had to use the computer. This ties in with what I said in my previous post about shop check-out machines. Although in shops there is (usually) still a choice to go with a normal till, increasingly they are moving to a position, particularly in "metro" type stores where queueing up to pay a human is the strange option. They have done this by only having one or two humans on tills but having maybe 8 or 10 (or more) machines, thus making the automated way the default. I did wonder how long it would be in some stores before they phased out ordinary tills altogether.

Well at the BA desks in Heathrow Terminal 5 I saw the next logical stage of this. Mandatory use of the computerised booths to check in.

Oh, but did I mention about First Class? That was the one exception apparently. If we'd have had First Class tickets we could have checked in at the First Class desk where there was, yes you've guessed it, a human being.

So that demonstrates that we are slowly moving towards a situation where interaction with a human being when paying for goods, checking in for flights etc. is increasingly being seen as a luxury.

But if you're a pleb, get in the queue for the computer.

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