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Southwest Airlines Is Doing Away With Pneumatic Tubes, Paper Tickets ( 92

As part of Southwest's biggest tech upgrade in its 45 years of existence, the company will doing away with several of its antiquated practices, including paper tickets and the use of pneumatic tubes to send messages at airports. Consumerist reports: The airline says the goal of these upgrades is to keep planes moving in and out of airports as quickly as possible. "We're looking for minutes," Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. "How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts." The new reservation system will allow Southwest to accept foreign money -- something its rivals can already do -- bounce back faster from storms, and have more control over price changes and schedules. Ramp workers will be getting tablets with real-time information to speed up airplanes' "turn time" -- how quickly they can deboard and reboard passengers and take off again. Tarmac staffers also won't be using pneumatic tubes anymore to send notes via canister about lost luggage and other communications to the cargo workers in charge of calculating jet weight and balance. Digital transmissions will replace that system, as well as printouts for workers who transport bags to and fro. Customers will be seeing changes as well, as the new reservation system means Southwest can ditch paper tickets altogether and stick with electronic tickets only.

Southwest Airlines Is Doing Away With Pneumatic Tubes, Paper Tickets

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  • Both the pneumatic tubes and the paper tickets.
    it took a 5 year project I presume!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pneumatic tubes were state of the art 160-odd years ago, so you could say "time for change". And the spirit of the times has it that the more electronic everything, the more automated, ICTified, digitalised, digitally transformed, or whatever the buzzword is this week, it must be automatically better, right?

    Well, no. Why does "accept foreign currency" depend on not using pneumatic tubes? One'd think that it's much easier to transport foreign notes to the back office using a tube than scanning it or somethin

    • The article mentions electronic tickets, not boarding passes. These e-tickets are little more than a reservation number in the form of a QR code which can be scanned from a phone or a printout to save a little time at the terminal, but the number can still be manually entered by the staff member if need be. A couple of times I've flown, the airline didn't even ask for my ticket and got my reservation on screen simply by scanning my passport.
    • by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @10:47AM (#54065215)

      I for me think that's fine and dandy but be careful not to throw out the good with the bad. Electronic-only boarding passes? How am I supposed to hold those? So they're now requiring me to carry a mobile phone or tablet just to hold that ticket?

      The article talked about paper tickets not paper boarding passes. They are not the same thing. A paper ticket is a document that holds the value of your journey, it is like cash and similar to cash, expensive to handle. A boarding pass is a document that says you may get on the plane and on most airlines indicates your seat assignment. The boarding pass holds no monetary value. The boarding pass typically has a ticket reference number on it, but it is not the actual ticket. All other airlines that I am aware of (at least the majors in the US) got rid of paper tickets years ago, they all still have options for paper boarding passes. I don't fly Southwest due to their boarding process and lack of assigned seats, so I wasn't aware but was surprised to hear that an airline was still using paper tickets.

    • Pneumatic tubes was still in common use even 20 years ago. The problem is that "state of the art" takes a very long time to get into common use, and when it is in use it's often nowhere as good as proponents claim. Capital costs and training costs will suck up the majority of savings here anyway, meanwhile the actual workers will be clicking, clicking, clicking, clicking, pounding the side of the machine, clicking again, and just for one order.

      • by markxz ( 669696 )

        Pneumatic tubes are still common today in cash heavy businesses to move money from front to back of house securely. In hospitals they are used for transport of blood samples.

        I would have thought the need for them is less essential in airports which mostly deal with card transactions.

    • That was my reaction as well. What's next, will they be retiring their biplanes and closing the smoking saloons on their airliners?
  • Only now? (Score:5, Funny)

    by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:12AM (#54064551)

    By the time they get rid of the pneumatic tubes for tickets for people, Elon Musk will be selling tickets for pneumatic tubes for people...

    • Re:Only now? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @08:16AM (#54064705) Homepage

      Normally I wouldn't respond, because I'd think that most people would be able to recognize a joke... but because whenever Hyperloop comes up people actually seem to think that it is a pneumatic tube system...

      1) Hyperloop Alpha is not a pneumatic tube system. The capsules are not pushed by pressure. Quite the opposite, the tubes are a partial vacuum. Capsules are propelled by short accelerator segments, then spend most of the trip drifting (except for at very low speeds at each end, where it settles down onto electrically-driven wheels).

      And for the other side of the spectrum...

      2) Hyperloop Alpha is not a maglev vactrain. It is neither maglev nor a vactrain. More to the point, it can't even function in a hard vacuum. Lift is provided not by maglev, but by an airbearing; it's a very-close ground effect aircraft. Because it's not a hard vacuum, air builds up ahead of it; it uses a compressor to shunt the air to behind it and to boost the air bearings.

      ((Insert "The More You Know" rainbow here))

  • by TFlan91 ( 2615727 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:15AM (#54064565)

    I love digital tickets, but sometimes, on long journeys, i like the reassurance of having a paper ticket in case anything happens to my phone.

    • I fly Southwest almost exclusively and I always get the paper ticket. I am often on a phone call during boarding and someone who scans 1000s of tickets a day will always be faster at me at scanning the ticket.
      • by hobbes vs boyle ( 974630 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @08:35AM (#54064751) Homepage
        TFA mentions *tickets* only, not boarding passes. May be sloppy language on their end. But if not: I haven't seen a paper airline ticket in ages.
      • I fly Southwest almost exclusively and I always get the paper ticket. I am often on a phone call during boarding and someone who scans 1000s of tickets a day will always be faster at me at scanning the ticket.

        They still scan the ticket, you merely hand them a phone instead of a piece of paper. Everything else is the same.
        If you're a rude enough person that you are on the phone during this transaction you can always say "one sec, I'm just scanning my boarding pass". it literally takes 3 secs max. Crisis averted...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward


      No, you misunderstand. You must be under 35 or so.

      Back in the 20th century, Airlines issues paper tickets. They're like a ticket to a play, sporting event. etc. They mailed you these tickets. Everyone freaked out about losing them or forgetting them. If you lost them or forgot them, you had to buy another one. It sucked.

      Then sometime in the 90s or so, the airlines switched to all electronic tickets. They were tied to your identity. What you're talking about it a "boarding pass". Those aren't goin

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Digital cargo handling, hmm, internet of things. You go north, your luggage goes south, to be picked up by someone else ;).

    • I love digital tickets, but sometimes, on long journeys, i like the reassurance of having a paper ticket in case anything happens to my phone.

      You still have this option, the responsibility of printing is merely shifting from them to you if you so choose.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Saturday March 18, 2017 @07:40AM (#54064621)

    Somewhere in Russia, a team of hackers are licking their chops.

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      Well doing something last means you should be able to learn from the mistakes made by others, and therefore not be saddled with lots of unmaintainable legacy cruft...
      Unfortunately, late adopters seem to want to just copy everyone else - mistakes and all.

    • Somewhere in Russia, a team of hackers are licking their chops.

      At what? That Southwest are now doing the same thing that every other airline in the western world has been doing for years? None of this is new...

  • So they're replacing one system of tubes with another system of tubes?
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday March 18, 2017 @10:23AM (#54065087)

    I work in the airline IT world. "Paper tickets" aren't the paper boarding passes you print out at the kiosk. These are actual tickets issued at travel agents or airport ticket counters, and go back to a time when you could buy a ticket independent of a reservation or seat assignment. In fact, travel agents used to be able to manually hand-write them and the only thing keeping them secure was that ticket stock was controlled. It's similar to buying a train ticket for a commuter railroad from the machine at the station...unless you're reserving a seat, you can exchange it for a seat on whatever train you get on. Same went for paper tickets -- if you had a ticket that said "JFK to LAX" you could go to the airport and check in on any flight if you had an open reservation.

    The article mentions that they're doing this to get rid of paper buddy passes, which really are the only paper tickets most domestic airlines deal with these days. It's incredibly rare to process paper tickets for passengers these days.

  • Well, that sucks!

  • Looks like their replacing their pneumatic tubes with those internet tubes that get clogged with emails.
  • Ah, pneumatic tubes. Explains this bizarre label I saw taped to the wall at a Southwest get at LAX: []
  • Does this mean that my seat will not get smaller (again)?!

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.