Airlines find new ways to serve passengers — and make money

Let’s face it: travel these days isn’t so fun anymore with the hassle of long lines, security checks and delays.

But innovators are on the hunt to make the passenger experience more enjoyable — or at least tolerable.

At the Future Travel Experience Global conference last week at Mandalay Bay, about 500 people gathered to see a showcase of new technologies and services for travelers on the ground and in the air. The trade show, hosted by McCarran International Airport, ran Wednesday through Friday.

Here are some of the products that were on display:

    • Ben Wheeler, of Kaba, a technology company in Texas, demonstrated a multipurpose check-in gateway that automates the boarding process.

      Kaba’s David Wurtz said the machine reduces boarding time by 67 percent.

      The units scan boarding passes, confirm that passengers are boarding the right flights and check passports. Newer passports have computer chips embedded in them that the machines can read. Units scan older passports using facial recognition technology.

      Company officials say the equipment enables airlines to reduce staffing and reduces travel time for passengers.

    • If you’re in an unfamiliar airport, how do you know where to go to catch your flight, grab a bite to eat or pick up a magazine?

      Four Winds Interactive, of Denver, demonstrated an interactive map that helps passengers navigate airports. Four Winds also provides interactive maps for the Venetian, Aria and Mandalay Bay.

      The airport maps work with passengers’ boarding passes. Scan a boarding pass under a reader, and the map will show you the most direct route to your gate, food courts or retail areas.

    • Toronto's GuestLogix is taking airborne retail to a new level.

      CEO Brett Proud spoke of growing retail sales opportunities using seat-back video screens and in-flight portable devices. Some companies also are enabling passengers to buy products from their own smartphones and tablets.

    • Copa Air, which began flying between Las Vegas and Panama City last year, and China Southern Airlines are on the cutting edge for a new airline revenue stream: selling empty seats.

      Flights often depart with empty business class seats. The airlines are developing auction systems that would allow passengers to pay extra to fill the vacant seats.

      Some auction might be held just before departure so that the empty seats can be sold to standby passengers, while others would take place right after takeoff so that passengers could fill them as soon as they’re free to move around the cabin.

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