Kiosks: Which? When?Skip to issue
The discussion is now closed. The final summary is available.
§1. Most airport kiosks
Use of self-service automated kiosks to allow passengers to check-in (and, increasingly, do things like check bags, change flights, and report lost luggage) is growing rapidly. A 2009 survey reported that kiosks are the primary check-in method at 29% of airports; by 2012, the number will be more than 75% of airports. In 2009, 60% of US and foreign airlines reported having kiosks; by 2010, 86% planned to have them. (Although kiosk use is still growing, it is likely that more travelers will eventually switch to checking in online before they go to the airport.) Some kiosks are “proprietary”–that is, owned or leased by one air carrier. Others are “shared-use”–that is, multiple carriers offer check-in services on a machine owned or leased by the airport management, one or more carriers, or an independent company.
The proposed kiosk accessibility standards would apply to all proprietary or shared-use kiosks located at US airports with more than 10,000 enplanements per year. (One enplanement equals one fare-paying passenger boarding an aircraft; boarding a connecting flight counts as an additional enplanement.) There are about 180 U.S. airports with fewer than 10,000 enplanements per year, but they handle less than 0.1% of total annual US passenger boardings. See FAA’s list of airports.
- DOT hasn’t been able to find any of these small airports that offer kiosk check-in. But, rather than excluding them completely, should DOT require them to install accessible kiosks in the normal course of business operations (e.g. a general equipment upgrade, a terminal renovation, etc.)?
In the Extension and Clarification, DOT confirmed that it also intends to include automated ticket scanners under this proposed rule (these are scanners available to customers behind the security checkpoint to rebook flights during irregular operations).
- Does the technology exist to make these scanners accessible, or is any under development?
- What are the costs associated with making these accessible?
- Is there any reason why they should not fall under the same requirements as other automated kiosks?
If the kiosks are owned or leased by US or foreign carriers, the carriers would be directly responsible for compliance. If they are owned or leased by airport management, the airport would be directly responsible for compliance if it receives federal funds. In other situations, any US or foreign carrier that uses the kiosk would be responsible for having agreements with the kiosk owner that ensure compliance.
- DOT needs more information on shared-use kiosks. If you are an airport employee, an equipment manufacturer or supplier, or someone else who knows about how these shared-use arrangements work, DOT has several questions it hopes you can answer. You can read those questions on the Shared Use Kiosk Questions page, and then return to this post to comment on them.
§2. Non-airport kiosks?
Kiosks also are located in some non-airport locations, such as hotels and car-rental sites. DOT has legal authority under the ACAA to cover these kiosks if they are owned, leased or controlled by US or foreign air carriers. But the current proposal doesn’t include non-airport kiosks. The Department of Justice (DOJ) also has legal authority under the ADA to require accessibility if these machines are located in places of public accommodation (e.g., hotels). If DOT includes non-airport kiosks, at least some of them will have to meet both DOT accessibility standards and DOJ ADA standards. (See Kiosks: Accessibility Standards.)
- Should non-airport kiosks also be covered by DOT’s new accessibility regulations, given that many would also be covered by DOJ’s ADA accessibility regulations? (By the way, DOJ’s ADA regulations would also apply to airport kiosks owned or leased by airport authorities, since airports are “places of public accommodation.”)
- Do non-airport kiosks present any technical, cost or other issues different from kiosks located at airports?
§3. Orders for new kiosks
DOT is proposing that, starting 60 days after the new regulations become effective, all orders placed by US and foreign carriers for new or replacement kiosks must be for fully accessible machines. How fast this approach produces a significant number of accessible airport kiosks depends on several factors:
First, is the average useful life of existing kiosks. Based on research done by the Department of Homeland Security, DOT is predicting a 5 year useful life. (The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) told DOT it heard from one carrier that 7-10 years is more accurate. See Section 4 of this post.) Second, is the time needed by the industry to develop accessible machines. Accessibility requires hardware (the physical equipment), software (the programming applications to perform the check-in and other functions) and “middleware” (software that the applications need to work with each other and with the hardware). DOT projects that by 1 year after the regulations’ effective date, new kiosks will have the necessary hardware and middleware. But, based on conversations with equipment designers and manufacturers, DOT expects that a second year will be needed to develop commonly agreed upon technical standards for compliant software. Based on this and an assumed 5-year useful life, DOT projects that 24 months after the rule becomes effective, 20% of airport kiosks would meet the accessibility standards.
- New regulations usually become effective 30 days after they are final and published. So, the current proposal would actually cover orders placed 90 days or more after the regulations are final. Should DOT instead require compliance for all new orders placed once the regulations become effective (i.e., after 30 days)? Or, is the proposed 60 days too short? How much lead time does a company that manufactures inaccessible kiosks need to develop and start manufacture of kiosks that meet the proposed accessibility standards?
- In 2004, when DOT first considered a kiosk accessibility rule, the Air Transport Association (ATA) argued that kiosks should be considered accessible so long as airline personnel are available to assist a traveler with disabilities with using the machine. Is it reasonable for DOT to require that ALL newly ordered kiosks comply with the proposed accessibility standards? Should DOT instead require that a certain percentage of new kiosks at each airport location comply? What would that percentage be?
- Would a 10-year phase-in period (e.g., 25% of new kiosks compliant within 3 years; 50% within 5 years; 75% within 7 years; 100% within 10 years) reduce the costs of the new requirements? (See Kiosks: Benefits & Costs of Accessibility for details on cost projections.)
It might be relevant to these questions that IBM, a leading manufacturer of kiosks and other self-service equipment, has already developed a kiosk that people with vision and mobility impairments were able to use, in tests, to complete the check-in process independently. NCR and SITA are the other major suppliers of kiosks; reportedly, NCR covers about 80% of the US market.
- How many manufacturers make kiosks? How many now make accessible kiosks? What size are these are these companies? Would the requirement to produce accessible kiosks have a disproportionate effect on small manufacturers?
- Can manufacturers meet the market demand if 100% of new kiosks ordered 60 days after effective date had to be compliant? If not, what percentage could the market handle?
Read what DOT said: SNRPM: 2004 Kiosk Comments, SNPRM: Current Kiosk Proposal, SNPRM: Kiosk Effective Date, SNPRM: Kiosk Alternatives, SNPRM: Kiosk Costs & Benefits; RIA §5.3: Kiosk Compliance Scenarios Evaluated
§4. Retrofit existing kiosks?
According to information from NFB, the 5-year average kiosk useful life DOT is using may be too short. Since a longer useful life reduces the number of kiosks that would be replaced each year, NFB has argued that DOT should require kiosk owners to retrofit or replace a certain percentage of existing working units with accessible machines. This is not part of DOT’s current proposal, but it could be added to the final regulations.
- What is the best estimate of average kiosk life?
- If it’s more than 5 years, should DOT require airlines to retrofit or replace some existing kiosks? How many? One idea suggested by DOT is 25% of existing kiosks, or at least one accessible kiosk, at each airport location.
- How long should airlines have to meet such a requirement? Will manufacturers be able to meet the demand for accessible kiosks if the new regulations require significant replacement/retrofitting in addition to covering new orders?
- How does the cost of retrofitting an existing unit compare with the cost of replacing it with a new accessible kiosk?
Apparently, some existing kiosks have inactive accessibility features –for example, the unit is equipped with a headset jack but has no supporting software.
- Should DOT require that such features be activated in units where they are present?
- Could such a requirement be made effective as soon as the new regulations are effective, or does activation require extensive programming? How quickly could this be done – and at what cost?
§5. Rules until all kiosks are accessible
Until all kiosks comply with the proposed accessibility standards, the carrier must provide “appropriate equivalent service” when requested by a traveler with disabilities. Equivalent service could include:
- Directing the traveler to an accessible kiosk
- Assisting the traveler in using an inaccessible kiosk
- Allowing the traveler to come to the front of the line at the check-in counter
Also, each accessible kiosk must be visually and tactilely identifiable (e.g., a raised international accessibility symbol on the front of the machine.) But important questions remain about how to ensure access to these machines:
- Should DOT require that carriers give priority kiosk access to travelers with disabilities? DOT worries that if travelers without disabilities can use accessible (as well as nonaccessible) kiosks, travelers with disabilities may wait longer than average because they need one of a limited number of machines. But reserving accessible kiosks for travelers with disabilities, or giving them priority access, could segregate and stigmatize them. What is the best resolution of this dilemma? Are the “alternative equivalent service” options enough?
- What would be the average wait time for an accessible kiosk if only 25% of all kiosks were accessible? How much less would the wait time be if travelers with disabilities were given priority access? (For more on wait time estimates, see Kiosks: Benefits & Costs of Accessibility)
Even after accessible kiosks are available, the carrier must provide equivalent service to a traveler whose disabilities make him/her unable to use even kiosks that meet these standards.