American Airlines rolls out touchless bag check but is still booking middle seats

American Airlines announced on Friday that it is making the check-in process completely touchless, even for passengers who have to check bags. But the company continues to book passengers into middle seats, so it’s ultimately a small gesture that only slightly reduces the chance of exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Starting Friday, passengers flying with American Airlines will have to set the number of bags they’re bringing ahead of time on the company’s app or website. Then when they show up at the airport, they just scan their mobile boarding pass at a kiosk to instantly print the bag tags — no touchscreen interactions required. The passengers can then drop those bags before heading to their gate.

American Airlines frames this a “new technology” that “enhance[s] the customer experience,” though it’s really little more than an augmentation of the interaction flow that airlines have offered for years at self check-in kiosks.

The company says the change is part of its “commitment to the safety and well-being of its customers and team members.” And American Airlines does have some of the most strict consequences for passengers who try to board a flight without a face covering. But this is a company that, along with a few peers, has also recently started booking people back into middle seats on its flights. American Airlines was also recently criticized for telling passengers on a flight that they couldn’t move to empty emergency row seats without paying extra. So that commitment apparently only goes so far.

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