Alaska Airlines was the first domestic carrier to book flights over the Internet and the first carrier in the world to offer home or office check-in, company officials said. But there are still improvements to be made, Steve Jarvis, vice president of e-commerce at Alaska Airlines, told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
"Our strategy is to support the brand by giving the customer control," Jarvis said. "We're handing you the keys and getting you to interact with us in your pajamas at 2 o'clock in the morning."
Jarvis said it is no mystery that selling tickets over the Internet is the airline's lowest cost of distribution, and cited savings as one of its goals.
"We're trying to hand the travel service to you," Jarvis said.
Alaska Airlines hopes to remove lines at the airport, Jarvis said, through technology at the airport, the workers who service it, and new features on the Web site.
The company has developed in Anchorage an "airport of the future" called the Anchorage Two-step, a process in which a traveler checks in electronically and drops his or her bag at a kiosk. An employee scans the boarding pass and prints out bag tags.
The two-step format aims to do away with standing in line, and for the past couple of weeks has been tested at the Anchorage airport, Jarvis said.
According to Jarvis, over the last two and a half years, the percentage of business booked online at AlaskaAir.com has risen from 3 percent to over 20 percent, providing Alaska Airlines and its partner Horizon Air over $400 million in revenue.
The increase in Web site usage has freed up staff to help passengers with other concerns, Jarvis said.
Other features of the Web site, such as My AlaskaAir, a program that personalizes service for the passenger, and AlaskaAir.com news have made it easier for customers to book flights, Jarvis said.
Jarvis said AlaskaAir.com is working on providing more online information about travel destinations with the help of Sasquatch Books, publisher of the "Best Places" series. The Web site has also started providing weather reports and car and hotel rentals to the customer.
Besides being able to use wireless means such as handheld computers to check on flights and check in, another new feature allows a passenger to track the flight of the plane on a map.
"People believe it more if they can see it in a picture," Jarvis said.
Jarvis cited several areas that need improvement on the Web site, such as its inability to reserve e-tickets for more than four trip segments.
"We will upgrade the system to be able to process them," Jarvis said. "Our target for that is the fall."
He said the airline also wants to improve service for interline ticketing, partner awards, proactive messaging alerts for customers, and the shopping engine that allows a customer to choose between several flights with differing costs.
Kevin Tillotson, a vice president at Key Bank, said Alaska Airlines did a good job at serving customers and providing more electronic services than other carriers.