Points, miles, and snide remarks.


Stowaway Solutions: Should Southwest Take Notes From SWISS?

SWISS International Airlines is stepping into the future with plans to automate passenger counting using artificial intelligence (AI). The airline’s move to replace manual headcounts with AI-driven cameras aims to enhance efficiency during boarding. Now, the question arises: Should a certain Dallas-based low-cost carrier be taking notes from SWISS?

Southwest has had well more than its fair share of stowaway incidents. In one case last September, a mystery passenger infiltrated a flight to New Orleans (MSY), only being discovered due to a fully occupied flight leaving more passengers than available seats. In September, I wrote about the potential stowaway I encountered at TUL, making me question if this is happening way more often than is being reported.

TSA’s role primarily involves screening for prohibited items and ensuring individuals on the no-fly list don’t enter the sterile area. They don’t care where you go once you’re past the checkpoint (as long as you stay out of restricted areas). The responsibility of guarding the jet bridge door falls squarely on the airlines. Southwest seems to be falling short in this regard. There are several ways someone could (legally & legitimately) enter the sterile area to try this. You could buy a fully refundable ticket and cancel once beyond the TSA checkpoint (or just no-show if you don’t care about losing your money). You could arrive on a domestic flight. Or, at a growing number of US airports, you can obtain a gate pass simply by asking, for any reason (or none at all).

Enter SWISS, pioneering the use of AI to automate passenger counting during boarding. The system, developed by Berlin-based startup Vion AI, utilizes cameras to accurately record the number of people boarding the plane. SWISS anticipates that this technological leap will streamline the boarding process, making it faster and more efficient. The airline asserts that all data will be handled in compliance with stringent European and Swiss data protection regulations (GDPR, anyone?).

While SWISS is investing in cutting-edge technology, Southwest might want to consider whether it’s time to implement similar measures as part of a comprehensive set of checks and balances. Alternatively, Southwest could just, you know, train their employees to do their jobs, ensuring gate agents effectively monitor the boarding process.

As SWISS takes a major step into the digital future, Southwest may need to reassess its approach to passenger security and boarding procedures. I disagree with the prognosticators saying that AI will upend everything, but there are a ton of opportunities to use AI to simultaneously secure our skies while actually improving passenger experience.

h/t Paddle Your Own Kanoo