In his recent NBER working paper, Robert Gordon wrote:
This lack of multitasking ability is dismissed by the robot enthusiasts – just wait, it is coming. Soon our robots will not only be able to win at Jeopardy but also will be able to check in your bags at the sky cap station at the airport, thus displacing the skycaps. But the physical tasks that humans can do are unlikely to be replaced in the next several decades by robots. Surely multiple-function robots will be developed, but it will be a long and gradual process before robots outside of the manufacturing and wholesaling sectors become a significant factor in replacing human jobs in the service or construction sectors.
So how is it with those skycaps? I queried Air Genius Gary Leff and he wrote this back to me:
There are still people picking up/loading bags onto the planes, but –
American Airlines has tested self-tagging of bags in Boston, Austin, and Orlando
Qantas has permanent bag tags that work with RFID readers at the airport, you check in online and drop your bag at the bag drop and leave. This works for their Australian domestic flights. (I do have a “Q Bag Tag”)
British Airways is trialing an end to paper tags, they began with Microsoft employees in Seattle this past fall
Brussels Airlines on intra-European flights departing Brussels
BWI is working on their baggage systems to accommodate self-checking of bags
And that required no more than a few minutes thought from Gary.