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American Airlines rolls out touchless bag check, but still books center seats

American Airlines announced on Friday that check-in is completely contactless, even for passengers who need to check-in bags. But the company continues to book passengers in middle seats, so it’s a small gesture in the end that only slightly reduces the chances of exposure to the new coronavirus.

Starting Friday, passengers flying with American Airlines will need to pre-set the number of bags they bring in advance on the company’s app or website. Then when they arrive at the airport, they simply scan their mobile boarding pass at a kiosk to print the bag tags immediately – no touchscreen interactions required. Passengers can then drop those bags before going to their gate.

American Airlines calls this a “new technology” that “improves”[s] the customer experience ‘, although it is actually not much more than an increase in the interaction flow that airlines have been offering 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 has some of the most severe consequences for passengers trying 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 to middle seats on its flights. American Airlines was also recently criticized for telling passengers on a flight that they did could not go to empty seats in the emergency queue without paying extra. So apparently that commitment only goes so far.