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Baggage only

Self-service is now commonplace at airports – especially at check-in – and by all indications the rate of adoption is growing fast, as Alan Dron finds

Air passengers travelling through a growing number of airports globally will notice that life in the terminal is becoming increasingly self-service. These facilities span from check-in to bag drop, border control, and even gate access on some domestic flights.


Self-service check-in has been around for a while now. Aviation IT specialists SITA were one of the first on the scene. Its first kiosks were introduced as a trial in 1997 by Air Alaska, designed not only to improve the check-in process for passengers by reducing queuing but also to test the appetite for self-service.


Given the volume of travellers, even a small reduction in the amount of time taken to process each passenger can add up to significantly improved throughput figures, not to mention a better passenger experience.


Several providers have populated this new marketplace, offering solutions designed to hasten the check-in and baggage deposit processes.


Germany-based Materna IPS provides the common platform operating system and the self-service kiosks on which individual airlines can use their own application or one provided by Materna.

Ironically, says Declan Austin, Materna’s Solutions Manager for Europe and North America, LCCs like easyJet have been so successful in persuading people to check in online that they have created another problem for themselves at the departure airport.


Approximately 90% of easyJet’s passengers now check in online. Until recently, however, that meant that when they turned up at the airport, they found themselves queuing for the ‘conventional’ bag drop longer than those people who continued to check in at the airport. This means not only were they not being ‘rewarded’ for checking in early, they were effectively being penalised.

However, Austin affirms that today: “If you fly out of Gatwick, there are 100% self-service bag drops. The driving force for easyJet at Gatwick was that it had to be a quick solution so that passengers shouldn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes.”


There is an ongoing drive by airlines and kiosk providers to make the bag-drop process as simple as possible. That has meant disposing of the traditional baggage tags where agents peel off part of the tag to stick it to another. “One of the big sea-changes has been the arrival of ‘linerless’ bag tags with clever glue that only sticks to itself,” notes Austin. Some airlines even provide a receipt for luggage by sending an SMS to the passenger’s phone. >>


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