It’s 20 years since SITA changed the face of airport departure halls with the introduction of self-service kiosks. With more than 12,000 installed worldwide, they now offer everything from check-in to border control to autonomous robotics.
ITA’s 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.
Twenty years on, nine out of 10 airports have kiosks. What started as an efficient and simple platform for check-in has evolved to include bag tagging, lost baggage tracking, flight transfers, and border control.
Today, a chip & pin and contactless payment facility allows passengers to pay for flights, upgrades, meals, even media downloads for the flight.
Kiosks today are all-pervasive across the airport, both landside and airside. SITA’s latest iteration of the kiosk can even do both, as an autonomous robot able to move independently around the airport as needed.
And soon passengers will be able to use kiosks with fast, secure biometric enrolment and registration capabilities to create a secure single token as they first enter the airport, removing the need to show a passport or boarding card as they progress to the aircraft.
The humble kiosk of the 1990s has certainly matured in the past 20 years, to become a core part of the airport infrastructure.
“Kiosks were seen from the outset as offering tangible benefits for everyone,” according to Rico Barandun, Portfolio Director at SITA.
“They could make check-in easier for passengers, save expensive terminal space, cut airline costs and speed up the whole process for everyone.
“But I don’t think anyone anticipated how they would evolve into today’s increasingly sophisticated interface between passenger and airline/airport.”
We are providing a solution that will improve the self-service experience for check-in, self-tagging and baggage recovery. The initial feedback from our customers and station managers is very positive, with reports of increased availability, better user interface and improved self-service use ratios.
Kiosks were originally supplied according to an airline’s own designs – and many still are. Over the past four years, for example, SITA has deployed more than 775 sleek, cylindrical fiber-glass kiosks for Air France.
To support the move to self bag-tagging, the kiosks are equipped with extra storage for tags as well as audio and camera features for remote support from airline staff. The kiosks would also accommodate future services such as check-in and payment using near field communication technology.
Commenting at the announcement of the agreement with SITA on kiosk versatility and evolution into the self bag-tagging arena, Air France-KLM Group’s Nicolas Nelson, VP Distributed Services IS Group, said: “We are providing a solution that will improve the self-service experience for check-in, self-tagging and baggage recovery.
“The initial feedback from our customers and station managers is very positive, with reports of increased availability, better user interface and improved self-service use ratios.”
Other new models have resulted from airline custom-made commissions which have then gone global. One example is SITA’s development of a desktop kiosk – the D4 – for Delta Airlines.
Some 1,500 versions were delivered to the airline before being released to the industry as a whole, with newer features added, including a passport scanner.
Further recent examples include a project with Southwest Airlines that ended up as SITA’s next standard product – the S5 kiosk – as well as a striking new design for Singapore Changi Airport, installed in March 2017.
In 2003, following publication of IATA’s Common Use Self Service (CUSS) Recommended Practice (RP), SITA began delivery of CUSS kiosks as part of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority’s US$ 4.4bn development program.
“Proceeding with CUSS made common sense,” points out Barandun. “SITA played a pivotal role in determining the RP and continues to play an integral part in IATA’s CUSS Management Group.
“The first standard CUSS kiosk – the S2 – followed two years later,” he adds. “While mechanically and electrically identical from one customer to the next, it could be customized via branding options and different module options.
“Of particular importance, standardization enabled lower volume orders, allowing smaller airports and airlines to enjoy the same benefits of space-saving and resource efficiency. Today, SITA’s CUSS kiosks can be found at some 225 airports worldwide.”
Typical of the move to CUSS has been Adelaide Airport, which late in 2016 announced a contract with SITA to include 32 check-in kiosks and 14 bag drop units.
Vince Scanlon, Executive General Manager Planning and Infrastructure, Adelaide Airport, was mindful of the enhanced passenger experience – and the advantage to the airport’s information management systems.
“Passengers will enjoy efficient bag drop and check-in while the data collected will turn information into knowledge and allow us to focus on what matters for improved performance,” he said.
Self-service check-in through kiosks has become almost universally available, given the convenience and cost-efficiency of the channel. Yet, with passengers increasingly checking-in via the web or mobile apps (33% in 2017, according to the 2017 Passenger IT Trends Survey), the proportion using kiosks for check-in has declined.
“Instead, year by year the functionality of kiosks has grown as new opportunities and technologies come to the fore, simplifying the passenger journey and enhancing the degree of control passengers enjoy over their own travel arrangements,” explains Barandun.
These technologies and services continue to meet the requirements of industry programs from IATA and ACI, such as Simplifying the Business, Smart Security and Baggage Services.
Almost half (47%) of passengers took advantage of the self-service tagging option on their most recent trip, up from 31% just a year ago ( 2017 SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey). And 69% of airports plan to offer bag-tag printing at kiosks by the end of the year (2017 SITA Baggage Report).
According to Barandun “SITA’s acquisition of Type 22 (in late 2015) accelerated the trend for bag tagging and strengthen SITA’s position as market leader.
“Type 22 had built a strong reputation globally as a market innovator of bag drop services through products such as Scan&Fly and Drop&Fly, which are now patented or patent-pending technologies.”
“Kiosks are proving their durability and versatility,” says Barandun. For those involved in a flight transfer, SITA’s kiosks can provide information about a passenger’s connecting flight, enabling check-in, printing of boarding passes, seat changes or flight re-booking without the need to queue at a transfer desk.
More than half of airports and airlines are planning to implement transfer kiosks.
At the other end of the journey, and in the unlikely event that a passenger’s bags are lost, a rapidly growing number of airports have deployed SITA WorldTracer kiosks, supporting IATA’s Fast travel Program initiative.
These allow a passenger to file a missing baggage claim quickly and simply without the need for an agent, reducing the time it takes to report lost baggage by up to 40 minutes.
CUSS kiosks, as well as airline/airport desks, are now also able to use SITA’s AirportConnect Common Use Payment Service. This is the world’s first and only payment solution that enables transactions by multiple airlines through a single payment terminal. It allows credit card payments to be made in a common-use environment, fully in line with payment card industry security standards. (See ‘A payment first for air transport.)
The border is a relatively new frontier for kiosks. “A key development has been the introduction of kiosks designed to speed up and simplify immigration procedures,” continues Barandun.
“The use of secure self-service kiosks for verification of biometric travel documents is increasingly adopted as a means not only of enhancing passenger service, but at the same time allowing immigration specialists time to focus on the minority of higher risk travelers.
“With an average transaction time of just 90 seconds, wait times for users of SITA iBorders® BorderAutomation ABCKiosks are reduced by up to 60%.”
Kiosks used by our customers for check-in and fast immigration processing must be up and running at all times. SITA’s round-the-clock support will ensure that any problems can be identified and resolved faster than they were before, minimizing impact on service to our customers.
SITA’s portfolio includes automated border control kiosks and gates (ABCKiosks and ABC Gates) in use in countries in all regions of the world, but with an early lead in the US, where APC self-service border control kiosks regular feature at airports – including Boston, JFK New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Diego and Tampa.
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas was an early convert, with SITA’s automated passport control kiosks going live in early 2015. These use a biometric and biographic data capture process that allows authorized passengers to have their travel document, biometric data and customs declaration verified before speaking to a US Customs and Border Protection officer.
In October 2016, JetBlue announced that SITA would be providing support for 531 check-in and automated APC kiosks across 56 locations in the US and Caribbean.
“Kiosks used by our customers for check-in and fast immigration processing must be up and running at all times,” says Eash Sundaram, EVP Innovation & Chief Digital & Tech Officer, JetBlue Airways.
“SITA’s round-the-clock support will ensure that any problems can be identified and resolved faster than they were before, minimizing impact on service to our customers.”
This important agreement underlined a further core advantage offered by SITA worldwide – its unique offer in managing and maintaining infrastructure in support of airline and airports own value-add and cost efficiency.
Biometrics will bring further welcome benefits for passengers using kiosks, with the development of single token travel, aligned with IATA’s ‘One Identity’ program.
SITA Smart PathTM captures a passenger’s biometrics via a facial scan at the first touch point in the journey. The technology is being incorporated into existing airport infrastructure and airline systems including, of course, kiosks.
Once checked against the passenger’s travel documents, a secure single token is created. Then, at every step in the journey – whether it’s at self bag drop, at border control or aircraft boarding – facial scanning removes the need to show a passport or boarding card.
Smart Path also integrates with government systems and databases, allowing integrated immigration and border checks. Designed to be modular, it allows airports to implement whole journey identity management into the passenger self-service.
“With single token travel and the flexibility of our kiosks, a genuine ‘walkthrough’ experience for travelers is set to become a reality,” comments Rico Barandun.
In March 2017 Brisbane Airport, in partnership with SITA and Air New Zealand, launched an Australian first trial of facial recognition technology. Air New Zealand passengers were the first to trial Smart PathTM at Brisbane Airport, with plans to expand the service to more international airlines.
One challenge for airports using kiosks can be management of the peaks and troughs of passenger flow. Increasingly, airports want kiosks that can be easily deployed when and where they are needed, in a dynamic and responsive fashion. This is particularly relevant during periods of disruption – such as weather delays or flight cancellations – when additional kiosks may be needed airside, for example, to check-in large numbers of rebooked passengers.
Enter KATE, an intelligent, robotic check-in kiosk that can autonomously move to busy or congested areas in the airport as needed.
Using data sources such as flight and passenger flow information, KATE identifies where airports and airlines need additional check-in kiosks to reduce passenger queue times. Multiple robotic kiosks are then automatically or manually deployed simultaneously and in formation to help passengers – giving airports and airlines greater flexibility to respond to changes in airport movements.
There’s another benefit too – KATE is an ideal way for airports to test the best placement of their fixed infrastructure – something they would normally only be able to do through modeling.
“Over the past 25 years,” concludes Rico Barandun, “IT has changed the nuts and bolts of air travel out of all recognition, whether pre-flight, in-flight or post-flight.
“Underpinning much of this change has been a determination to use technology to simplify the journey for passengers, to cut billions of dollars of cost in systems and processes that had become too weighty and burdensome,” he adds.
“The humble kiosk has been a key part of that change, and it is now evolving further. So next time you see a handful of kiosks moving by themselves around the airport, don’t be surprised.
“They’re very much a part of the air travel technology revolution we’re living through.”
SITA launched its most successful kiosk product, the S3 kiosk, in 2009. More than 3,500 have been sold worldwide and can be found in over 120 airports. The key to its success was the move away from an engineering-centric kiosk to one with a clear and simple design, that was more user-friendly, consumed less power and took up less floor space than previous models.
Subsequent years have seen the introduction of the S4 and the S5 kiosks, not only confirming SITA’s strength in the standard kiosk market but also underlining the company’s continued leadership in the custom kiosk market. These have provided still greater reductions in power consumption (with cost as well as environmental implications) as well as improvements in usability through additional features such as smart placement and LED light guidance for users.
As the same time, extra functionality has been continuously added in response to requirements for payment, passport scanning, bag tag printing.
An unremitting focus on improvement has enabled SITA to offer customers fixed costs and no mid-term surprises over contracts lasting five years and more. This approach to total cost of ownership is believed to be unique in the industry.
According to the 2017 SITA Airline & Airport IT Trends Insights, 55% of airports have already implemented bag-tag printing at kiosks. And a significant 82% of airports are investing in major common-use infrastructure programs/R&D over the next three years.
Helping passengers at times of disruption has also become an investment priority for a growing number of airlines as tools such as kiosks and mobile apps become more sophisticated and capable of dealing with a wider range of passenger issues.
SITA’s cutting-edge robotic kiosk makes use of geo-location technology to find its way through the airport. KATE uses Wi-Fi to connect to vital airline and airport systems, dispensing with the need for cabling or other fixed attachments.
This allows the kiosk to move around freely across the airport terminal, using obstacle avoidance technology to avoid bumping into people or things. The robotic kiosks then automatically return to their docking stations when they are low on power or need to be resupplied with boarding passes or bag tags.
KATE also uses existing SITA data systems such as Day of Operations Business Intelligence and the FlightInfo Application Programming Interface (API).
The kiosks also communicate through a Cloud service to ensure that the right number of kiosks are at the right position when needed, which makes them highly responsive to changes in the airport.
A design patent for the kiosks has been applied for. KATE follows in the footsteps of LEO, SITA’s fully autonomous, self-propelling baggage robot launched in 2016.