Smarter baggage systems like automated bag-drop will help take the pain out of baggage check-in for passengers.
Airport queues make flying stressful, so that holiday feeling can often be elusive until you’ve successfully negotiated security.
One man on a mission to change that by taking the tedium out of pre-security airport processing is Jacques Morgenegg, Project Manager (Landside) at Geneva International Airport.
His airport has been at the forefront of self-service in Europe with a number of pioneering projects designed to help passengers make the most of their time at the airport and improve the overall experience.
Air Transport IT Review discussed with Morgenegg his airport’s latest queue busting innovation 'Scan&Fly', an automated bag-drop solution that helps take the pain out of baggage check-in for passengers.
“Geneva is a fast expanding airport handling more than 15 million passengers a year, but we have limited terminal capacity.
“Baggage check-in was a growing frustration not just for passengers, but also for the airport and airlines. We needed to remedy the situation, so we worked closely with airlines from the Star Alliance, particularly SWISS, and with our technology partner SITA, to define a solution.”
The answer was not simple as the airport wanted a hybrid solution that worked both for customers wanting self-service and those who needed staff support.
Ultimately though, it was about improving the process for as many passengers as possible, so it had to be an intuitive and user-friendly solution.
SITA’s Scan&Fly was able to meet the airport’s needs. The passenger places their bag on the belt next to the bag drop counter and simply has to scan their boarding pass or bag tag using a handheld scanner.
If the bag satisfies the carrier’s size and weight rules, it’s automatically deposited into the baggage handling system.
To get to this point passengers follow either a one-step or two-step process depending on whether they have already checked-in before arriving at the airport.
As Morgenegg explains: “Those passengers who have already checked-in off-airport can go directly to the bag-drop unit to print the bag tag and deposit their bags.
“Passengers who need to check-in start the process at a kiosk where they print the bag tag, before going to the bag drop unit.”
Geneva Airport was the first to implement a Scan&Fly system that combines the one and two-step options into a single process. Morgenegg believes the decision to do this has proved correct.
“In fact, the initial aim was to go with the one-step option to help web check-in passengers, but we believed it would also be beneficial to expand the service to those passengers who had not checked-in.
“We made a good choice, because after two years of operation we have approximately half of the passengers using the one-step and half of the passengers using the two-step option.”
Today, seven Star Alliance airlines are using Scan&Fly, and the airport plans to extend the self-service bag drop offer to more airlines.
“Passengers want a fast, stress-free journey through the airport and we also have constraints with our terminal capacity,” says Morgenegg.
“To solve these two needs it is clear bag drop is the direction we must go in. Our aim is to implement a common-use self bag drop area for all carriers using the airport.”
It’s a ground-breaking change for the airport from the days of lengthy queues at a check-in desk, but was it easy to introduce such radical innovation over such a short time?
“There were a number of different stakeholders, including airlines, ground handlers, technology suppliers, and most importantly, the passengers.
“So managing and communicating with the stakeholders is one of the most important elements for success in this type of project. We had strong support from the airlines and ground handler involved. This was crucial,” advises Morgenegg.
“We also relied heavily on SITA to integrate the technologies and properly train IT maintenance staff and ground agents to understand and use the system.
“We can’t afford to have the system not working for any length of time and while it is working we need it to run as smoothly as possible.”
To help with Morgenegg’s last point, SITA worked with Geneva Airport to develop a new product that helps ensure passengers follow the fastest process for their circumstances.
As Morgenegg explains: “At the moment not all types of passengers can be served by the self-service bag drop system. This might be people with extra large bags, for example, or pets.
“To make sure only eligible passengers go to the bag drop we are testing a system called Scan&Divide. With this, ground staff scan the boarding pass at the entrance to the process and select only passengers with the right profile to use the bag drop.
“Other passengers are directed to an assisted baggage check-in desk. It is very helpful because it speeds up the bag drop process and avoids queues.”
After two years of operation how does Morgenegg assess the performance of the new bag drop?
“We are very happy with the result so far. The bag drop units are very simple to use. The reduction of queues is definitely the easiest way to observe the difference.
“Furthermore, we see in our surveys that the passengers rate the entire experience better than before self bag drop,” he points out.
“Seasoned travelers can offload their bags quicker and without human interaction, leaving airport staff to focus on those who need help.”
“With throughput higher from using the same space, we have been able to increase capacity to meet our business goal,” adds Morgenegg.
To underline the success, the airport has expanded its number of self bag drop units and continues to invest in new infrastructure and technologies that can help it efficiently manage the millions of checked-in bags it handles each year.
SITA technology helps more than 1,000 airports worldwide deliver a hassle-free passenger journey. We are the only information and communications technology (ICT) provider who can deliver integrated, seamless self-service from check-in to security to boarding all the way to border security on arrival. SITA embraces and implements new technologies – including common-use in the cloud, business intelligence, near-field communications (NFC), and beacons – to transform airports and improve the passenger experience.
LATAM Airlines Group, Latin America’s largest airline group, is introducing a new baggage system that will give real-time status reports on passengers’ baggage across 12 airports.
The airline handles more than 30 million bags a year and the new SITA technology will be instrumental in reducing the number of mishandled bags and quickly resolving baggage issues.
As part of the six-year deal, the group will roll out 350 handheld devices to its baggage team to facilitate the loading, tracking, tracing, reconciliation and management of baggage across airports in seven countries.
SITA’s technology is able to put the same baggage data at the fingertips of every ground handling employee at all airports in real-time, making it possible to track baggage no matter where is it along its journey.
Pablo Navarrete, Senior Airport Director, LATAM Airlines Group, says: “For passengers it is a given that we will deliver their baggage on time at the passenger’s destination.
“With a growing network of airports across multiple countries, the ability to access real-time data on such a vital element of the travel experience gives us peace of mind that we will always have full visibility of our passengers’ baggage and are able to act proactively before a bag is mishandled.”
The baggage technology will be progressively rolled out LATAM Airlines Group’s hubs in seven (countries) over the next 12 months starting with Santiago, Chile.