What are the challenges facing the aviation industry in terms of growth of passenger numbers and airplane movements?
The biggest challenge facing the aviation industry is capacity. The first hurdle is gate, runway and sky capacity, but just as important is the capacity of the airport infrastructure to accommodate all these passengers, enabling them to get to their gates on time. And not only getting them there, but also giving them an enjoyable time at the airport – happy passengers are more likely to spend some money on food and beverages, or other items.
Why do airports still use check-in desks? Could they ever be removed completely?
This is indeed the million-dollar question: why do check-in desks still exist? I think it is partly because this is the way it has always been, and airport setups are not agile. Another reason is airline branding; having a dedicated spot at an airport gives more visibility, even if this means renting a check-in lane for a few hours. On the other hand if, by reason of growing passenger numbers, customers of your airline stand in line for a long time, maybe staring at your logo that entire time is counterproductive. In the end, a passenger is only interested in hassle-free travel. If this can be done being checked-in by a friendly staff member without queuing, it will probably be preferred. However, if a machine can do it 10 times faster and makes it possible to have a preflight cup of coffee, everybody will be using the machines, and still have a positive energy around the airline if great service is provided.
How would an airport switch to a self-service environment?
What we usually see is that an airport starts with a POC [proof of concept] testing of a number of different options. And once this is successful on the KPIs set (capacity, costs, passenger experience, etc), a bigger roll-out will be planned.
What are the challenges for airports and passengers in using self-service technology?
There are a multitude of challenges. It starts with IT: is the hardware capable of connecting easily with all major airline applications? Also, enabling the passenger-friendly usage of the check-in or bag-drop installation is important. On a worldwide scale, we also see that a logical setup of the terminal building helps enormously. Creating a feeling of space can make a great difference and invites the passenger to make use of the technology. A kiosk takes a lot less space than a desk – therefore it can also be placed in a completely different setup, making far better use of the square footage of the terminal. Personally, I like the setup at Dublin Airport, where islands of kiosks were created – not in a row, as we often see. An important challenge is that suddenly the biggest part of the whole check-in/bag-drop process is being done by a very inexperienced person: the passenger. So all the tiny details should be focused on the ultimate goal of speeding up the end-to-end process.
How can eezeetags assist airports in using self-service technology?
Eezeetags was developed to be used by the inexperienced traveler. Although there were a lot of technical hurdles, especially in the total supply chain, which asked for another solution, we were stubborn, since we knew that if we changed our product, it would not be in the best interest of the passenger and would have harmed the total process time. It took us a while to convince the technical companies. But in the end, the airlines and airports that undertook POCs were easy to convince as the results were there and they were significant. This gives a push to all of the stakeholders involved.
What does the future hold for eezeetags?
Expectations are that the airline industry will triple annual investments in self-service technology over the coming 10 years, and the major part of these investments will be done around self-service bag drop. The eezeetags growth will follow that of the industry. We expect big growth in the USA and South America. Asia is already starting to grow, and in Europe, where the most self-service infrastructure is at the moment, all terminal renewals will be self-service focused. So we will invest in extra production capacity and automation to keep up with demand and retain our flexibility.