All airline passengers will soon be able to check-in on their smartphones and use permanent luggage tags, according to Star Alliance CEO, Mark Schwab
13 June 2016
The 28 members of the airline alliance, including Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, and Thai Airways, agreed to step up automation efforts to help improve the check-in and baggage experience at a recent meeting in Zurich, Switzerland. By the end of 2017, Star Alliance wants all airlines to have facilities in place for passengers to check-in online or using an automated kiosk, and to be able to print a baggage tag at home or at the airport kiosk. Schwab said that when Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport (used by the Star Alliance carriers) opened in 2014, the target of 70% of passengers using self-service transactions had seemed ambitious at the time. “Many of our airlines suggested to us the customers wouldn’t like it and they would prefer to have contact with the check-in agent,” he said, adding: “Within a few months we found customers did indeed prefer the automated transactions and would step up to do it themselves.” Schwab said airlines would still make customer service agents available to passengers having difficulty using automated check-in, but he expected further improvements in automation in the year to come. Some airlines have proved to be more advanced than others in offering automated check-in and baggage services to passengers. Qantas gives permanent bag tags to its high-status loyalty programme members that can be checked at automated bag drops on its domestic flights; Air New Zealand in December 2015 introduced the world’s first biometric bag drop system to speed up check in at its Auckland hub. Featuring technology similar to that used by SmartGate passport control facilities, customers scan their passports and boarding passes to have their identities verified by a biometric camera before being invited to place their bags on the scale to be weighed before they are sent through to the airline’s baggage handling system. But while some of Star Alliance’s members make strong use of technology, there is inconsistency across the global aviation group.