The Perspective 
Monday, 02 November 2009

The global economic crisis — coupled with increasing competition and rising customer expectation — has compelled the aviation industry to devise innovative and cost-saving solutions. As such, airlines all over the world are looking to technology to generate more demand and drive down costs.

Self-check-in services are helping airlines cut costs and improve customer experience. Moreover, according to IATA’s 2009 Corporate Air Travel Survey, more than 50 percent of passengers worldwide want more self-service options. Customers feel more empowered while using self-check-in services and save time at the airports. Online check-in, kiosks and mobile technology are ushering in a new era of customer self-service, while self-service kiosks are increasingly becoming more and more popular, as proven by their increased usage. Kiosks are also working well in tandem with online and mobile technologies.

According to the SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self Service Study, kiosk check-in usage is set to rise over the years and interactive kiosks will increasingly shift to the forefront of self-service. Kiosks not only benefit people who do not check-in online, but can also be used to provide multiple functionalities at the airport — like car rental or hotel check-in. Moreover, in the near future kiosks may become excellent avenues through which ancillary services might be purchased.

Another area where kiosks will play a huge role is in the process of self-tagging baggage. IATA, with its Fast Travel Program, will immensely improve and enhance passenger self-service through kiosks performing the functions such as printing bag tags, scanning documents, automating boarding gates and reporting missing baggage. Furthermore, the advent of CUPPS (Common Use Passenger Processing System) architecture — technology that enables airlines and handling agents to access their own applications from multiple workstations and peripherals throughout the airport that are shared by all users — will help continue to bring about increased efficiencies and cost savings.

In addition to kiosks, mobile technology will continue to take the world by storm. Mobile technology has a distinct advantage over kiosks — our mobile phone is always with us. It is thus very convenient to use one’s phone for various services. Mobile phones can be used not just for checking in but also to complete the entire booking process. They can also be used for the sale of ancillary services like hotels, cars and also for timetables, notifications, alerts, social networking and much more.

According to a 2009 SITA IT Trends survey, 80 percent of the airlines surveyed are planning to offer mobile check-in capabilities by 2012. What’s more, IATA has targeted 100 percent Bar Coded Boarding Passes (BCBP) by 2010. These facts alone guarantee the future of self-service technologies at the airport.

As network access speeds become ever faster and smart phones become increasingly powerful, the future of mobile services is poised to become even more popular than kiosk and Web check-in. Now, mobile check-in users consist of business and frequent travelers and smart phone users. However, this trend is sure to change as more and more leisure travelers are also purchasing smart phones.

The writer is senior business associate with NIIT Technologies.

Posted by: Kanishka Sharma AT 01:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 03 June 2008
Recently we traveled to pitch a kiosk concept to a very large prospect and the meetings went well. We brought along an IBM AnyPlace kiosk to demonstrate some of our recent custom kiosk applications to the client, which we do often. It gives them an idea of the type of applications they could build, shows them the level of design quality we can perform and allows them to touch and feel some actual hardware. The IBM kiosk is retail hardened and can take a lot of abuse and constant interaction.
But then we put it up against Delta airlines and the TSA.
After packing it in a foam-lined hardshell travel case (TSA locked), we checked the kiosk with our other baggage for our return flight home. All seemed well until we opened the case a week later to prep the kiosk for our next pitch.
The kiosk screen was broken!
Imagine the shock ... and anger. You always wonder how roughly they treat your luggage, and now we have a gauge of the high level of abuse. This glass is not cheap or fragile. It's touch stuff with lots of coatings, etc. (You can review IBM's specs at:

As you can see from the picture, it must have taken a hard and heavy blow from a sharp object or corner of another package. But through our hardshell case? That takes some effort. And now that it is a week or more past our return flight, I don't know if we can issue any kind of complaint or claim. I doubt they will cover this, so I am simply down one unit and out a lot of money. My next step is to see what IBM will charge to repair the unit for me. They have great warranty service, but this should not be covered, obviously.

Shipping electronics is always risky business, and passenger airlines are not in the habit of being gentle with the luggage in their care. I'm sure this would be a bit less likely with a carrier such as UPS/FedEx who handle a lot of fragile items daily. An airline is expecting clothing and golf clubs most of the time. We ship a lot of kiosks via common carrier and rarely have any problems. But we are going to have to re-evaluate how we travel with the kiosks on passenger airlines. We are currently evaluating other types of hard shell cases that we can check with the airlines, and will likely come up with a good solution that we will resell to other customers.

How about you, have you had similar experiences? Do you have mobile kiosks and need to protect them? How do you travel with them? Respond to my blog post and share your thoughts and experiences.

Tim Burke is on the owner of Electronic Art. His blog can be viewed here.

Posted by: Tim Burke AT 11:30 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 31 March 2008
As the editor of Self-Service World, one of the many things that my colleague, Patrick Avery, does on a daily basis is comb the Web for stories that involve the self-service industry. Not too long ago, he found this gem, reported by the Isle of Man Newspapers:

                  British airline to charge those who don’t use kiosk


                  FlyBe has announced it may charge passengers in the future for using its check-in desks at Ronaldsway Airport . The airline plans to install self-service kiosks to speed up the process of checking in for flights. A spokesman for FlyBe said that passengers who wanted to continue to use the traditional check-in desk rather than the self-service kiosks could be charged for doing so in the future.

The story quotes an anonymous source who works for the airline as saying: “We have long been on record as saying that those passengers who want the personal service of a check-in desk or prefer to use one out of habit will be costing other passengers a lot of money.”
In essence:  Use self-service — or else.
At the risk of sounding like one of my high school English teachers (who on more than one occasion threatened to “staple my tongue to the Belvedere,” a local Louisville, Ky., landmark), I think there are two things we can glean from this story.
The first is the monumental significance of what the airline is proposing. A year ago — maybe two — the airline industry had representatives standing next to check-in kiosks, urging weary travelers to try the new-fangled self-service devices for the first time. Travelers were skeptical. What was up with these new devices? How did they work? Were they reliable? If I’m a passenger with reservations on a non-stop flight to Boise, is this kiosk going to print out a boarding pass for the red-eye to Tel Aviv?
And what about security? How could we be sure these self-service devices weren’t going to let the guy with two feet of firecracker wick trailing out of his Nikes get on the nearest 747?
Time has since allayed these uncertainties. Not only are the kiosks quick and easy to use, but they also cut down on check-in queues and, according to Air Canada, save on labor costs. What’s more, some custom-use self-service kiosks can in some ways actually help to improve airport security by providing a scanned record of passengers’ passports and other travel documents. And since even malevolent travelers with suspicious shoes still have to face live security screeners, there aren’t too many worries that the kiosks are going to be a free pass for anyone who walks in the door.
The bottom line is that the kiosks are a success. And it is because they are a success that FlyBe airlines is thinking about charging its customers who try to avoid the kiosks. It used to be that the onus was on the airline to prove that the kiosks were beneficial. Now it’s on the traveler to prove that they’re not. That says something about technology adoption.
The second thing I noticed about the article is the glaring use of the qualifier “may.” It’s not that FlyBe is going to start charging fans of live service ... but it "may."
Again, at the risk of sounding like my aforementioned high-school English teacher (who, after reviewing our test grades on another occasion, threatened to throw herself off the Second Street Bridge — another local landmark) that qualifier makes a world of difference.
Congress may balance the budget next year. We may have a manned mission to Mars by 2020 (although this story makes the prospect seem less likely). There may be another Star Wars movie. At this moment, Bigfoot may be at your home, sitting in your Lazy-Boy eating your nachos.
So what does “may” tell us here?
FlyBe is absolutely, positively, 100-percent certain that charging the kiosk-averse is the right thing to do ... but even FlyBe has its doubts. That’s why the “may” is there. (Given the hesitation, one wonders why the airline chose to announce its intentions at all. I mean, why give away the fact that you may or may not do something? Perhaps it was a test.)
It’s an interesting crossroads for the airline — and airlines everywhere, I suppose.
FlyBe will be seen either as a pioneer or that dog in the Aesop fable that dropped the bone in the creek while trying to steal from its own reflection.
So how will consumers see it? Economists will say that depends on which side of the demand curve the proposal falls on. I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with an example of a similar crossroads in another industry, and I keep coming back to the Internet. After online ordering took off, merchants started dishing out significant discounts to customers who chose to buy online rather than in the physical store. Maybe this is like that.
Looking at FlyBe’s proposal, one can see pros and cons.
The Pros: Adoption will increase; costs will decrease. FlyBe could potentially save more in labor costs. Since fewer customers will visit the check-in desk, FlyBe will need fewer attendants. On the consumer side, travelers will probably be able to move through the check-in process more quickly. Additionally, people who may have been afraid of the technology in the past will now have an impetus to check it out, and discover just how user-friendly it can be.
The Cons: FlyBe runs the risk of backlash. Purists who insist on speaking to a human being at the check-in desk might rebel and seek out a different airline.
Either way, however, FlyBe is considering a policy that demonstrates just how far self-service has come. Are self-service check-in kiosks ready to become mandatory devices? Are consumers ready for it? Are the airlines ready for it? Is FlyBe’s proposal good for the industry?

What do you think? Send your comments (anonymously if you like) to and I’ll consider posting them in my next column.
Posted by: Travis K. Kircher AT 10:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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