Virgin Australia plans to introduce self-serve checkin kiosks and bag drop facilities at its terminals across Australia next year, under what CEO John Borghetti describes as "a very aggressive" schedule.
The system will debut at Virgin's new Perth T1 domestic terminal, which opens this Sunday November 22nd, but the east coast won't be far behind.
"We want to extend them as quickly as possible, bearing in mind that it's not all our decision because we don't own the terminals," Borghetti says.
While Virgin's model clearly plays catch-up to the Qantas' smart checkin system, bar the Flying Kangaroo's tap-and-go checkin towers, Borghetti cites the system's flexibility to switch between self-serve and staff-assistance modes as having the edge when it comes to customer service.
The 12 'hybrid' desks at Perth are a world-first design from air transport technology firm SITA, capable of converting from self-service bag drop to a staffed checkin counter within minutes.
"That flexibility is important because every flight is different," Borghetti (below) tells Australian Business Traveller.
"You could be on a weekday morning flight that's full of business travellers, they're typically comfortable with self checkin and have hardly any baggage."
"But then you have afternoon and weekend flights with more leisure travellers who have suitcases, and there are also older people and tourists who are not as familiar with automation."
Meet and greet
Virgin's plan is for terminal staff to move out from behind the conventional checkin desks to interact more with travellers.
"It's almost a concierge set-up," Borghetti expands. "When you walk into the terminal there will be staff standing ahead of the kiosk to greet you and guide you through."
"But if they notice there's a queue building with a lot of people needing assistance, they can switch the terminals over and move back behind them."
The airline's domestic pier at Perth Airport's T1 terminal is a showcase for the advanced system, and has the advantage of being housed in a shiny new terminal with plenty of space.
There are 28 self-service checkin kiosks...
... with several set aside for 'premium' travellers in business class or holding Velocity Frequent Flyer Platinum or Gold cards.
There's also a dedicated priority channel from those machines to priority checkin desks and bag drop stations.
While the kiosks currently read the magnetic stripe on the back of your Velocity Frequent Flyer card, the system will be upgraded in early 2016 to recognise the smartchip embedded within the card.
David Flynn travelled to Perth as a guest of Virgin Australia
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