Virgin Australia to roll out 'tap-and-fly' checkin kiosks

By David Flynn, November 19 2015
Virgin Australia to roll out 'tap-and-fly' checkin kiosks

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. 

 Also read: Inside Virgin Australia's new Perth Airport business class lounge

David Flynn travelled to Perth as a guest of Virgin Australia

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Good news for regular travellers but probably bad news for elites. (Side note: I hate that word.) 

On the odd occasion I fly Qantas I hate having to tag my own luggage, I'm not that good at it and always worried it's going to fall off.

I hope VA issues us with magical luggage tags so we don't have to do that. 

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 117

Hi Hugo.  If you're a QF elite, do you use the Qantas bag tags?  That way there's no need to tag your bag and no need to check in, other than on your mobile, and scan the boarding pass at the bag drop.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 143

The bag tags are available to everyone. They were offering them 2 for $50 at some stage, best purchase I ever made.


Hope Virgin comes out with something similar.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 188

Hi traveller99 - I assume the Qtags are electronic, but what happens when the bag disappears down the hole in the wall?  Do the baggage handlers need to use a reader to direct the bag to the right flight?  The paper label at least has the destination in large print, and whilst that does'nt guarantee delivery, it's the best we've got at the moment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 552

Or you could just learn how to stick two pieces of sticky paper together?


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 172


12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

Hey, if they want me to tag my own baggage they should pay me minimum wage, at least.

I feel the same way about scanning my own groceries. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 552

[Deleted - comment about another user]

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 13

Interesting point you make about luggage tags Hugo. I wonder if VA will go the same way as Qantas with a Q-tag type 'permanent' luggage tag? I suppose time will tell.

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 229

Very similar to what Qantas do. Be interesting to see how the reversible counter idea works in practise.

Things are so much better since the kiosk/online check-in/bag drop system started. To think that not that long ago we had to stand in queues. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 144

I wonder how they propose to govern the priority self service check-in kiosks and bag drop facilities? Unless they're programmed to only process customers with status? Otherwise it might just end up like the Priority secruity lane in MEL - a nice idea in principle, but unpoliced so every man and his dog uses it.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

It would be very easy to program them to only serve customers with status, so hopefully they will. 

It's much harder to get humans to reliably police these things, because most people don't like saying "Back of the line, peon!"

(Actually some people love saying that, but they're the people who suck at customer service.)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 552

I wish they would sometimes, frustrating to see bogans just trying to see what they can get hoping noone would pull them up

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2014

Total posts 3

I participated in the Perth airport readiness day recently and have to say overall the system worked well.

The challenges faced by older and less frequent travellers mentioned by John Borghetti was clear to see (and frustrating to watch!!). The VA staff did well but this will be an ongoing issue.



10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

I hope Virgin leapfrogs Qantas by introducing electronic ink tags like BA, factoring in both RFID as well using agreed standards.  Luggage tags, rather than being an object of privilege, acquired through status or bought for a premium, could be tailored to the individual with unique patterns and design, or even as gifts from the travel agent, etc.


13 Jun 2015

Total posts 140

Really excited about the new Virgin Kiosks as well as the opening of the new Perth domestic terminal! You beauty! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1252

I think it's so cute how VA is trying to play catch-up with QF.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 363

They can try. As the old saying goes - "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig"

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Nov 2015

Total posts 1

Virgin's hybrid bag drops might be a world first for SITA, but they weren't first in the world. Australian company ICM had their hybrid (self or agent) bag drops operating in CDG Paris in July 2014.

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