Self-Service: In The Bag

Self-service baggage drop-off is the logical extension of the process that began with passengers checking themselves in, firstly inside airports and then from other locations. (ADM)

Montreal International is expanding its passenger self-service options, explains Carroll McCormick.

Self-service baggage drop-off is the logical extension of the process that began with passengers checking themselves in, firstly inside airports and then from other locations. (ADM)

Since December 2011, passengers flying with WestJet out of Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport have been able to tag and drop off their baggage with no intervention by check-in agents.  When this process graduates from pilot project to standard operating procedure for any airline, the airport will offer passengers a fast-track process with no queuing.
Aeroports de Montreal (ADM), which operates the Trudeau airport, pioneered self-tagging of baggage in 2004 and now lays claim to being the first North American airport to introduce the new service.  “This pilot project is a move forward to complement self-tagging,” says Antoine Rostworowski, Director of Industry Relations, ADM.  The airport authority expects it will begin expanding the service to other airlines later this year.
Self-service baggage drop-off is the logical extension of the process that began with passengers checking themselves in, firstly inside airports and then from other locations.  “The key portion of the check-in process is the bag drop.  How do we process baggage in the future if check-in is outside the terminal?” Mr Rostworowski asks.
In partnership with Cofely GDF Suez, which operates and maintains the airport’s domestic and international baggage handling system, ADM set up two self-service baggage drops for the pilot project, with a derogation from Transport Canada to relax the regulations governing the handling of passenger luggage.  Cofely, which has been developing its uDrop product for several years, installed a countertop solution, including a touch screen and hand-held scanner, mounted on standard common-use check-in workstations.  Piggybacking existing workstations gives the airport flexibility to choose where to site self-service baggage drop-offs and, importantly, strengthens the business case for offering the service.
Since the pilot project began, Cofely has recorded an average processing time per passenger drop-off of 35 seconds, with the fastest operation in ten seconds.  “In the pilot mode we have processed an average of 3,000 passengers and around 4,000 bags per month,” says Pierre Loyer, Vice President of Operations, Cofely GDF Suez.
Once a passenger has checked in at a standard common-use kiosk, a process follows.  They proceed to the bag drop-off (passengers retain the option to use manned check-in counters) after bag tags are printed out;  log in using the touch screen and scan the boarding pass;  place the first bag on the belt after a prompt from the screen and scan the bag tag with a hand-held scanner that has a wired connection to the workstation.  If there are additional bags, the passengers can repeat the above steps, or sign off and move on, again after screen prompts. Bags are reconciled with boarding passes during the process.
A weigh scale under the baggage belt can detect any overweight bags, which will be flagged and the passenger directed to take it to a manned workstation.  Airline-specific business rules can be incorporated in the uDrop process, where the weight of a bag can be compared to a passenger’s check-in baggage allowance.
During the pilot project, an agent is stationed at each bag drop-off to assist passengers and eventually one agent will be responsible for six drop-offs.  “We have also developed an iPad app so customer service agents can monitor the passengers going through the process remotely and intervene proactively if they see issues like overweight bags,” Mr Loyer explained.
Mr Rostworowski added: “The feedback from Transport Canada is positive.  Several other airlines have approached us and want to do this.  We want to deploy more self-tagging drop-offs.  We are also in talks with the [US] Transportation Security Administration, as we would like to deploy this for flights going to the United States.”