Self-Bag Drop – Why It’s Sometimes Better to Do It Yourself

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Self-service kiosks have become prevalent across the retail and hospitality industries. Self-checkout lines at grocery stores and big box retailers are standard. It’s also become commonplace and accepted to place food orders on touch screens at many fast-casual restaurant chains.

Some retailers and restaurant chains claim that self-checkout and self-service kiosks help alleviate employee shortages, expedite processes, and speed up customer transactions. While that may be true, it’s fair to say that some customers still have mixed feelings about the massive shift towards self-service.

But what if self-service kiosks could speed up airport check-in and baggage drop? What if they could give passengers more time to sit back and relax in an airport lounge or have a pre-flight beverage at an airport bar?

Self-service for that particular use case would be a welcome improvement for many airline passengers. And it’s a change that is already being implemented in numerous modern airports around the globe.

Driving that change are innovative airport self-service solution providers like Materna IPS Americas – whose self-bag drop technologies have been revolutionizing air travel for almost a decade and a half.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gary McDonald, the President of Materna, to learn more about these exciting technologies and understand why passengers should want to “do it themselves” when it comes to baggage drop.

Connected Aviation Today (CAT): What is self-bag drop (SBD)? Why would a passenger want to self-serve when checking their bags?

Gary McDonald: SBD is the automation of the traditional process of checking a bag without the requirement of a check-in agent. The passengers control the experience; the faster they check in with the SBD, the faster the queue moves, and the sooner everyone gets airside.

There is a substantial reduction in time spent at check-in for passengers familiar with the SBD system and a shorter wait in queue. Even with first-time users, a sense of autonomy is returned as self-service ensures a passenger can navigate the bag drop without being at the mercy of airline agents and their fellow passengers.

CAT: Why would airports want to implement SBD? What do they get from embracing SBD?

Gary McDonald: From the airport perspective, there are many positive benefits. SBDs are retrofit friendly, enabling an airport to process more passengers with existing square footage – in some cases, literally tens of millions more annually.

“SBD frees up agents to focus on the passengers who require assistance. It also helps ensure that all of an airline‘s business rules are followed correctly…” – Gary McDonald

This can help reduce the need to spend money on new terminal expansion. SBD moves the passengers airside quicker, allowing them more time to explore the airport’s unique amenities. This increases retail spending and reduces passenger stress.

What’s more, from a “back-of-house” perspective, many SBDs have additional built-in security measures to improve overall airport security. They also improve baggage hygiene by injecting bags correctly into the conveyor belt system with the required distance between each one.

CAT: What about the airlines? What benefits could they get from SBD?

Gary McDonald: SBD is equally advantageous for the airlines. SBD frees up agents to focus on the passengers who require assistance. It also helps ensure that all of an airline‘s business rules are followed correctly, including the collection of out-of-gauge revenue.

What’s more, the machines can be available 24 hours a day with minimal downtime.

“SBD is the automation of the traditional process of checking a bag without the requirement of a check-in agent. The passengers control the experience…” – Gary McDonald

CAT: Are there any concerns about security that could arise from passengers utilizing SBD? Are all the same security checks for bags in place in this system?

Gary McDonald: The same security checks are carried out within the SBD system as they would be when interacting with an agent.

In fact, as new checks are introduced, the SBD can implement them with software updates. No blast emails or team meetings are required.

CAT: What new technologies or solutions are needed to make SBD a reality? Who would be responsible for embracing these new SBD technologies – the airline or the airport?

Gary McDonald: SBD is already a reality throughout Europe and in some of the leading, innovative airports in the U.S.

The SBD solutions themselves include full common use, which allows any airline to use the same SBD. They can use biometrics to reduce the reliance on paper documentation.

Materna’s innovative Flex.Go baggage handling system helps airports cope with increasing passenger traffic and improve the travel experience.

They can also include contactless payment for faster, more secure payment and camera technology to ensure the bag dropped is safe to be injected and within the BHS measurement requirements.

Both airports and airlines can purchase and implement SBDs. There are certainly benefits for both. 

For example, each airline will have its own business rules and process flow that it prefers to follow. So, if an airline buys the equipment, it is guaranteed to have all the technology and solutions required.

However, if an airport purchases the equipment, it will want to please as many airlines as possible. Some features and nuances may not be catered to. That is unless the airport involves the airlines in the procurement process.

CAT: Can you tell our readers a bit about Materna IPS? What does the company offer to airports and airlines, and how are these solutions helping expedite SBD adoption?

Gary McDonald: Materna IPS offers a full range of airport self-service solutions. We’ve been a leading provider of these solutions for more than 40 years. SBD has been in our DNA since then.

“SBDs are retrofit friendly, enabling an airport to process more passengers with existing square footage – in some cases, literally tens of millions more annually.” – Gary McDonald

Materna offers full service from consultancy to implementation, integration, deployment, and ongoing maintenance for all our self-service equipment, and all our software is written in-house for our SBDs.

The detail and experience that Materna calls on during each installation ensure that the next installation is carried out even more smoothly and quickly—this means that each installation is more seamless and efficient for our customers than the last.

To learn more about SBD and how it can improve passenger experience, click HERE.

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