Qantas to trial new check-in system

Qantas has announced that it plans to trial its new "Next-Generation" check-in system next week in Perth, made up of technology from 15 different vendors.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor

Qantas has announced that it plans to trial its new "Next-Generation" check-in system next week in Perth, made up of technology from 15 different vendors.

The trial, involving 100,000 of Qantas' platinum, gold, silver and bronze Frequent Flyers, is the fruit of two years' labour with vendors including IBM, New Media Innovations, Unisys, Fujitsu, Amadeus, Telstra and Satyam all contracted to the project. Qantas executive manager of corporate services and technology David Hall said that Qantas has over 300 separate IT contracts across its business.

Qantas 747

Qantas has brought together 15 vendors to provide technology for its new next-generation check-in system. (Qantas 747 image by Simon Sees, CC2.0)

Originally announced by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce in November 2009, the aim of the project is to speed up the check-in process and reduce congestion in the terminal.

Qantas' platinum, gold, silver and bronze frequent flyers will be given new loyalty cards with a smart chip built-in. This new smart chip is designed to act as a boarding pass when scanned through new check-in kiosks deployed for the trial.

"Customers arriving at the airport who have not already checked in either online or on their mobile, swipe their card at the reader and within five seconds they have checked in, and within 15 seconds they have the confirmation forwarded to their mobile phone," Hall said.

Through the kiosk systems, passengers can weigh their bags, pay for excess baggage charges and modify their booking information.

The customer can also check their luggage at one of two new automated bag-drop points around Perth airport. Luggage is weighed and measured using pressure pads on the bag-point platforms and lasers determine the dimensions of the bag itself.

Luggage is tracked using a new RFID tag attached to a passenger's items. The RFID tracking technology — called the Q Bag Tag — is planned for deployment in November 2010 as the next-generation system rolls out to Sydney Airport.

A passenger's name, destination and forwarding instructions for the luggage is stored on the Q Bag Tag's chip.

Qantas plans to deploy a passive RFID chip into the Q Bag Tag so that luggage can be traced when in the hold of an aircraft using a handheld reader.

Qantas has a manual contingency in place to prevent system crashes delaying flights if its new automated check-in system were to fail.

In the event of a system failure, Qantas check-in attendants will print manual documents, run manual check-in and bag-handling procedures until automated systems were restored.

Qantas expects to complete the next-generation roll-out to all major cities in Australia in 2011. The deployment to all Australian terminals is expected to be completed in the second half of 2011.

Not wanting to reveal the exact cost of the new system and its deployment, Qantas indicated that it was a "multimillion-dollar project."

Hall said it was a great achievement that the airline had brought 15 vendors together to implement the new check-in system ahead of schedule.

Low-cost Jetstar will keep its check-in systems unchanged until a case existed where the next-generation system will be viable for deployment, stated Hall.

Updated at 5:29pm, 26 July 2010: Hall originally said that the RFID Bag Tags (or Q Bag Tags) use active RFIDs. Qantas has since clarified that the tags actually use passive RFID technology.

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