27 May 2012

Ethiopia: Bole Airport Start Self-Service Check-Ins

Bole International Airport launched self check-in services starting from last week in order to ease long lines at check-in counters inside its International Terminal.

The airport currently has 28 check-in counters but has added four self check-in kiosks where customers can enter their destination, flight number, or reservation code and be able print a boarding pass. The kiosks are especially convenient for those who do not have luggage to check, as they can immediately proceed to the Immigration Section afterwards.

The project of introducing self check-in services has been in the planning for the last two years, according to Hailay Gebretsadik, manager of Addis Abeba Bole International Airport Administration. Through a joint effort between Ethiopian Airlines and the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE), the project came to fruition this year.

It was subcontracted to Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA), a global air transport communications and information technology specialist company, whose corporate offices are in Belgium. Established by eleven airlines in 1949, SITA currently serves around 500 members worldwide, including airlines, airports, aerospace companies, and air traffic organisations.

SITA has provided eight kiosks, four of which will be used at the other terminal that handles regional and local flights and at other international airports in the country, according to Abera Beyene, Bole International Airport operation hub manager.

Bole International Airport hosted 3.3 million passengers in 2010/11. Around 9,000 passengers use the airport every day.

"The airport, which has an average of 5,000 passengers a day, needs this kind of technology," Abera told Fortune.

Though airport officials refused to disclose the amount of money paid to SITA to bring the self check-in services, the company will receive a monthly payment based on the number of people that use the self check-in counter, according to Hailay.

SITA had previously supplied the software for the passenger management system for Ethiopian, until it was replaced by Sabre Airline Solutions, of Texas, for 9.1 million dollars. SabreSonic, a product of Sabre, is the first passenger management solution built on open system architecture for main airline operations, such as pricing and shopping for airline travel, ticketing, and day-to-day operations.

In addition to providing kiosks, SITA installed the applications and networked them to Ethiopian Airlines' system, according to Wondwossen Nadew, an employee at SITA's local office. Currently the kiosks only have the application to handle those passengers that are flying Ethiopian.

"Other carriers that use this airport like Lufthansa will have to make a separate deal with SITA in order to have this technology installed on the kiosk for their company," Wondwossen said.

Most Ethiopian passengers, who were travelling last week, seemed unaware of the services of the kiosks, available since last Monday, May 21, 2012. Instead of using the self-service kiosks, the passengers kept lining up at the check-in counter waiting for the terminal's attendants to print their boarding passes.

This even occurred the day that self check-in services were officially announced last Friday. There was a long line at three regular check-in counters as passengers flying to Dubai queued to get checked-in. It took almost an hour and a half to finish processing the long line of passengers. Some even stayed behind because they were too late.

The few people that used the check-in system were mostly foreigners and some frequent business travellers, who were grateful that the service had started here in Ethiopia.

"It should not take a passenger more than 60 minutes to go through the check-in process and board a plane," Abera told Fortune. "We are hoping to improve our customer service and reduce queues at check-in counters."

Officials at the EAE and Ethiopian are hoping that passengers will soon accustom themselves to this technology.

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