Starting May 1st, Air Canada is introducing 100% kiosks check-in at YUL, meaning that the traditional “waiting in line to check-in at the desk with an agent” method won’t exist anymore.
Passengers will now be required to check-themselves-in using the kiosks, which will print a boarding pass, and then wait in the “express baggage drop-off line” where the agents simply tag the bags and check the necessary documents (i.e., ID, passports, etc).
As an airport agent, I’m disappointed at management’s decision of implementing 100% kiosk use. AC believes that this procedure offers better customer service, as the agents will help assist the pax using the kiosks (therefore, more personal contact with the pax), rather than having the pax wait in line and getting served “robotically” by the agent. Moreover, Edmonton and Winnipeg have started using this method, and according to AC, it’s working smoothly.
Lately, we have had a couple of “testing days”, and here are my observation:
- Most pax prefer checking-in traditionally, as they would like to speak to human beings and not machines.
- Nervous and first-time travelers get really frustrated at us when we re-direct them to the kiosks. This goes against “customer service”.
- There will be never enough agents to help assist ALL the pax using the kiosks.
- The line-ups at the “express baggage drop off” are ridiculously long. Average wait is sometimes 10 to 15 minutes during rush hour, while company policy is max 5 minutes.
- Montreal’s demography is complex. We have lots of ethnic minorities (Asians, Eastern Europeans, Arabs, Indians, etc), who are not fluent in English nor French. It’s been very hard to explain to them the new procedures, and I mostly find myself waisting a lot of time helping them at the kiosk, while it would have taking me half the time to check them in normally.
- Montreal Station cannot be compared to Edmonton’s nor Winnipeg’s. We are much larger, and our passengers are different (reason stated in 5).
- Out of the about 15 kiosks that we have, a couple are usually “out of order”
- The system is not 100% efficient. If the program can’t recognize the passenger (must insert credit card, frequent flyer card, or reservation number), then pax must go wait in the “recovery line”
So having said that, as a passenger, how would you feel if you approached the queue line or my desk, just to be re-directed to the kiosks. I know most of us have traveled often, but put yourself in a non-regular traveler shoes.
Now, put yourself in my shoes, as an airport agent. I am forcing passengers to follow procedures I don’t believe in. They get angry at me, and all I’m supposed to do is smile and say I’m sorry. Although this is just a temporary job for me, I still find it sad that our jobs are simply being reduced to “bag tagging”. I feel stupid coming in to work. I just hope I get Gates Training soon!