Changi Airport to install one-step DIY check-in kiosks

New machines will allow passengers to check in and tag their bags as well

DO-IT-YOURSELF check-in machines that can also print boarding passes and luggage tags will be rolled out at Changi Airport within a year.

The self-service kiosks will be on trial as part of an airport-wide push for increased automation and productivity in a labour-tight market.

If found to be reliable and popular, the machines will be widely used at existing terminals and the future Terminal 4 (T4), slated for completion in 2017, said Changi Airport Group's executive vice-president (corporate), Mr Foo Sek Min.

Changi, which will pay for the machines, is "willing to provide as many as airlines need", Mr Foo added.

The airport already has several self-service kiosks but they are not popular because even after checking in, travellers need to queue at the counter to tag their bags and verify documents.

Mr Foo said: "With the new machines, they check-in and tag their own luggage, drop the bags off and head to immigration."

AirAsia's Singapore chief, Mr Logan Velaitham, said reducing manpower needs will cut operating costs.

"This is definitely a good initiative and a move we support."

The push towards more automation comes amid a labour crunch that is driving costs up, especially for ground-handling and security firms that provide the bulk of ground staff.

Coupled with the airport's expansion plans, the authorities are facing challenging times.

The airport has formed a productivity committee with partners including various airlines and government agencies, said Mr Foo.

Still, things can move only if all parties are on the same page.

He said: "Our vision for T4 and other future developments is a hassle-free experience for travellers, and security, for example, is a key part of that experience."

Instead of being checked several times, which is the case today, government agencies need to accept that one good check should be good enough, he said.

To reduce manpower and equipment needs, T4 will have a central security screening area before travellers go to their flight gates.

Changi Airport is looking at other ways to boost productivity.

T4, like T3, will have an automated system to deal with bags that are checked in early.

At the other two older terminals, such bags are manually scanned and stored. A few hours before the flight, workers pull the bags out.

Even the way toilets are cleaned is being looked at. One idea is to introduce a sensor system to alert cleaners once a stipulated number of people have used the toilet.

"So a toilet which is rarely used does not need to be cleaned as often as another which is heavily utilised," said Mr Foo.

Sats, which is Changi Airport's biggest ground-handling services provider, has also introduced its own measures to boost productivity and attract more workers.

Every month, walk-in recruitment sessions are held in Johor Baru, said president and chief executive Tan Chuan Lye. But getting workers is a challenge, he admitted.

"Over the past years, salaries in Malaysia have become increasingly competitive.

"Combined with the higher cost of living in Singapore, this has made it more challenging to recruit staff from Malaysia," Mr Tan said.

Sats is also hanging on to older workers.

Last year, more than eight in 10 who were due to retire were re-employed. Every year, more than 100 employees reach retirement age.

Mr Tan said: "While their seniority means they are typically drawing higher salaries and continue to enjoy full medical coverage, we see the value of their years of experience. It more than makes up for any increase in wage costs."