Why It Matters

It's a DIY way to fly

The self-service check-in kiosks at Changi Airport Terminal 2 where passengers can process their own boarding through the kiosks and proceed to counters to drop off their baggage.
The self-service check-in kiosks at Changi Airport Terminal 2 where passengers can process their own boarding through the kiosks and proceed to counters to drop off their baggage. ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO

It's hard to miss the do-it-yourself check-in machines at Changi Airport's Terminal 2 for Singapore Airlines and SilkAir travellers.

There are 24 of the self-service kiosks that print boarding passes and luggage tags, located just in front of and at the side of the check-in rows.

Another 24 will soon be installed at T3.

It takes just a few minutes for a traveller to print his boarding pass, tag his bag and drop it off at designated counters.

Self-service check-in machines are not new to Changi Airport but their use has so far been limited.

This time, the airport is serious about changing habits with easy-to-use kiosks and enthusiastic ground staff encouraging travellers to use them.

Fact is, there is no alternative to automation.

A tight labour market over the last few years has made it tough for ground-handling firms such as Sats and Dnata to man check-in counters and fill other positions.

Changi Airport knows that things are not going to get better. Hence, the big push in recent years for industry automation, not just at the front-end but also across all sectors of the business, including cargo and baggage handling.

In planning for future terminals, the airport has stressed repeatedly that travel will not be the same at T4, which opens in 2017, and eventually, T5.

There will still be manned counters but not many.

From check-in to immigration clearance to aircraft boarding, travellers will not need to interact with many humans along the way.

It is already a way of life at many airports in Europe and the United States, where the labour crunch and rising manpower costs hit earlier.

Changi's initiative is part of a global "fast travel" drive led by the International Air Transport Association, to make travel hassle-free as passenger volumes increase.

So the next time you come across a do-it-yourself machine at any airport, give it a go because the day will come when you may not have a choice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'It's a DIY way to fly'. Print Edition | Subscribe