Air France-KLM eyes Segways for check-in agents


Air France-KLM aims to arm its check-in agents with Apple iPads, bring them out from behind their desks and provide them with Segways so they can wheel themselves up to passengers in distress and solve their problems on the spot.

This was the vision set out by the carrier’s senior manager products, T.J Heukelom, at the recent Future Travel Experience (FTE) Europe conference in London. By 2020, check-in agents will not need desks and will instead be able to use their mobile devices for occasions when “something goes wrong at the kiosk”, says Heukelom.

“We are empowering our frontline staff with mobile devices,” he says, adding that agents will be able to use their iPads to “serve and solve on the spot instead of referring someone to another queue”. They will be able to rebook passengers on to different flights and print boarding passes instantly.

In addition to helping passengers who are unable to check-in using the self-service kiosks, the iPads will be used to increase sales of ancillary services, such as seat upgrades, says Heukelom. In two months, agents will be able to process payments on the spot using hand-held credit card terminals used in conjunction with the iPads.

The airline has installed machines at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol which enable passengers to carry out self-bag drops. The machines reduce the average time it takes to drop hold luggage to 1min 45s compared to the four minutes it takes, on average, using the traditional method of handing the bag to a desk-bound agent, says Heukelom.

In the coming weeks, passengers will be able to speed up the process further by printing their baggage tags at home before coming to the airport. Heukelom does not believe airports should be investing in new check-in kiosks, noting: “We push them to do check-in off-airport.”

The use of technology to improve the check-in experience is one of a number of initiatives being carried out by Air France-KLM to improve its customer service. Air France recently unveiled its revamped Boeing 777 business class product, which it plans to swiftly follow with upgrades to the premium cabins on its Airbus A380s. KLM unveiled its new and improved business class product last year.

“We should serve customers better than we did before,” says Heukelom.