Self-service kiosks are not a new idea; in fact they are used for a lot more transactions than just passenger check-in. The problem is that they are, in almost all cases, airline specific, both in design and functionality. If they continue to pop up like mushrooms, there are some problems envisaged.
The amount of real estate available in many airports is limited. Passengers wishing to make use of the kiosk need to find the correct one for their flight to check-in. In these days of code-sharing and alliances, that may not be so straightforward. It became clear that there was a requirement for a common user kiosk. A group of airlines approached the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and CUSS was born.
So what is CUSS?
CUSS stands for Common User Self-Service. The 1998 ATA/IATA Joint Passenger Services Conference (JPSC) set up a working group to address the issue. The basic idea of the CUSS concept was to enable airlines to provide passenger facilities at a shared kiosk.
The major benefits of CUSS are:
- Customer interaction with airline application at single point of contact;
- Security of access;
- Optimum use of airline facilities with no need to dedicate special areas for different airlines;
- Shared running costs;
- It permits airlines to deliver a proprietary Self Service check-in product, thus not requiring them to use systems provided by airport authorities or handling agents, which might not be compatible with their host computer systems;
- In common user areas, Airports only have to provide space for the CUSS kiosks thus reducing the amount of space an airport needs to set aside for proprietary Airline kiosks
The working group chaired by British Airways and organised by ATA and IATA brought together interested parties. These included:
- Airlines - could they reduce their overheads by using shared kiosks?
- Airports - could they reduce the total number of kiosks required at airports?
- Suppliers - both hardware and software, new product lines to support?
- IATA and ATA - co-ordinators and publishers of industry standards
At the 1999 IATA/ATA Joint Passenger Services Conference a Resolution was passed that created the CUSS Management Group to take over from the Working Group. The CUSS Management Group is chaired by Air Canada and met on 5 occasions in 2000. The Management Group concentrates on the strategic issues, such as certification and the recommended practices. It is supported by a technical group that are developing the complex specifications.
The current status of CUSS is that the first pre-release version of the CUSS Standard has been finalised. Proof of Concept testing is underway and Field Trials will be starting shortly.
The CUSS Management Group issued a statement advising that they anticipate that the first CUSS Kiosk will be operational in an airport environment in the fourth quarter of 2001. At the CUSS Management meeting in Vienna on October 15th 2001 a lot of progress was made. , The CUSS Management Group has proposed that IATA publish the industry standard version 1.0, as the CUSS Manual. This proposal is subject to ratification by the Member Airlines.
How will CUSS Kiosks change things in the airport environment? CUSS Kiosks will enable many more airlines to offer self service facilities to passengers, and airlines currently using self service to offer more, many more, locations. At any airport where there is a service provider supplying CUSS Kiosks (this could be the airport, an airline or an independent service provider) all airlines with a CUSS compliant application will be able to “plug-in”. This means no matter how small their own operation is, the facility for self-service applications will be available.
Do passengers like to use kiosks?
You could ask the same question about bank ATM machines. It is a matter of getting used to using them. Many airline self-service applications offer the customer many more options than just obtaining a boarding card. Change of seat, switch to earlier flight and frequent flyer mileage information are just some examples. No one is suggesting that traditional “manned” check-in desks are going to disappear.
By using methods such as internet check-in, self service kiosks, etc. the processing of a number of passengers can be de-centralised, leading to a better use of staff resources and reduced bottlenecks. Utilisation of proprietary kiosks in steadily increasing as passengers become more familiar with them although the universal acceptance that ATM machines have may be some time away. Look out for an IATA CUSS kiosk appearing at your airport soon.
Does the 11th September have impact on the development of CUSS Kiosks?
Referring to the 11th September most of the Kiosks were switched off, because of security issues. However kiosks are placed in public areas in and around the Airport therefore a Kiosk is nothing more then a normal check-in facility. Based on this, most of the Kiosks are back to operational condition.
CUSS Kiosks do not need to be located only in the traditional check-in areas, they could be located in car parks, at kerbside, in stations, even at downtown hotels. They are not necessarily only for the use of passengers travelling without baggage. Many airlines currently using proprietary self-service kiosks have systems for handling baggage of passengers checking in at kiosks.
Referring to the above, Kiosks could help to support the handling staff to concentrate more on the boarding area due to increased security demands. Kiosks could free up passenger handling staff to do just the check-in processes, it will not replace the handling staff.
CUSS kiosks are designed to use various optional devices, according to the requirements of the users. Biometric devices, such as cameras for facial recognition or iris scanning, can be readily accommodated.
In order to implement these new check-in facilities in the form of CUSS Kiosks, ServiceTec Airport Services International has presented to the CUSS MG a business proposal to set up a Central Test Centre at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. By offering this Central Test Centre facility to Airlines, Airports, Application Providers, Service Providers, Biometric Systems and Software providers to test their platforms, peripherals, applications, ServiceTec Airport Services International positively contributes to achieve a more secure Airport within a shorter time frame than the industry could do by doing this individually.
Facts about ServiceTec
ServiceTec restores airline and airport systems faster than any other service provider, thus avoiding costly and damaging delays.
ServiceTec has received certification on a number of system applications, including troubleshooting and hardware repair such as Baggage Reconciliation Systems, FIDS and Biometric Security Systems.
ServiceTec supports IT systems throughout the airport, from ticketing through to the boarding gate, deploying permanently assigned, highly skilled personnel.
ServiceTec has formed unique alliances with other stellar companies, such as Cegelec for Global support, Express Point in North America and JTP of Japan to achieve its expansion objectives.
ServiceTec Airport Services International Ltd. expanded its reach to Munich International Airport Terminal 2.