Qantas passengers are finding that the airline's new check-in system (which relies on chip-embedded cards and permanent, wireless bag tags) isn't working as smoothly as it is supposed to.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman says that he routinely has to move his bag around on the bag drop conveyer belt repeatedly to help the system read his wireless bag tag.
Australian Business Traveller staff have also observed this; on one occasion, a Qantas staff member had to resort to flipping the tag over, so a tiny barcode printed on the back could be read by a giant barcode scanner that scans the entire suitcase on the belt.
Another traveller, software developer Robert Stainsby, said it's not clear how to use the system at the airport if you've already checked in online.
Again, Australian Business Traveller staff noticed this recently too -- Qantas uses three different types of kiosks at the airport, and there appears to be inadequate signage to help travellers navigate their way through the forest of kiosks.
Three types of check-in kiosk: take your pick
Customers who have already checked-in online are faced initially with banks of check-in machines.
The first type of kiosks is the one-tap wireless check-in machines. If they tap their Q card on one of these, they get an error message saying they're already checked in, but no directions on where to go to drop a bag in.
The second type are more conventional check-in kiosks with scales next to them which look like they'd be involved with dropping a bag in, but they're actually only for printing boarding passes and luggage labels — for passengers who don't have a permanent, wireless Q Bag Tag. If you do have a Q Bag tag, they won't do much for you other than print you another boarding pass.
Finally, the third type is bag drop conveyer belts -- and yet another kiosk. When Australian Business Traveller tried to use the bag drop conveyer belt with one of the Q Bag Tags, the machine could not read the tag wirelessly, asking us several times to reposition the bag, and finally saying the bag drop could not be processed, and to get help from a staff member.
When the staff member assisted, she turned the bag tag over and the 'cubicle' the bag sits in (for want of a better word) activated giant barcode scanner lasers (like a massive supermarket checkout) and read a small barcode on the back of the bag tag.
Union says customer anger is spilling over
The Qantas staff member union says the airlines new "next generation" check-in kiosks are causing such frustration that staff have had to be issued mobile panic buttons to protect themselves against abusive customers.
The Australian Services Union said the initial trial of the check-in kiosks in Perth, which involve customers weighing their own baggage, sticking on their own baggage labels and sending their own bag down a luggage chute, had many issues and angered customers.
"Passengers are pretty upset about the automated check-in," ASU Federal Secretary Linda White is quoted as saying in The Australian.
“Attacks on our members can range from being spat on or being verbally harassed, and there has been an increase in these kind of incidents since the automated check-in systems were introduced in Perth.”
Qantas denies that the system has angered customers, with a spokesman telling Australian Business Traveller that "Overwhelmingly, we are getting positive feedback from our customers and the time to check in has been cut dramatically."
How has your experience with Qantas' new check-in system been? Do you prefer the wholly self-serve approach over the more conventional bank of airline check in desks with self-serve kiosks dotted in front of them for people who prefer to check in by themselves?