Virgin Australia to roll out 'tap-and-fly' checkin kiosks

Virgin Australia to roll out 'tap-and-fly' checkin kiosks

Virgin Australia plans to introduce self-serve checkin kiosks and bag drop facilities at its terminals across Australia next year, under what CEO John Borghetti describes as "a very aggressive" schedule.

The system will debut at Virgin's new Perth T1 domestic terminal, which opens this Sunday November 22nd, but the east coast won't be far behind.

"We want to extend them as quickly as possible, bearing in mind that it's not all our decision because we don't own the terminals," Borghetti says.

While Virgin's model clearly plays catch-up to the Qantas' smart checkin system, bar the Flying Kangaroo's tap-and-go checkin towers, Borghetti cites the system's flexibility to switch between self-serve and staff-assistance modes as having the edge when it comes to customer service.

The 12 'hybrid' desks at Perth are a world-first design from air transport technology firm SITA, capable of converting from self-service bag drop to a staffed checkin counter within minutes.

"That flexibility is important because every flight is different," Borghetti (below) tells Australian Business Traveller.

"You could be on a weekday morning flight that's full of business travellers, they're typically comfortable with self checkin and have hardly any baggage."

"But then you have afternoon and weekend flights with more leisure travellers who have suitcases, and there are also older people and tourists who are not as familiar with automation."

Meet and greet

Virgin's plan is for terminal staff to move out from behind the conventional checkin desks to interact more with travellers.

"It's almost a concierge set-up," Borghetti expands. "When you walk into the terminal there will be staff standing ahead of the kiosk to greet you and guide you through."

"But if they notice there's a queue building with a lot of people needing assistance, they can switch the terminals over and move back behind them." 

The airline's domestic pier at Perth Airport's T1 terminal is a showcase for the advanced system, and has the advantage of being housed in a shiny new terminal with plenty of space.

There are 28 self-service checkin kiosks...

... with several set aside for 'premium' travellers in business class or holding Velocity Frequent Flyer Platinum or Gold cards.

There's also a dedicated priority channel from those machines to priority checkin desks and bag drop stations.

While the kiosks currently read the magnetic stripe on the back of your Velocity Frequent Flyer card, the system will be upgraded in early 2016 to recognise the smartchip embedded within the card. 

 Also read: Inside Virgin Australia's new Perth Airport business class lounge

David Flynn travelled to Perth as a guest of Virgin Australia

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • Hugo


    19 Nov, 2015 10:33 am

    Good news for regular travellers but probably bad news for elites. (Side note: I hate that word.) 

    On the odd occasion I fly Qantas I hate having to tag my own luggage, I'm not that good at it and always worried it's going to fall off.

    I hope VA issues us with magical luggage tags so we don't have to do that. 

    No member give thanks

  • traveller99


    19 Nov, 2015 11:02 am

    Hi Hugo.  If you're a QF elite, do you use the Qantas bag tags?  That way there's no need to tag your bag and no need to check in, other than on your mobile, and scan the boarding pass at the bag drop.

    No member give thanks

  • Dean


    19 Nov, 2015 11:36 am

    The bag tags are available to everyone. They were offering them 2 for $50 at some stage, best purchase I ever made.


    Hope Virgin comes out with something similar.

    No member give thanks

  • Frank


    22 Nov, 2015 05:14 pm

    Hi traveller99 - I assume the Qtags are electronic, but what happens when the bag disappears down the hole in the wall?  Do the baggage handlers need to use a reader to direct the bag to the right flight?  The paper label at least has the destination in large print, and whilst that does'nt guarantee delivery, it's the best we've got at the moment.

    No member give thanks

  • Doubleplatinum


    19 Nov, 2015 11:44 am

    Or you could just learn how to stick two pieces of sticky paper together?

    No member give thanks

  • bmc


    19 Nov, 2015 03:07 pm


    No member give thanks

  • Hugo


    20 Nov, 2015 10:25 am

    Hey, if they want me to tag my own baggage they should pay me minimum wage, at least.

    I feel the same way about scanning my own groceries. 

    No member give thanks

  • Doubleplatinum


    20 Nov, 2015 04:55 pm

    [Deleted - comment about another user]

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin


    20 Nov, 2015 06:04 pm

    As we always say, feel free to discuss the topic at hand but please refrain from discussing other users or making comments specifically about them.

    Certainly, feel free to disagree with their point of view and to state your own opinion, although under AusBT's comment policy we do remove comments of this nature to keep things on-track.

    No member give thanks

  • humanuscomotose


    19 Nov, 2015 10:45 am

    Interesting point you make about luggage tags Hugo. I wonder if VA will go the same way as Qantas with a Q-tag type 'permanent' luggage tag? I suppose time will tell.

    No member give thanks

  • Fonga


    19 Nov, 2015 06:14 pm

    Very similar to what Qantas do. Be interesting to see how the reversible counter idea works in practise.

    Things are so much better since the kiosk/online check-in/bag drop system started. To think that not that long ago we had to stand in queues. 

    No member give thanks

  • Kogglogs


    20 Nov, 2015 09:14 am

    I wonder how they propose to govern the priority self service check-in kiosks and bag drop facilities? Unless they're programmed to only process customers with status? Otherwise it might just end up like the Priority secruity lane in MEL - a nice idea in principle, but unpoliced so every man and his dog uses it.

    No member give thanks

  • Hugo


    20 Nov, 2015 10:24 am

    It would be very easy to program them to only serve customers with status, so hopefully they will. 

    It's much harder to get humans to reliably police these things, because most people don't like saying "Back of the line, peon!"

    (Actually some people love saying that, but they're the people who suck at customer service.)

    No member give thanks

  • Doubleplatinum


    20 Nov, 2015 05:42 pm

    I wish they would sometimes, frustrating to see bogans just trying to see what they can get hoping noone would pull them up

    No member give thanks

  • Sovereign


    20 Nov, 2015 03:04 pm

    I participated in the Perth airport readiness day recently and have to say overall the system worked well.

    The challenges faced by older and less frequent travellers mentioned by John Borghetti was clear to see (and frustrating to watch!!). The VA staff did well but this will be an ongoing issue.


    No member give thanks

  • here2go


    21 Nov, 2015 06:59 am

    I hope Virgin leapfrogs Qantas by introducing electronic ink tags like BA, factoring in both RFID as well using agreed standards.  Luggage tags, rather than being an object of privilege, acquired through status or bought for a premium, could be tailored to the individual with unique patterns and design, or even as gifts from the travel agent, etc.

    No member give thanks

  • SuperSonic

    Shoudy Chen

    21 Nov, 2015 02:56 pm

    Really excited about the new Virgin Kiosks as well as the opening of the new Perth domestic terminal! You beauty! 

    No member give thanks

  • eminere


    22 Nov, 2015 11:18 am

    I think it's so cute how VA is trying to play catch-up with QF.

    No member give thanks

  • aklrunway


    22 Nov, 2015 04:05 pm

    They can try. As the old saying goes - "you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig"

    No member give thanks

  • Tim Kotlar


    24 Nov, 2015 10:21 am

    Virgin's hybrid bag drops might be a world first for SITA, but they weren't first in the world. Australian company ICM had their hybrid (self or agent) bag drops operating in CDG Paris in July 2014.

    No member give thanks


21 Jul, 2019 10:39 am


Forgot Password

If you’ve forgotten your password, simply enter your email address below, then click 'Submit'. We’ll send you an email to re-activate your account and enter a new password.


Resend activation email

If you have not received the activation email, simply enter your email address below, then click 'Submit'. We’ll send you an email containing the activation link.