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OM in the News: Qantas Airways Turns to RFID to Eliminate Queues

January 3, 2012

 The Wall Street Journal (Dec.29,2011) writes: “Qantas has created practically paperless airports, rolling out new technology that eliminates many long lines and speeds passengers all the way to their seats. No paper itinerary. No sticky luggage tag. No boarding pass.” Says one frequent business traveller: “I think this is the best check-in in the world. It’s incredibly efficient”.

The system, built around RFID, is similar to toll tags used on highways. Fliers get an ID card that they flash at a kiosk in the ticketing area. The system assigns a seat and checks the passenger in.  To check luggage, the passenger goes to a baggage drop area and flashes the card again. Personalized RFID tags are placed on the bags, which are scanned for weight and size.. Finally, the ID is flashed at the gate–no boarding pass needed– and agents hand the flier a receipt with the seat number printed on it.

Qantas started building the system a few years ago when it was running out of room in its large Sydney terminal and faced long backups at counters. It concluded that to eliminate lines, it needed to eliminate the “pain points” at the airport–checking in, checking bags, and boarding. So it decided to invest in technology rather than floor space. With kiosks positioned in 4 V-shaped patterns, it’s almost impossible for long queues to build up. The system is largely self-service for customers, sp ground workers now roam the lobby to assist with things like directions and kiosk help.

Discussion questions:

1. Why did Qantas decide to use RFID technology?

2. How does this system benefit both fliers and the airline?

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 3, 2012 1:04 am

    This is great. Let me know when I can flash an I.D. card and a decent meal appears on long flights. I actually tried using this system the last time I flew Quantas. I flashed the I.D. card at a baggage handler, and he promptly took my bag home with him and kept it for three weeks.

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