For many passengers, the least enjoyable part of travel is the airport experience itself. Lugging heavy bags around cities, arriving hours ahead of time and then queuing to check in bags and people can really take the shine of the start of a trip. However, some innovative companies have come up with an answer for this, and are ready to help us rethink the way check in is done.
Australian company Off Airport Check in Solutions, or OACIS, have been providing full check in services away from the airport for over two years now. Functioning across Australia and gearing up for a launch in New Zealand, the company can deal with all aspects of the check in process for conferences of thousands of delegates to private households of a dozen people, and everything in between.
Simple Flying caught up with CEO and COO of the company, Matt Lee and Andy Bartholomew, to better understand how passengers can trust services such as this to look after their luggage adequately. Here’s what we found out.
What is it like for a customer checking in a bag away from the airport?
Clearly, checking in a bag right at your hotel, in your own home or at your workplace or conference venue is far more convenient than bringing it to the airport. But other than that, how does the process work from the customer’s point of view? OACIS CEO Matt Lee told us,
“It’s exactly the same. Because we’re accessing exactly the same systems that an agent would at the airport, we’ll go through exactly the same questions such as asking the security questions, the dangerous goods questions, the prohibited items questions etc. We will weigh the bags and give passengers a chance to pay any excess baggage fees, if needed.
“If they decide they want to upgrade to business class or use points for an upgrade, if they want to change flights or move seats, we can do all of that on the spot. We can do everything the counter agent can do, up to and including selling tickets.”
The beauty of OACIS is that, because it is built on the Amadeus platform, it uses the same departure control system (DCS) that the majority of airports and airlines use too. This means everything that would normally happen at the check in counter can happen remotely, wherever the service is offered.
What about security?
Although this all sounds pretty positive, it’s understandable that many passengers may feel wary about checking in a bag somewhere other than an airport. There’s something reassuring about handing your bag to a uniformed airline rep at the desk, and seeing it whizz off into the baggage handling system right in front of you.
I asked OACIS COO Andy Bartholomew what the company was doing to assure customers that their bags would remain secure during the off airport check in process. He told me,
“We knew security would be one of the first questions that customers would ask, so we did a lot of work with the regulators in Australia and New Zealand in the lead up to launch to make sure that we were complying with all the regulations.
“For an airline customer handing a bag over to a new organization, we wanted absolute confidence in the chain of custody, so we designed processes around exactly that. When a customer hands a bag across to us, what happens to that bag after that it enters our chain of custody is secured by tightly controlled procedures at every stage.
“That bag is initially housed in a secure area, supervised by people who have had undergone rigorous screening processes to ensure they are trustworthy and qualified. We then have the challenge of transporting the bags, so there’s a very methodical procedure for this.
“We take those bags into vehicles with systems of documentation to verify that the bag is kept secure. Before the vehicle leaves the site, it is secured with locks and tamper-evident seals. Those seals are then photographed and sent to the airline representatives at the airport. We take the luggage to the airport and, along with the airline representative, the seals are checked. Assuming nothing has been tampered with on the journey, those bags will then be accepted into the baggage handling system where they are screened for regulatory reasons as usual.”
It sounds pretty watertight, but is it working? I asked Andy whether there had ever been an incident with a customer’s bag, and he told me,
“We’ve never lost a bag, we’ve never damaged a bag and we’ve never missed a flight.”
That’s an impressive track record by any measure.
Are customers willing to take the leap of faith?
Off airport check in is still a very new concept. For those first passengers being offered the chance to relieve themselves of their bags and skip the queues at the airport, it must have been a tempting but slightly concerning prospect. I asked Matt and Andy what the uptake was like in the early days. They told me,
“Initially there was curiosity around what we were offering. The concept of being able to check in at a convenient location was foreign to the customers. They have been conditioned over five or six decades to believe that you have to do your check in by taking a bag to the airport, so there was some skepticism.
“What we found very useful at the beginning of our journey was working alongside the airline representatives and check in agents. When we launched the business, the agents from the airline were deployed to our sites which we found gave customers a lot of confidence. That’s what really started the ball rolling.
“Since those customers have joined us they’ve been advocates for what we do. As a result of that, more customers are using the service and the customers we process often come back. We’re changing a paradigm.”
The achievements of OACIS speak volumes for the company’s proclaimed paradigm shift. Over the course of doing business, OACIS has achieved a Net Promoter score of 82%. If you’re not familiar with Net Promoter, it’s a measure that looks at how likely a customer would be to recommend a service to a friend, colleague or relative. It’s different from customer satisfaction, in that it asks customers how likely they are to actively advocate for the business.
An average Net Promoter score of 82% is incredible; world class in fact. As a comparison, Apple might achieve a score in the 80s, but airlines will typically score somewhere in the 20s or 30s. In fact, companies getting in the zero to 50 range are considered to have achieved a very good result. A company, like OACIS, that has achieved 70 or more really is exceptional.
Would you trust an off airport check in service like OACIS? Let us know in the comments.