HALIFAX - “No lineups.”
That’s what Karen Millette and Sara Milin say at the exact same time Wednesday after checking their baggage into the newly installed self-serve system at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
The airport has invested $45 million into the interior renovations, installing North America’s first self-serve baggage drop for all passengers.
“It was very fast, efficient,” Milin said on her way to catch a flight to Ontario.
The system introduced Friday allows passengers to immediately step up to a kiosk, print their boarding pass, select their seat and weigh their luggage.
At a second area, travellers place their luggage on a conveyor belt, scan their boarding pass, place their printed luggage tag on their suitcase and watch it get whisked away.
“People are used to self service where ever they go now,” WestJet’s station manager Jon Quinton said as he stood next to one of the automated computer screens.
Before the renovation the airport said it would see a morning rush with hundreds of people lined up, waiting, and stressing about their flight.
“It’s a sign of the times,” said traveller Kenny Campbell, who was on his way to Calgary. “How many people is it going to put out of work? Everything’s going automation, but there are guys like me who need help.”
Campbell said he did get the help he needed from a waiting agent, and WestJet said the flow through system has not lead to a decrease in staffing.
“What we like about this system is it gets people out from behind the counter,” said Quinton. “We are out mingling with our guests. … Instead of having the barrier of the counter.”
Without the new system, the airport says it would have been at capacity during a normal rush hour, and would have had to contemplate an even bigger, more expensive renovation, beyond the building’s walls.
Michael Healy, the airport’s vice president of infrastructure and commercial development, explained the new system allows the airport to handle more travellers as the processing time is diminished.
“The contact time is less,” he said. “You can move more passengers in the same amount of space.”
Similar systems are being used Europe, Australia and New Zealand.