The new normal

An interview with Borry Vrieling, founder and Managing Director, eezeetags. By Ross Falconer

When designing the eezeetags® product, the main functionality was to speed up the end-to-end self-service bag drop process, while enhancing the passenger experience.

IATA forecasts were around a doubling of global passenger numbers by 2035, and Borry Vrieling, founder and Managing Director of Dutch-based company eezeetags b.v. explains that this set huge challenges for the air transport industry in terms of how to cope with these growth numbers.

Borry Vrieling, founder and Managing Director, eezeetags: “The experience gained in recent years has demonstrated to me that the spectacular results of self-service and digitalisation will contribute to facing the new normal.”

Installing self-service technologies across the passenger journey, from curb to gate, showed spectacular results. Mobile app check-in, digital boarding passes, automated boarding gates, self-service check-in and bag drop, and biometrics, are all among the technologies that have streamlined the passenger process.

“The results were staggering,” says Vrieling. “Limiting human contact points in these processes resulted in bringing down the overall end-to-end process time and reduced queuing to an absolute minimum. A sure challenge is to do this in a passenger-friendly way which can be related to a positive airline experience – extremely important in these days where brands can be made or broken on social media almost overnight.”

The passenger experience element of self-service is at the heart of the eezeetags development – a unique adhesive that only sticks to itself, allowing a one-picture, language-neutral instruction of simply joining two dots. Indeed, eezeetags are now used at over 50 airports worldwide, in either a dedicated or common use offering.

“Used by 50 million passengers over the course of 2019 at both major hubs and regional airports, and by legacy and low-cost airlines, the growth outlook for the years to follow was both challenging and appealing,” Vrieling comments.

He notes that the first two months of 2020 showed over 60% growth in eezeetags usage. “Then all of a sudden life as we knew it came to an end, with coronavirus impacting every individual on the planet and the travel industry being among the most severely hit sectors globally.”

“Self-service to the max”

IATA figures for April 2020 show that 95% of worldwide scheduled flights were cancelled, and pre-COVID-19 passenger levels are not expected until the end of 2021.

Nevertheless, Vrieling believes that the capacity challenge for airports remains, with new rules on social distancing in place. “The experience gained in recent years has demonstrated to me that the spectacular results of self-service and digitalisation will contribute to facing the new normal.”

He adds that eezeetags have a part to play as a proven initiative, alongside new passenger routings, virtual queue management, smart terminal layout, and off-terminal check-in and bag drop initiatives at hotels, train stations and car parks.

“Mass adoption of market-ready technologies to restore confidence and overcome travel-reluctance will become paramount,” says Vrieling. “The biggest challenge will be CAPEX. On the other hand, the lack of passengers and a non-agile OPEX structure can easily become a life-threatening challenge for airports and airlines alike. OPEX has always been at the heart of our offering and we have huge confidence in the eezeetags product. Although the term ‘social distancing’ was not even invented when eezeetags was born, it appears that now, more than ever, it has become a synonym for ‘self-service to the max’.”

eezeetags are described as “easy”, “fast” and importantly “clean”. As they are self-adhesive there is no waste, meaning no members of staff need to clean or discard liner paper that has been touched by travellers. Meanwhile, the adhesive used sticks only to itself, so it can be handled while wearing protective gloves, which many passengers may do.

“eezeetags have always been a small but very important part of the passenger’s self-service journey and will be even more so in the near future,” Vrieling concludes.

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