Monday, August 19, 2013

Computerised Check-In vs Manual Check-In

I am born in the 'dinosaurs' era and the word, 'computer' was not found in any dictionary yet.  In the 80s, I was already fascinated with fax machine when it was introduced.  I was wondering how could a whole text be transmitted over and via a telephone line.  It was simply magical.  

I started work at Changi Airport in 1982 handling passenger check-in, arrival & departure and manifestations.  Computerisation for check-in at airport was already put in place but not for the company that I worked for.  We were still doing manual check-in for passengers.  Imagine a Boeing 747 full flight which can carry more than 300 passengers, we had to type the name of all the passengers on a passenger manifest which will be used for our check-in at the counters.  If we had 6 check-in staff, we had to print more than 6 sets of passenger manifests.  Preparation works prior to each departure were normally done a day before.  Frankly, typical human error such as missing out a booked passenger or typing a wrong name was inevitable.  When the counters were closed half an hour prior to departure, this was where tension was at its highest.  In that short half an hour, a person will have to record all the names of the checked-in passengers, their nationalities, the total number of bags and weights while another person will rush over to print out the passenger manifests.  Printing was not done by photocopier machine but on a noisy printing machine which may tear the paper apart if placed wrongly.  Weight had to be calculated manually and indicated on the loadsheet for the captain.  It was always a mad rush in that short half an hour after counter closure.  Sometimes, it can't be helped when a passenger turned up late and insisted to be check-in.

When computerised system was finally introduced, margin for error was definitely minimised and workflow greatly improved.  I joined KLM in 1985 and the check-in function was handled by our ground handling agent, CIAS.  On one fateful flight, their newly installed computerised check-in system suddenly went kaput.  Everything had to be halted while waiting for the system to be up and running.  The breakdown continued on and we then decided to fall back on manual check-in to avoid further delay to the flight departure.  Most of the check-in personnel were never trained in manual check-in.  They were so used to computerised check-in.  Queue was getting longer and longer and passengers were getting irritated.  I then decided to take over the check-in functions from our ground handling staff.  Fortunately for me and some of our older colleagues, we belong to the 'dinosaurs' era and we definitely saved the day.  Manual check-in is 100% fool proof and best of all, we do not have to worry about breakdown.  One up to manual check-in and the rest is history.  

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