"Swissport International has the strategy to look at all e-services products and web check-in is complementary to CUSS and will allow us to be even more efficient in the future," confirms Kilchherr. Such advances take the co-operation of all stakeholders-airlines, airports, system providers and the relevant authorities. Reaching the common denominator has not been easy but according to Stephan Ellenberger, GM Ground Services Switzerland for SWISS, well worthwhile.
"We're delighted to offer this excellent service," he reveals. "Web check-in allows our customers to choose their seat and print out their boarding card from their home PC, saving them a sizeable amount of time when they get to the airport. So it's another big step in our efforts towards simplified passenger travel-an area where we're constantly seeking further and better solutions from our customers' perspective."
Trials have already taken place using 7,000 SWISS travellers and results have been good. In fact, Swissport's involvement in serving passengers via the Internet has led a host of carriers to express interest. A case in point is Air Malta-which recently agreed a comprehensive five-year ground support contract with Swissport.
The carrier cited the ground handler's innovation as an important element in the relationship. "We are gaining an innovative industry partner who, we are confident, will provide us with swifter access to further developments in the field such as web check-in and other new facilities," emphasises Joe Cappello, CEO at Air Malta.
CUSS and web check-in are just the start of Swissport's foray into the future of passenger handling. Possible projects include mobile phone check-in. "With our strategic partner SITA, we are currently evaluating where to trial this new technology and some airlines have already shown interest," says Kilchherr. "We expect the trials to start in the coming months."
The company is also collaborating with sister organisation, Checkport, to develop new ways to combine passenger handling and security. In addition, through its involvement in the Simplifying Passenger Travel (SPT) Working Group, Swissport is discussing the regulatory issues that will facilitate these and other technical improvements.
"In the mid-term future, including the new technologies in the passenger handling process will be crucial in order to be competitive and to survive," reports Kilchherr. "Swissport is always trying to be the first mover with new developments in order to keep this competitive advantage.
"More and more airlines are starting to make e-services a priority as this is one of the only ways to reduce costs and still to be able to offer their customers a quality product," he concludes. "And, with the ever increasing demands by authorities, it is crucial to use new technologies."
The system allows a single counter to be used to service passengers from several airlines in the same queue.