IBM helps Ryanair develop ground-breaking kiosk technology

Ryanair, one of Europe’s first low fares airlines, is familiar with blazing a trail. Its strategy of low basic ticket prices with an increasing selection of optional extras has proved extremely successful and is already transforming how other airlines operate around the world. With plans for continued double digit growth each year for the next three to four years, the company saw kiosks as the way forward and chose IBM as partner in this project.

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Flying through check-in with Ryanair

Ryanair needed to find a supplier with proven technology and a reputation for service delivery. After researching many different kiosk solutions, they turned to IBM. Adrian Dunne, Deputy Director of Ground Operations at Ryanair, says “We chose IBM as our partner in this project because of the leadership the company has demonstrated in designing self-service airline kiosks. Ryanair provided input into the design of an IBM kiosk built specifically to meet the needs of low cost carriers. We wanted to be one of the first airlines in the world with a self-service Chip and PIN payment facility and felt confident that IBM was the right company to help us introduce that innovation.”

While the Ryanair kiosks and the customised applications that run on them were built by the IBM Self-service Centre of Excellence in Canada, a local team from IBM Ireland worked closely with Ryanair to determine how the solution should be integrated into existing business processes and how it would meet all of Ryanair’s specific needs. IBM had to work with several stakeholders and third parties, including a number of airport authorities and banking authorities, to ensure a successful outcome. Chip and PIN was being introduced on an unattended terminal and the banking authorities had to approve the processes used. According to Dunne: “The IBM team mapped out how all our kiosk related processes would work and how information would flow around our organisation. Everything was clearly documented which meant all the interested parties understood and agreed on the solution before development work started. There was little risk of us wasting money on developing a solution that would be rejected further down the line. IBM proved very nimble and flexible, responding quickly to our demands and keeping the project moving at the pace we required.”

Ryanair has already deployed around 160 kiosks in five European airports. Ultimately the kiosks will be installed in 150 airports and will be managed through one central point in Dublin. This enables Ryanair to have round the clock, instant information about check-in for flights. With clear visibility of trends connected to passenger reporting patterns at the airport, Ryanair can make more intelligent use of its available resources; opening kiosks and bag drop desks to match demand in real-time. IBM managed the initial kiosk installations with a third party which now works directly with Ryanair to provide further installations and 24/7 maintenance.

At Stansted airport, Ryanair’s largest hub, the airline has been able to reduce its check-in desks by 75% from 80 to just 20 following the introduction of kiosks. This represents a significant saving. Kiosks have also reduced the time taken for Ryanair to process passengers at the airport, cutting queues for customers and helping them reach the departure gate on time. They also allow Ryanair to apply any additional passenger charges in a fair, transparent and consistent manner according to a pre-defined set of rules.”

In the future, Ryanair plans to help customers manage missed departures and flight disruption through the kiosks. If bad weather means a flight is cancelled or a passenger turns up too late, the aim is that they will be able to rebook themselves onto another flight or receive a refund, if appropriate, without joining a lengthy queue at an airport ticket desk.

Summarising the experience, O’Leary says: “With IBM, we have their professionalism, we have their IT skills, and their world wide brand in delivering cost efficient IT solutions for rapidly growing companies like Ryanair. They’ve been great to work with, we have a very good relationship and that’s why the kiosk rollout has been so successful. We plugged it in, switched it on and IBM did the rest.”