Restoring passenger confidence post-Covid-19: Q&A with eezeetags founder Borry Vrieling

Magdalena Dugdale 12 November 2020 (Last Updated November 12th, 2020 16:36)

With the airline industry being heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, restoring passenger confidence in air travel will play a big part in getting the industry moving again.

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Restoring passenger confidence post-Covid-19: Q&A with eezeetags founder Borry Vrieling

With the airline industry being heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, restoring passenger confidence in air travel will play a big part in getting the industry moving again.

Airports have been enhancing the passenger journey to ensure physical distancing throughout the boarding process, and self-service installations are the ideal solution. With an innovative self-adhesive baggage tagging technology, eezeetags has created a key product for use in self-service bag drop off installations. We spoke with Borry Vrieling, founder of eezeetags, to find out more about how this technology can help.

Innovative self-adhesive luggage tags for self-service baggage check-in

Since it was founded eight years ago, eezeetags has been offering a unique self-adhesive luggage tag based on its parent company Varilabel’s one-ply direct thermal paper with an adhesive that sticks to itself. These original tags have been used primarily in supermarket retail chains for around 20 years, with their ease of use and minimal clean-up required appealing to the logistics sector.

Eezeetags takes this proven technology and applied it to the airline industry. Vrieling has extensive experience in the field but introducing the technology to a new market is not always easy.

Vrieling comments: “eezeetags is built on a proven technology that’s been out there for years and is something that we have a lot of experience with. However, that does not mean it was easy to market, because, for the airline industry, this was a new thing.”

Despite a higher than average initial cost, eezeetags is proven to be more cost-effective in the long-term. In addition to this, it has a key advantage that airport operators worldwide will be seeking out right now: self-service functionality. As well as ensuring minimal staff contact to meet the various physical distancing guidelines set in place globally, eezeetags has a larger passenger handling capacity.

“You can more or less double your passenger capacity,” highlights Vrieling. “Normally, you would need extra desks and staff with additional management to increase capacity but doing this with the same amount of staff makes it efficient from the total cost of ownership of the bag drop process. It’s increasing capacity and lowering operational costs.”

Eezeetags is just a small but important detail in the end-to-end baggage handling process. It is an easy-to-use, intuitive system that does not require any explanation.

“With self-service, you can create a contactless end-to-end journey,” Vrieling explains. “As it has always been the case, it is even more important now that every step in that process is intuitive.”

Vrieling highlighted how the system is incorporated into terminals and works with bag drop suppliers. To make the experience contactless, touchscreens can be adapted to show a QR code that allows the passengers to use their smartphone to control the screen, print out their bag tag and check-in their luggage without the assistance of a staff member.

Self-service passenger journey at airports

In 2019, eezeetags witnessed a record year, serving 50 million passengers worldwide.

Vrieling explains how the product has been growing: “A lot of European airports use eezeetags, especially with two major low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair, which see eezeetags as the most cost-effective solution for self-service processes.”

The company has also been successful in the Middle East, at Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan, Tokyo Airport in Japan, as well as India’s Bangalore Airport. Last year, eezeetags entered the US market, with Hawaiian Airlines being one of its first customers. For these airports and airlines, self-service is a solution to handle increasing passenger volumes and more recently, adjust to physical distancing and their operations are Covid-19-secure. However, one airline known for its high service level is Emirates. In the past, Emirates has responded positively to eezeetags, but ultimately never decided to implement this innovative solution due to having such a service-oriented offering.

Vrieling explains how this has changed: “The Covid-19 situation has changed the attitude of the airline completely because the priority now is to offer a safe environment and avoid interacting with other people. All of a sudden, self-service becomes an option for an airline like Emirates.”

With the recent opening of a large-scale self-service installation at its Dubai, UAE, home base, Emirates chose Australian company ICM together with eezeetags to provide its bag tagging technology. This combination has already become a proven success at London Heathrow’s British Airways terminal over the past two years.

Restoring passenger confidence post-Covid-19

With the aviation industry adapting at this scale to ensure air travel is Covid-19-secure, the next step is to restore passenger confidence.

“Restoring confidence is very important, and there are two major things in my opinion,” Vrieling says. “If you fly somewhere, it’s important that you don’t have to risk ending up in a country that suddenly has another rule, meaning that you cannot plan your return. Secondly is a safe end-to-end passenger journey at the airport, meaning that there is as little interaction with other humans as possible.

“eezeetags and self-service, in general, were created around challenging capacity constraints that airlines had with the ever-growing passenger numbers. That was the case still in 2019 and I don’t think the situation has changed. It is not because of passenger numbers. The capacity constraints will still be there, but now it is because of physical distancing guidelines. When people begin travelling again, capacity constraints will be much bigger than they were in 2019. There are a lot of challenges for the industry.”

Adapting to the future of the aviation industry

With a stalled year for aviation, eezeetags has been considering how to enhance its product ready optimistic of the future.

As a legal requirement in many countries, heavy bags need to be identified in the baggage handling system, and this is done with an orange coloured tag. Now, passengers who have paid for these heavy bags would need to attach an additional tag to their luggage once it has been tagged with an eezeetag, which could potentially complicate things and require further assistance from staff.

This opened up a development opportunity for eezeetags as the company considered how contact could be further minimised and travel made easier.

“We have developed eezeecolor by eezeetags, which has the ability to print a colour using the same printer in the bag drop system,” Vrieling explains. “Every eezeetags can be a ‘heavy bag’ tag if the certain patches of coloured ink are activated on the paper material, otherwise they remain invisible.

“We have also added a ‘priority’ function to this because these passengers normally have a tag to ensure their bags are the first to go out on the baggage carousel. With this eezeecolor technology, we can add more colours. This means we can take away an extra tag and with that, take away extra contact with staff.”

Despite the challenges ahead of the airline industry, which is said to be burning cash at a rate of $300,000 a minute, the eezeetags founder remains optimistic. The company is innovating to ensure new solutions are ready as the industry looks to self-service.

“We are ready for the future,” Vrieling says. “We have all our faith in the future of the airline industry because people will travel again but it might take a year or two before we see an increase. To restore passenger confidence post-Covid-19, self-service in general, not only our eezeetags but self-boarding or any other processes that can be transformed into self-service will be the priority.”

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