The Check-In Space at the Los Angeles International Airport

Impact of the Curbside Check-in Area on the Passengers’ Level-of-Service

The Los Angeles International Airport has four runways and offers long-haul flights across the U.S. and around the world on the behalf of domestic and international airlines (“Los Angeles (LAX) Airport” n.d.). The Airport’s Terminal Complex includes nine passenger terminals connected by U-shape roadway that has two levels and has Tom Bradley International Terminal at the end in the center of the roadway configuration (“Los Angeles (LAX) Airport” n.d.). These terminals’ arrangement in a double-tied U-shape predetermines availability of the curbside baggage check-in on the upper (departure) level that facilitates social interaction among the passengers and airport’s employees (Rich 15).

Development of the curbside check-in space in LAX airport was determined by the necessity to reduce the passengers’ traveling distance from the check-in counter to the plane that included 1,250 feet and moving sidewalk that helped to reduce the time spent on this distance in three times (Gordon 223). Moreover, the curbside check-in areas are staffed by the airline employees, who assist the passengers with larger or multiple pieces of the luggage that cannot be carried on the plane (Harding 82). These dedicated airline staff, also known as “Skycaps” helps to take the existing online-check-in one step further, by reducing the amount of time spent by the passengers on the pre-security area (“Los Angeles (LAX) Airport” n.d.). Therefore, the passengers do not need to stand in the queues and can spend more time in the on-site restaurants and shops, making this solution more financially beneficial to the airline and airport (Rich 111).Furthermore, in LAX airport most curbside check-ins offer the same level of service as the passengers can receive at a check-in desk. With the help of the Skycaps the passengers can register their seating preferences, clarify and notify about their dietary requirements, execute upgrades’ payments and baggage fees (Harding 82). Moreover, the passengers can apply for the printing of the boarding passes and proceed to the flight with no delays (Rich 111).

Furthermore, layout of the curbside check-in area in LAX airport allows the passengers to have their luggage being delivered without a complex and expensive luggage sorter system and access the departure gate within the short distance from the curbside (Wald, Fay, and Gleich 119). Therefore, the passenger’s level-of-service (LOS) is determined by the effectiveness of the sufficient configuration of the transportation infrastructure’s elements (Harding 176). LOS for the public open space is increased without extension of the size of the ticket lobbies (Harding 176). In LAX airport this is achieved by the curbside check-in space’s typical equipment with conveyor belts, which are located at the check-in podiums and allow baggage to be directly input into the outboard baggage system (Harding 176). Furthermore, these curbside conveyors are secured by the lock down that separates the public from the non-public side of the facility (Gordon 224). Therefore, this curbside check-in are can be considered as a public space to the passengers, because its spatial organization and social-oriented construction allow provision of the particular services that facilitate the traveling experience.

In order to perform efficient passenger-oriented services, the curbside check-in areas’ development require estimation of the number of peak hours of the enplaning arriving and departure passengers, time distribution of the passengers that arrive at the terminal, maximum and average time spent during services’ execution and waiting, and percentage of the passengers that use each type of the facility in the ticket lobby (Harding 177).

It should be pointed out that, for the passenger convenience the number of non- traditional check-in methods has grown considerably (Graham, Papatheodorou and Forsyth 212). The passengers’ services are improved by the remote check-ins and usage of the self-services applications.

Socially-Oriented Benefits of the Non-Traditional Check-In Methods

Current Common Use Self Service (CUSS) developments include faster check-in operations, subsequent faster and smoother passage through the airports and queues’ absence, and availability of the remote check-ins’ operations (Graham, Papatheodorou, and Forsyth 212). Moreover, CUSS check-ins are considered faster than the traditional methods and reduce operational costs and number of the staff, required to assist the passengers (National Research Council 60). Complex management in the LAX airport have considered shifting of the decentralized check-in function to a central facility outside the airport, but the project was rejected, due to its financial perks of $ 11 million (Gordon 223). Therefore, CUSS development can be considered as the alternative, considering its operational benefits for the improved passenger services and opportunities for greater revenues from more profitable retail businesses’ renting (Graham, Papatheodorou, and Forsyth 212) (e.g.”( see table 1)”).

Table 1 Operational Benefits for the Passengers and Airport with the Implementation of CUSS Service

Improved customer service

Airport’s cost savings

Less queuing

The staff can handle more passengers

Check-in and registration at the place and time of convenience

Less staff can handle irregular operations

Policies’ applications are consistent

The passengers move faster throughout the terminals and lobbies

The passengers experience less technical problems during irregular operations and bad weather management, due to the efficiency and consistency of the customers’ perceiving

The terminal space require less space

Increased customer privacy and less crowding and chaotic situations

Improved operations, due to the facilitation of the customer data collection

Source: Anne Graham, Andreas Papatheodorou, and Peter Forsyth, Aviation and Tourism: Implications for Leisure Travel (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010) 212. Print.

With the utilization of CUSS developments, the LAX Airport’s capacity and infrastructure will be improved, because these self services will allow the passengers with the carry-on baggage to bypass the ticket counter (National Research Council 65). Moreover, the customers will be offered enhanced services of obtaining the boarding pass with the electronic self-service confirmation by using credit card or airline confirmation number that are not generally available at privately operated parking lots (National Research Council 65). In addition, the customers may change flights and/or seat assignments, and perform other typical operations that can be accessed from the spaces, located away from the terminal (National Research Council 65). According to the recent estimates, implementation of the CUSS systems will help to save costs that can be equivalent for the construction of the new gate (Corgan Associates 35).

 This is especially true, considering LAX’s roadway layout of the terminals, arranged in the U-shape, and parking lot arrangements that are located adjusted to the particular terminal. Regardless the fact that, Economy Public Parking Lot is located away from the terminals’ layout, the curbside traffic congestion is present, due to the overflow of the parkers dropping off and picking up the travelers at the curbside prior to parking or after retrieving the vehicle (Ricondo & Associates 42). Therefore, the constrained parking conditions appear, due to the increased Total Vehicle Miles (TVM) traveled by the vehicles that try to find an empty space for parking (Ricondo & Associates 19). Although development programs predetermine usage of the cleaner fuel technology, the passengers still face additional time wasted at the typical curbside bag check-ins (Corgan Associates 35).

Social Efficiency of the Economy Parking Lot C Redevelopment in the Bag-Check Plaza

LAX operates Economy Parking Lot C that can accommodate 7,300 privately owned vehicles (POV), but has size restrictions on the vehicles with sufficient dimension and clearance (“Los Angeles (LAX) Airport” n.d.). The abovementioned Parking Lot C provides frequent free customer-oriented shuttle transport and executes counterclockwise travels, and stops conveniently at each terminal curbside (“Los Angeles (LAX) Airport” n.d.). However, increasing amount of POV, increases curbside traffic congestion, due to the increased curbside activity levels and possible delays, caused by the check-ins operations on these curbsides (Ricondo & Associates 176).

Therefore, application of the CUSS services become more convenient with the configuration of the bag-check plaza area that will allow passengers to reduce waiting time by check-in for flight, obtaining the boarding passes and tagging of the bags, while remaining in the vehicle (Corgan Associates 29). Moreover, such self-service bag-check plaza is built in the shape of the drive-through location that can use motorized belts that help to transport baggage directly to the processing area (Corgan Associates 29). Taking into account that this public space can be used as a close-in parking structure, it will be possible to rebuild the existing Parking Lot C to the plaza that will serve as a terminals’ building curbside.

The construction of the bag-check plaza is driven by the need to reduce curbside roadway congestion and subsequent travel time delays for the passengers that can check-in their bags and perform typical registering procedures without entering the ticketing and baggage check areas (Corgan Associates 29). For that purpose, the bag-check plaza provides CUSS kiosks and assistance of the roaming customer service agent that can perform the duties similar to these of the Skycaps at the curbside check-ins (Ricondo & Associates 189). This self-service option improves security issues, related to the big luggage transfers and can be considered convenient, taking into account that airline check-in counters are open at the particular flight schedules of each separate terminal (National Research Council 60).

Furthermore, the passengers’ benefits result from the possibility to proceed directly to the Security Screening Checkpoint (SSCP), thereby avoiding queues in the ticketing area and terminal departure halls, and avoiding inconveniences and baggage transportation problems (Corgan Associates 29). In some cases, when the check-in process requires carrying of the baggage to the inside check-in counters, this check-in facility will be convenient for the elderly and disabled people (Corgan Associates 29). This arrangement will also help to free the parking areas nearby the terminals and is sufficient for these passengers, who could not check-in online.

The figure illustrates that curbside traffic congestion will be decreased, because re-configuration of the Parking Lot C will attract sufficient amount of the POV and passengers without carry-on bags, who wish to bypass ticketing and baggage check counters that are available during particular set hours. Moreover, considering the growing number of POV that could enter LAX hub airport, in average four to five check-in position places should be provided for the vehicles (Corgan Associates 31). These considerations will help to decrease the amount of queues in the departure halls by 50 % (Corgan Associates 31). Therefore, reconfigured bag-check plaza will help to improved travelling experience and enhance additional service options in the central terminal complex and will facilitate social interactions with the help of self-service systems.

Conclusion

Spatial identity of the check-in public space area of the LAX U-shape terminal layout offers improved passenger level-of service, due to the curbside check-in services, provided by the airport “Skycaps”. With the help of these dedicated employees, the passenger can select and register seating on-board position, and confirm payment for the upgrades and baggage. In addition to the social interaction and improved security issues, the curbside check-ins reduce the time needed for the checks the pre-security area, and take the existing on-line check-in to the subsequent proceeding level.

However, the terminals layout and dominance of the decentralized curbside check-ins and constrained parking options, increase curbside traffic congestions and reduces the passengers’ satisfaction by the check-in procedures delays. The CUSS developments encourage provision of the additional optional services that help to avoid the queues and allow sufficient and pleasant passenger experience. The bag-check plaza is assumed as an alternative to the advanced parking options that helps to save time for the check-ins that increases social protection, and allows the passengers to tag and check-in their baggage and directly transport it to the processing area. Furthermore, the social interaction is supported by assistance of the roaming customer service agent’s to the passengers, while they use CUSS kiosks, which allows their direct proceeding to the SSCP area without stopping at the ticketing and baggage areas.   

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