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Monday, August 16, 2004 | 00:00

A pilot project aimed at improving on-time departures by not making boarding announcements over the PA System within the domestic terminal at O.R. Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) has, to date, yielded the desired results. Since Monday 2 August 2004, there has been minimal flight boarding denials as opposed to when boarding announcements and name calls were made. A boarding denial means the passenger did not arrive at the boarding gate 10 minutes before departure. The project has also successfully reduced noise pollution in the terminal building. This pilot will continue for the duration of August.

Essentially, boarding, further, final boarding calls and name calls will no longer be heard in the departures hall. In the past an announcement was made every 10 seconds. At the moment, the airline check-in staff informs you of the boarding time while every five minutes, an automated announcement plays informing passengers that boarding calls are no longer made and that they should consult their boarding pass or flight display boards.

As a result, the domestic departures hall is much more pleasantly quieter. Also, passenger behaviour has changed as most people used to wait for the final boarding call before rushing to catch their flight. This often caused bottlenecks at security check point and sometimes led to flight delays as luggage of the delayed passenger had to be off-loaded. By law, airlines cannot carry luggage if the passenger is not on board.

In a related development, effective from tonight 16 August 2004, flight information will be provided to the public via our automated flight info system on 086 7277 888. It is an intelligent voice recognition telephone system that allows callers access to web-based information using an ordinary telephone or cell-phone.

The reason why ACSA went this route was because we receive, on average, more than 50 000 flight enquiries every month at O.R. Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) alone. The phenomenal growth of passenger traffic at ORTIA meant the existing system was no longer able to accommodate future growth. It was as basic an issue as having no physical space into which to squeeze another call centre consultant. The new service enables users to find out the times of departure and arrival of any flight to or from ORTIA just by making a call. 

Since installation, we've experienced a better than expected 70 percent transaction completion rate. That is the percentage of people who are successfully served without having to speak to a consultant. There is an option available to speak with a consultant with regards to flight arrival and departure times.

The system sounds human such that callers looking for flight information details and follow the prompts correctly sometimes don't know they're getting information from the web, and not communicating with a live person. Even if a caller doesn't know his flight number, the system can guide them through the process to discover the flight number. The system now includes Durban International while Cape Town International will follow shortly. ENDS 

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