Soon travellers will be able to use their cellular phones to check-in for airline flights, signalling the end of paper tickets and boarding passes.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced a global standard that paves the way for global mobile phone check-in using two-dimensional (2D) bar codes.
Mobile phone check-in enables airlines to send 2D bar codes directly to a passenger’s mobile phone, personal digital assistant or smart phone. Passengers simply register their mobile number with their airline at the time of booking to receive a text message with a 2D bar code, or instructions to download it.
The bar code becomes the passenger’s boarding pass and it is read directly from the screen of the mobile device, eliminating paper completely from the check-in process.
“Passengers want the convenience of self-service options in a paperless environment. This standard is an important step in getting rid of paper that bogs down processes and drives up costs,” says Giovanni Bisignani, director-general and CEO of IATA.
Historically, airline global applications for mobile phone technology have been restricted due to differerent regional formats. The IATA standard uses existing codes: Aztec and Datamatrix which are used extensively in Europe and North America; and QR which is widely used in Japan. All three are proven technologies and can be read by a single scanner type that is cost effective and readily available globally.
“The creation of a standard code is only part of the solution,” says Bisignani. “In the next months we will be working with our members to develop standardised processes and guidelines that facilitate global implementation.”
The industry has set a deadline of the end of 2010 to implement 100% bar coded boarding passes (BCBP). Upon full implementation, BCBP will save the industry over $500-million annually.
A 2D standard for paper bar coded passes was established in 2005 and is the basis for web check-in. Both standards (mobile and paper based) can be issued and accepted by airlines worldwide.
The global introduction of BCBP to replace magnetic stripe technology is one of five Simplifying the Business (StB) projects launched by IATA in 2004. The StB goal is to use technology to make travel more convenient while saving $6,5-billion in costs.