Self Service Technology

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Self Service with Mobile Check-In at the Airport


With lower airfares (Stoller, 2009), airlines must find ways to improve efficiency and lower costs (Falconer, 2008) to remain viable. One such way is to move toward a paperless check-in system by expanding what customers can do from their Internet-enabled mobile phones as part of the industry's continued emphasis on self-service. (Brockman, 2009)

All airlines must be Bar Coded Boarding Pass (BCBP) capable by the end of 2008, and by the end of 2010 all boarding passes must be BCBP. When the 2010 deadline is reached, BCBP usage will result in an annual $800 million saving to airlines. (Falconer, 2008)

It is reported in the July’s copy of International Air Transportation Association (IATA) newsletter that they have met their 2009 Board target for July 2009. The BCBP team is now focusing on the 2010 board mandate of 100% BCBP. The project is currently engaging all airlines and airports who have yet to submit a plan for 100% BCBP to IATA. (IATA Newsletter 2009). The Bar Coded Boarding Passes (BCBP) can help to reduce queues at airports and minimize the operating cost for an airline. The passenger simply receives a text message on their mobile, and all relevant information will be displayed on the screen for inspection, before boarding the aircraft.

How the Paperless System Works
Here’s how the system works: Instead of printing a pass, passengers download it to their cell phones or PDAs, which is then scanned by US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security officers at the checkpoint, thus theoretically eliminating the need for a real boarding pass. Each paperless boarding pass will display an encrypted two-dimensional bar code along with passenger and flight information that will identify the traveler. TSA travel document checkers will use hand-held scanners to validate the authenticity of the paperless boarding pass sent to some passengers. (Ross Falconer, 2008). The two-dimensional version looks more like the snow on a television screen that has lost its signal. It can hold more information and is more adaptable than the magnetic stripes that used to be the industry standard. (Susan Stellin, 2008).

Example of an Industry Player Going Paperless
UK airline bmi piloting Real Time’s FirstPass, which delivers boarding pass information directly to passengers on their mobile phone, PDA or Blackberry, to help speed up the boarding process. The system went live on 12 May. FirstPass uses mobile technology to encode a passenger’s details within an industry standard 2D barcode. The boarding pass can then be read directly from the mobile handset by existing scanners installed at airports for paper-based ‘print at home’ boarding cards. FirstPass removes the need for passengers to carry any type of paper-based boarding pass. (Ross Falconer,2008) No more queuing upon check-in for passenger using FirstPass. All it takes is one MMS, and the passenger will have the information displayed as text for inspection, upon boarding the aircraft. Why Paperless Check-In is not popular?

Some concerns arising from passengers are:
1) What if the wireless device fails? Will passengers be sent back to the ticket counter for a paper pass? Might they then miss their plane?’ 2) Traveler who travels on official (i.e. corporate or government) business is not able to submit the paper boarding passes for reimbursement purposes (paperless check in is not sufficient because it does not prove that he/she has taken the flight). 3) Another problem is displaying the e-boarding pass OFFLINE. The airline website does a fine job of finding the reservation and getting the traveler checked in and even displaying the e-boarding pass; but since this is a secure connection it times out after...
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