Making Life Easier for Airline Passengers

By | Category: Travel news, Travel rumblings

Passenger Terminal Expo 2011

Passenger Terminal Expo 2011

In Copenhagen this week is a three day conference (Passenger Terminal Expo) where airport and airline suppliers sell their wares. Theoretically what makes it easier for them should make it easier for the passenger to get through what has become, for many of us, the bane of travel. It used to be check-in queues. Now it is security and having to walk or be bussed, miles to where the aircraft is parked. So is there anything at this conference that offers hope for us?

From a Norwegian company called Easy Roller comes a wheelchair with no metal parts meaning that the indignity of frisking most wheelchair passengers could be ended. Unless they are carrying metal or suspicious objects in which case they will show up in the normal way. But it should speed up the process of vetting wheelchair passengers.

You can use mobile phones to hold boarding passes as well as web systems. The more we can print or create ourselves the faster we get through check-in queues. Personally I have been hardly held up in a queue for more than a few minutes since I prefer to use kiosks at the airport or my computer. As with a number of other industries, mobile phone technology is bounding ahead. NCR developed a mobile phone technology for boarding passes for Swiss with the result that 120,000 mobile boarding passes were used in just 3 months and at 32 airports around the world. The system is used for check-in and baggage drop, tax-free shops and boarding gates. It is also one less thing to lose as you go through the airport. At present Skyteam, the airline alliance estimates that just 5% of check-ins are done using mobile phones.

As an alternative to a mobile phone application, another company, IER of France is providing a RFID chip attached to the back of a mobile phone or something equally similar like a credit card that we tend to look after more closely than paper. The token can be waved over a check-in machine and hey presto; you’re checked in. It will speed up boarding as you will just pass the token across a machine instead of showing it to someone at the gate and, theoretically, you shouldn’t to show it to cabin crew when you get in a plane.

There are different bits of equipment to ease security queues like a special machine that you walk through instead of taking of your shoes. But all is cutting seconds rather than minutes and it is the security side of things that takes the time these days. Cees de Vos from Skyteam thinks that biometrics might play a bigger role in speeding up the security and boarding process but that is in the future.
One thing that I was unaware of was the complexity of baggage handling systems. The amount of money that has gone in to making systems efficient is surprisingly high because it is a complex issue. We think of loaders unloading baggage and putting them onto conveyor belts that we retrieve them from. There is so much more and, as a new system is being installed by the new owners of Gatwick, we hope to have more on this later.

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