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Travel without boarding pass

Boarding passes may soon be passé — thanks to biometric self-boarding, bag drops and ‘bagtrac’ applications

  • Zero risk: The new biometric self-boarding system does away with the boarding pass, which is replaced by an irImage Credit:
  • High-tech: The biometric self-boarding gate at the Aviation ICT ForumImage Credit:
  • Hassle-free: A demonstration of the self bag drop system at the Aviation ICT ForumImage Credit:

Dubai: Biometric self-boarding, self bag drops and ‘bagtrac’ smartphone applications — a host of new technologies will change the face of air travel in the region.

“Soon you won’t need your boarding pass,” said Andre Oeyen, Director of Biometric Business Development, Government and Security Solutions at SITA, a global air transport communications and information technology major.

Speaking to XPRESS on the sidelines of the ICT Aviation Forum in Dubai on Tuesday, he said: “We are in talks with airlines and airports in the region to launch biometric self-boarding in the first half of 2013.”

However, he did not specify the names of the airlines or airports. He said biometrics is already being used for border management and immigration in Dubai, and if extended to boarding, it will be the next dimension.

Value add

Biometric self-boarding essentially replaces a boarding pass with an iris, face or fingerprint biometric feature.

Currently, passengers are required to get the 2D barcode on their boarding cards scanned at the boarding gate. This is either done by an agent or by the passenger himself where self-service e-gates exist.

“Although such e-gates are fast and convenient, they inherently carry a security risk as they have no way of telling the real identity of the passenger. This is where biometric self-boarding adds value,” said Oeyen.

All a passenger will have to do when he reaches the boarding gate is to look at a camera for two or three seconds. When the iris scanner captures his iris, the person is identified and his boarding details validated automatically. If everything is okay, the gate opens on its own and the passenger proceeds to the plane.

Just as the self-boarding process negates the need for a boarding agent, the self-bag drop will also allow a passenger to check in baggage without the need for an agent.

Although the SITA bag drop facility has an in-built biometric option, initial trials will require a boarding pass.

Passengers will have to self check in at a kiosk where boarding passes and bag tags are printed. They will then need to drop off bags in the self bag drop area. “The passenger scans his 2D boarding pass at the unit which identifies the airline and opens the bag drop application. The check-in information is displayed and the passenger places the bag on the belt. The system scans the bag tag, weighs and measures the bag. If everything is okay, it is then forwarded into the baggage handling system and a bag receipt is issued.”

If the baggage rules are not complied with, the system directs the passenger about what needs to be done.

Another new feature that air travellers can look forward to is the “bagtrac” smartphone application. Users can tap in the number of their bag tag receipt — iPhone users can even scan their barcode — and watch the bag’s journey from departure to arrival and all points in between. They can track their bags from the air as well. Plus, the application will report which carousel the bag will arrive on.