Reseller News

Air New Zealand to show electronic boarding passes

Air New Zealand is holding a briefing next week at which it plans to demonstrate new domestic check-in and boarding technologies, including RFID and mobile phone-based boarding passes, to be introduced at all of the company's domestic terminals.

According to an event invitation, customers will experience new check-in designs and layout, new kiosks, bag drop zones and new gate scanners. Air New Zealand will also be introducing new boarding options, including boarding passes sent to mobile phones and using RFID (radio frequency ID) technology.

In September, passengers on European airline KLM became able to receive their boarding pass on their mobile phone. Passengers first check-in on their mobile device with internet access (a smart phone, PDA or BlackBerry). Once they have checked in, they can choose to receive their boarding passes with a secure barcode by email, MMS or SMS.

The barcode is scanned at the gate but can also be used at the baggage drop off counters to proceed through security, to enter the lounge and at the tax free shops.

"Our customers increasingly want to be in control of their time. The electronic boarding pass fulfills this desire perfectly", commented Martijn van der Zee, vice president e-commerce at Air France KLM. "It is a new step in smooth and hassle free travelling."

RFID-enabled boarding passes have been proposed for some time. Some of these plans have aimed to track passengers inside terminals for security purposes and have raised the ire of privacy advocates.

In 2004, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) examined the use of RFID-tagged boarding passes that could allow passenger tracking within airports. Some privacy advocates called the move a potentially "outrageous" violation of civil liberties.

Anthony "Buzz" Cerino, communications security technology lead at the TSA, said at the time that the agency believed the use of RFID chips could speed the movement of passengers signed up on to the agency's registered traveler program. This would permit them to pass through a secure special lane during boarding.

In 2006, the Singapore government signed a deal with NEC to provide RFID-enabled boarding passes for Singapore's ferry terminals.

The boarding passes were similar in size to a credit card containing details about the passenger and their journey. It was aimed to ease passenger movements and boost security by helping to detect those passengers that did not board their vessel after checking in luggage.

Changes to the airline's loyalty programs have also been flagged.