Make your travel experience easier this holiday season
But while the bottleneck we often face at the airport security lines and things like the weather are mostly beyond our control, there are some new technologies being developed by airlines and airports to improve the ease of air travel and your travel experience.
Here are some that may make your flight a little easier this holiday season:
The check-in counter. Smarter technology may soon allow you to avoid a major airport headache — the check-in counter.
By now, most air travelers are familiar with airport kiosks that can print a boarding pass with the swipe of a credit card or other form of identification, thus avoiding the check-in counter entirely. But airlines want to give passengers even more options when it comes to self-service.
Air Canada, for example, has plans to place off-site kiosks at various points along a traveler’s route, such as hotels, car rental locations, convention centers and airport-bound train stations.
Besides check-in, kiosks will be used to make same-day changes, change seats, pay for excess baggage and make on-board purchases. If a passenger needs to print out a boarding pass or a bag tag, the kiosk can also scan a machine-readable bar code image from his or her mobile device and print it.
Flight information. Air Canada also came up with an innovative iPhone application that points the way to how passengers will get up-to-the-minute flight information in the future — through mobile devices. The iPhone app lets customers access flight times, gate and aircraft information, with the data updated immediately as conditions change. Information about delayed or canceled flights can be sent immediately to a cell phone, so that a traveler can act on the information before even arriving at the airport.
Boarding gates. But the self-serve airport of the future won’t stop there. Before long, airports may let passengers check themselves in (along with their bags), board the plane on their own, rebook their own flights and handle lost-luggage claims.
Already, Continental Airlines is experimenting with self-boarding at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, whereby passengers can board a plane without an agent needing to inspect their passes. Passengers simply swipe an encoded boarding pass at the gate, and when the pass is verified, a turnstile opens.
Lost luggage. A pilot program at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is using radio-frequency identification tags to tackle another airport frustration: lost baggage. In the future, RFID tags may be attached to every piece of luggage so passengers won’t have to wait in a customer-service line to report lost bags; instead they can immediately order redelivery of their misplaced bags.In addition to this, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority has launched a program that it expects will lead to greater efficiency by making it easier for airlines to share information with one another.
Toronto’s Pearson Airport, which handles more than 30 million passengers annually, is one of the world’s largest airports built on what’s known as a “common use equipment” model. That means detailed information about airport resources, such as check-in counters, boarding gates and kiosks, can be accessed by any of the airport’s 60 competing airlines.
By giving airlines access to information about the airport’s ever-changing conditions, the airport is able to make better use of limited physical assets, such as airplane gates.
All of the coming improvements promise to offer air travelers one of the things they’ve been clamoring for: more control over their travel experience. Technology can’t solve all of the problems of air travel, but it can make the journey a little more smooth.