The future of air travel from Air France-KLM

airfrancemobileboarding

I’m a big fan of ‘DIY trip management’ when I fly anywhere – if the airline offers online check-in and that I can print out my own boarding pass, then I’ll use that service.

Some airlines offer this wherever you are (when you’re already travelling, for instance, or don’t have access to a printer, you can get your boarding pass faxed to you). The convenience for both parties is clear – as a flyer, you control the whole process; as an airline, you become more efficient and make everything easier for everyone.

Yet it’s all still fiddling with bits of paper. And it always seems to me when you’re at the boarding point that the airline agent who scans the barcode on your self-printed boarding pass takes longer to complete that task, given the variability of print quality her scanner device encounters.

All of that will be gone if you’re a flyer with Air France and KLM in continental Europe and belong to Flying Blue, the airlines’ loyalty scheme.

The airlines announced this week that they’ve introduced paperless mobile phone boarding passes on European routes that involve simply scanning a mobile barcode displayed on the screen of your mobile device (video), just as the photo above illustrates:

[…] Customers can check in using their PDA or smartphone —and receive their boarding pass by e mail or as an MMS or SMS on their mobile device. It is no longer necessary to print the boarding pass. The only paper document customers still need in order to travel is their personal ID.

The electronic (mobile) boarding pass contains all the information displayed on a conventional boarding pass including a unique bar code. The bar code will be scanned at the gate and can be shown at the baggage drop off points, security, lounges and at the tax free shops at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

What a convenience! The only downer I can see is that this service isn’t available to or from airports in the UK. I wonder why not. A regulatory reason? UK not part of the Schengen Agreement, perhaps, as Robin Goad speculated? Or maybe a technical limitation as Bernie Goldbach wondered?

Still, a service like this is enough to make me want to fly with an airline that offers it instead of one that doesn’t (all other things being equal of course).

I’m a long-time Flying Blue member although I’ve not flown with either Air France or KLM since I returned to the UK in 2006 after living in Amsterdam for many years. Maybe time to change airline preferences when next flying on the continent!

And that’s not all the news from Air France and KLM.

They have also announced trials of an automated boarding process using technology developed by CitizenGate, a Switzerland-based company involved in the field of smart cards and biometrics:

This new system is a world first. With a personal card which contains the latest biometric technology (encrypted fingerprints), RFID (radio frequency identification) and thermal printing (the back of the card can be reused up to 500 times), these passengers will be able to board through a dedicated portal whenever they choose.

The new system will be tested during 2009 by Flying Blue customers who travel most frequently between Paris and Amsterdam. Read the press release for the details.

Looks like air travel could become a genuine convenience again.

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