I can't offer up sob stories about layovers at Heathrow or two-hour check-in lines -- my most sordid airport experience involved losing a bottle of 100% agave tequila to Mexican airport security. Still, I always pride myself on using savvy traveler technology like e-tickets and self-serve kiosks, because lines are for suckers.Well, I certainly felt like one when the
While the service is now available only for domestic Canadian flights and departures to non-U.S. international destinations,
Transportation Security Administration approval for flights to and from the U.S. is pending. Airline response was like the excitement around Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone," says Eric Leopold, project manager for the IATA. "This sets the foundation for paperless boarding and will have a potentially huge impact." While most Air Canada customers using mobile-boarding technology are PDA (BlackBerry) users, the IATA says the technology worked on a five-year-old mobile-phone tested with three different scanners. The cost-effective, paperless bar codes can be read by existing barcode scanners, eliminating any expensive technology upgrades.
Jet Blue ( JBLU) is not actively looking at paperless technology at the moment, "but it's certainly a prospect," says spokesman Sebastian White. Qantas and Virgin Air both announced they are considering the paperless solution, and the technology has been adopted already in Japan and some European countries like Spain. Airlines will have to test the boundaries of the new technology before a full rollout is conceivable, but Thomas Romig, manager of airport IT of the
Airports Council International , sees a definite change in passenger dynamics. "The whole check-in process is moving outside the airport," he says. Still, it's impossible for any airport to use only mobile-phone checking, Romig says: "Imagine if you got to the airport and your battery runs out." The IATA has set a deadline for the end of 2010 for full implementation of barcoded boarding passes (paper and mobile), which it predicts will save the airline industry over $500 million annually by reducing the number of check-in desks, and saving on development of new terminals and scanners. It sounds like the paperless bar code is well on its way. In the meantime, I'll just have to keep printing my e-tickets and steeling myself for the security lines.