Air travel in the movies and on TV shows always looks so enjoyable. But even before the increased security following 9/11, air travel has been anything but easy. Long lines, delays and other hassles often take the thrill out of travel.
Fortunately, technology is making it a little easier. Long ago you didn’t have much choice but to show up at the airport really early and hope for the best. Then came the ability to call and check on flight status and delays. That followed by the ability to check flight status from your computer, and ironically just as security tightened, the ability to print out board passes at home. This has cut down on the number of lines you need to stand in, so instead of standing in the long check-in line, you just walk to the long security line before standing in line to get on the plane!
That is if you had access to a computer and could check the status and check-in. Fortunately, many airlines are now offering WAP sites so you can check the flight status at least from your phone, while some even offer the ability to check in. Airlines of the Web offer a handy site that provides links to the various WAP sites from the major carriers. These sites vary in quality, but if you’re like many road warriors you probably have a preferred carrier, and it isn’t too hard to learn the ins and outs of that particular site.
Flash and Go
Did you know that you could also flash your phone at certain airports (and of course only with certain airlines) to get on the plane? It is a little complicated given that you have to put the phone “through” the x-ray machine and are often asked to keep your boarding pass in hand. But in the last year, Delta and Continental have been just two of the airlines that have started to test programs that will allow people to fly paperless. There’s already a standard for global mobile phone check-in, which has been in place for a while.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a global standard that would allow for check-in with two-dimensional (2D) bar codes back in 2007. This would allow for the airline to send 2D bar codes directly to a passenger’s mobile phone where the code could be then read from the mobile device at the airport.
This is a good alternative to paper, but there are issues that need to be resolved. As any frequent business traveler (such as this reporter) can tell you, it is annoying enough to have the people in front of you fumbling for their paper passes. Imagine now the issues of having countless variations of phones and screens. If everyone in the world used just an iPhone, BlackBerry, G1 or Palm device there would be plenty of variations to confuse the clerks and machines alike. Factor in the countless variations of just the BlackBerry and Palm handsets, along with the various Samsung and LG models and the lines won’t speed up – ultimately, the time you save from printing a boarding pass could be further wasted as you wait for everyone with their mobile.