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Paper boarding passes kill trees and the mobile boarding passes kill our iPhone batteries. So here's some news for the eco-conscious and energy conserving: Alaska Airlines may soon be boarding you for your flight via biometrics.
As the airline's official blog explains, Alaska has been spending the last few months working on the ins and outs of a system that would allow travelers to scan fingerprints instead of an ID; in fact, your beautiful biometrics could allow for the ability to do everything from check luggage to board the flight.
Part of the initial test involved using biometrics to grant access to the "Board Room," Alaska Airlines' version of the airport lounge. It worked well and flyers were pleased, so it’s actually now the norm at four lounge locations across the nifty fifty.
Alaska partnered on the testing with the biometrics company CLEAR, and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport was the spot chosen for the first few runs — owing to its heavy influx of Silicon Valley tech types. Alaska Airlines likes what they have seen, and though there’s still a lot to work out before biometrics come to an airport near you, just know they’re working on it — and some of us can’t wait.
[Photo: Alaska Airlines]
If you’re flying with Frontier soon you might be a bit alarmed when you see the time listed on your boarding pass. The traditional departure time for your flight is now missing. (Insert: Dramatic music.) Instead, it’s been replaced with a couple new time points that the airline hopes will help get you aboard more quickly and efficiently.
Per ABC News, the plan is to now list "boarding begins" and "doors close" times on the boarding passes. In a way, we kind of like this approach; it’s more straightforward, so long as those two times hold true. After all, the departure time is great and all, but it doesn’t really provide the best sense as to when we need to start crowding around the gate agent and the jetway door. On the other hand, we understand that replacing the departure time with the "boarding time" and "doors close" info is just a little travel psychology at work.
A new year brings in a new idea when it comes to the best way in which to do the whole boarding process thing over at the airport. It has nothing to do with zones, rows, or back to front, as this time they thought has to do with what you have in your hands.
The new idea comes from Clarkson University School of Business in New York, as they’re interested in distributing the amount of passengers with carry-on bags in a way to move things along quickly. The proposal suggests that passengers take their seats from back to front, and in addition to that they’d be seated from the windows across to the aisles.
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We’ve seen all kinds of advertisements and stuff scrolled across our boarding passes—even a little Sudoku game now and then. Now there’s an airline upping the ante on the boarding pass offerings, as they’re handing out their own version of coupons, discounts, and other deals. Sure it’s a chance for them to sell a little bit of advertising and making a couple bucks, but maybe you’ll actually benefit.
It’s Korean Air that’s getting into the boarding pass coupon-clipping game, as they’re releasing something called “Excellent Boarding Pass.” Like we said a minute ago, it’s all about providing benefits and discounts to stuff like restaurants, movies, banks, and kind of anything else where you can save a few dollars.
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If you’ve ever flown with Southwest Airlines you probably know how important it is to be near your computer or phone 24 hours before your flight. That’s when online check-in opens, as you want to get yourself a chance at the best available boarding pass. With free-for-all boarding you don’t want to be stuck in a middle seat with a “C” boarding pass when a little work might help you score an exit row thanks to an “A” boarding pass.
Earlier this month someone was clever enough to use their programming skills to establish a snazzy site that would do all the check-in work on your behalf. In theory you would just enter a few bits and pieces of your travel information and then, like magic, you’d be automatically checked-in for your flight. If all went according to plan you’d get one of the coveted A boarding passes for the first wave, and you wouldn’t have to worry.
Next time you check-in for your Delta flight there should be a surprise coming out of the airport kiosk, as Delta just gave their boarding passes a little bit of an extreme makeover. We’ve always kind of wondered why boarding passes haven’t gotten an upgrade for the 21st century—mobile options excluded—so it’s nice to see Delta putting a little attention to detail and design with their latest improvement.
They’re using much larger fonts to identify your departure and arrival cities through their airport codes, but they still list out the city pairs in smaller text below. All the usual information is still there of course—from seat assignment to departure gate. Delta is now including the boarding time on your pass to kind of encourage you to get ready to go...instead of perusing Hudson News up until the final few minutes, so just be aware that the time on your boarding pass might not be the actual departure time.
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Mobile boarding passes are finally pretty much becoming the norm here in the US, but we do realize that there are still plenty of carriers where it isn’t yet an option. Step by step, other airlines are coming over to the tech-friendly side, and this week it’s Cathay Pacific upgrading their offerings with mobile boarding passes.
Cathay Pacific is starting off small, so you won’t be able to utilize any mobile boarding passes leaving from the United States just yet. The paper-free process is now available in Auckland, NZ—as well in Hong Kong. Passengers who do their check-ins online will have the chance to receive their boarding information right on their mobile devices, and then it just takes a swipe and scan to hop aboard both select Dragonair and Cathay Pacific flights.
Every once in a while an airline decides to shake up the boarding process. It's usually to expedite the whole mess involved with getting on the airplane, and sometimes it's to provides a head start to certain groups of frequent flyers. The latest carrier to revamp their system is American Airlines and initial reviews are kind of mixed.
The old boarding process had about ten different groups, but the new process compacts everything into six different zones. Up first are those sitting in the front of the plane, along with uniformed military men and women and some frequent flyers. Next are the rest of the frequent flyers, and then Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and Group 4. The first boarding group is for those who hold status in the oneworld airline alliance in addition to those that have purchased PriorityAAccess before heading to the departure gate—which is not a good use of travel cash if you ask us.
We've said it once and we'll say it again: Mobile Boarding Passes are God's gift to modern air travel. Thankfully, many airlines agree with us and have continued to advance their programs, like United, who today announced that their mobile boarding passes now work for select international flights, as well as domestic.
To quickly give some background, a mobile boarding pass is a page or code downloaded or texted to your smartphone. You scan it to get through security, and it's again scanned at the gate (see a picture of the scanning here) to allow you to board your flight. No printing and no fumbling around with loose sheets of paper necessary. A modern miracle. It was first embraced with European carriers like SAS and Lufthansa, the latter of whom even have installed self-scan turnstiles at some boarding gates at German airports.
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Have you ever bought and paid for a flight like normal, then arrived to the airport and boarded the flight like normal, and then pulled down your tray table or opened the seatback safety card to discover they were covered in ads? It's like...what the hell. We're pitched to by billboards, magazine ads, even coffee sleeves nearly every hour of every day, and the one time we can usually count on some quiet chill timea long flight, for examplethe ads are still there and now more persistent than ever.
Ryanair, one of the original pioneers for selling space wherever possible, is going a step further and putting the ads right in the palm of your hand, before you even get onboard their planes or have a seat at the gate. They're splashing the boarding passes with ads, and not trying to be shy at all about it.
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If those friendly folks with the TSA give their blessing, the way you check your luggage might be getting a makeover. No longer will you have to hand over your overstuffed suitcase to an airline employee for its baggage tag, as you’ll be the one slapping that destination sticker onto the handle. That means if you’re bag ends up in Toledo rather than Tahiti you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
American Airlines and Air Canada want to bring self bag tags to the masses, or at least part of them, by testing the service in Boston later this year. Delta wants to get in on the fun as well, so expect them to be doing something similar before too long at another airport.
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American Airlines must really want everyone to play sudoku, as they’re offering up a pretty good incentive to try out their latest iPhone app. The thing has been kicking around for a few months now, but it’s definitely worth a download now more than ever. That’s because the airline is offering up a chance to score 1,000,000 frequent flyer miles for one lucky user.
If you’re not the big winner of the “Mobile Million” contest, there are still a few other prizes worth jumping up and down about. Thirty other downloaders will be grabbing $400 Apple gift cards, which can be used to upgrade to the latest iPod or fill out an iTunes library. All you have to do is download and install the app between now and October 15.