Bar codes are a good sign for flying
Friday 17 December 2010
The experience of flying has changed dramatically over the past decade with increased security, new fees for everything from checking a bag to being the first to board and hefty fuel surcharges in many places.
While the experience of flying seeming less enjoyable than it's ever been, there was some refreshing good news from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week - those magnetic strips on boarding passes are officially a thing of the past.
As recently as five years ago, most airlines issued passes that had a machine-readable magnetic strip on the back, which would be scanned by airline staff at the gate before boarding.
Industry standard since 1983, the strips required expensive machines to produce, limiting the number of places where customers could collect their boarding pass and making them incompatible with the fast-growing self-service trend preferred by passengers and the world's airlines.
Although some carriers attempted to supplement the magnetic strips with barcodes in the 1990s, it wasn't until 2005 that IATA introduced a standard "two-dimensional" barcode with the aim of phasing out magnetic strips by the end of 2010.
On December 15, the organization confirmed that it had achieved its goal, describing the 100 percent usage of barcoded boarding passes (BCBPs) as "a historic milestone."
Although some airlines have been using them for a while, the door is now open to all carriers to allow passengers to print their boarding passes at home or by themselves in the airport, as well as simplifying the introduction of more advanced technology such as issuing the barcodes on mobile phones.
In the future, passengers will be able to use the same BCBP for multiple flights, said IATA, as well as to automatically access services such as fast-track security lanes or lounges.
With over 2,000 airports switched over to the new system and over 2 billion boarding passes issued each year, the new system not only provides greater choice for passengers, but reduces costs for airlines to the tune of up to $1.5 billion (€1.3 billion), part of which should be passed on to the consumer - proving that not everything about air travel this decade has been bad.
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