Streamlining air travel
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 12:04:45 PM
I'd already gone through a similar rigmarole when I arrived in that airport a short while earlier. And before that it had happened when I'd left Malaysia.
So here's my manifesto for a set of improvements so global air travel stops driving all their passengers mad:
1a) You purchase a ticket online / by phone / through an agent. Travel document details are taken at the same time (but can be changed later, maybe with a small fee). If the aircraft type has already been selected by the airline's fleet management then you can also choose your seat. Baggage requirements are taken (seats and baggage can be changed later, maybe with a small fee).
1a-part2) (Where applicable) If the aircraft type was not defined during stage 1a) then you will be able to choose your seat and baggage arrangements online / by phone / through an agent after a pre-determined date - this will vary depending on your place in the queue: first 50 passengers from day X, next 50 passengers from day X+7 etc. - you will also be sent a reminder by e-mail if you gave your address during the booking.
1b) Flight status will be sent by e-mail 1 week before and 1 day before the flight. The status can also be viewed online / by phone /through an agent. Any changes to flight details will be sent by e-mail as these occur. Serious changes to flight status will require e-mail / online confirmation that you have been informed, otherwise you will be contacted by phone / your agent. There is no online check-in! Obviously, it would still be wise to check the flight status before heading for the airport.
2a) Upon arrival at the airport all that's needed is to deposit your baggage and present your travel document or reservation code. This can be done at a check in desk (for extra baggage etc.) or automated kiosk. You will be issued with a smart-card boarding-pass to be worn around your neck. This card is linked to details of your ticket, flight, baggage and travel document.
2b) Passport control marks the boundary of a secure zone. Your smart-card will be validated by passport control, effectively replacing the travel document. From then on, this same card can be swiped or possibly tracked with RFID. There will be no need to produce any other documents until leaving the destination airport! (Spot-checks excluded.) Consequently, less checks will be required and passengers don't have to fiddle with different bits of card and paper. RFID tracking or card-swiping will inform the system of your arrival at the gate, so the airline will know where strays are before having to make last calls and unload baggage! On-board checks of the passenger manifest can be quickly conducted using hand-held scanners.
3a) Using the same smart-card, a simple swipe / RFID scan is sufficient to allow you to enter the airport, pass through any additional control points and check-in at your departure gate.
4a) A swipe / scan allows you to enter the airport and pass through to the baggage retrieval area. Any issues with baggage reclaim make use of the travel data on the card.
4b) After passing through customs, passport control marks the boundary of the secure area. Your card will be checked against your actual travel document before being wiped and recycled.
Of course, none of this stops the airports from forcing you to go through lots of stupid "security" routines... but at least you won't have to fumble for various documents in the middle of it any more!