Mobile phone boarding passes are ready to fly

Mobile phone boarding passes are ready to fly

A global standard for barcode boarding passes has been agreed

The use of airline boarding passes sent as a barcode to passengers’ mobile phones has come a step closer following the agreement of a global technical standard.

But UK carriers remain unconvinced, despite estimates that the technology could save the aviation industry more than $500m (£250m) a year.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) standard is designed to overcome interoperability issues and help meet the global target for 100 per cent barcoded boarding passes by 2010.

Ultimately, paper will be completely eliminated, according to Iata e-ticketing project director Brian Wilson.

“All airlines and airports now know what they have to do and can get on with developing web services knowing the standards are in place,” he said.

A handful of carriers including Air Canada, Air Berlin and Japan Airlines have already launched a mobile barcode service. But many remain wary, and there have been no UK trials so far.

Putting the boarding pass on a mobile is only worthwhile if the airport can read it, said EasyJet systems manager Simon Lamkin.

“Only one supplier has a good piece of software to push a barcode to a phone and there are only two airports on our network that could read it,” he said.

The capability of consumer mobiles is another factor.

Until the SMS text platform is upgraded to next-generation multimedia messaging (MMS), the technology is unlikely to take off, said Lamkin.

British Airways is also unenthusiastic. Mobile phone check-in and boarding passes are only one of many potential avenues being investigated, said the firm.

The global standard for barcodes on paper boarding passes was established in 2005 and is the basis for online check-in.