Reply to post: Re: Check-in System?

Hundreds stranded at Manchester Airport due to IT 'glitch'

Ian Tunnacliffe

Re: Check-in System?

Actually this is a very good question and one that the airline industry is discussing seriously today. There are several key functions bundled up into the process we call "check-in" today. One of them is the issuance of a boarding pass. This is usually the document (paper or electronic) that indicates an entitlement to pass into the secured area of the airport. That requirement isn't going to change in the near future. Then there is seat assignment. In the modern world many seats are allocated well in advance (often at a charge) and there is no firm requirement for this to happen at the same time as BP issuance. However it is still part of the airport process because there may be need to make adjustments at the last minute eg because of aircraft changes, seats going unserviceable and delays to inbound connections. Then there is baggage acceptance and bag tag issuance. There is no logical need for this to happen at the same time and place as the other bits but on the whole people don't like to wait in multiple queues so historically they have been done together. And then there is the requirement to send information to third parties, primarily governments but also airlines providing connecting flights and sometimes downline airports.

Historically it made sense to do all these things together in a single process called "check-in". With the technology, security and other changes that have occurred over the last few years it may no longer do so. IATA is currently engaged in defining a new standard for managing the airline booking and delivery process. This is called ONE Order (careful with the capitalisation) and the aim is to change airline procedures which involve separate records for bookings (Passenger Name Records, PNRs) and payment (Tickets) and moving towards a retail-style arrangement of a single order that covers both types of information. As part of this effort the whole process of delivering flight services at the airport and beyond is being reviewed.

As always with multilateral initiatives involving hundreds of players in multiple jurisdictions and different business priorities the process is slow but there should be a beta release of the ONE Order standard at the end of this year. After that it will be up to individual airlines and groups of airlines to implement the changes so don't hold your breath but over the next few years we should see significant changes in airport processes and the end to the traditional check-in.

Of course airlines that sit outside the IATA-defined processes like Ryanair have the ability to make some of the changes more quickly, basically because they don't have to coordinate with all of their partner companies. They will probably be faster to streamline airport processes.

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