Jetstar supplied photo of SMS check-in at work in amazingly empty terminal

The Jetstar announcement of 100 per cent self service check-in processes in Australian airports, and the eventual charging of a fee to the digitally incompetent to be checked-in by a human instead of a robot, raises an interesting question.

What is the simplest possible ticketing and checking-in system?

All that an airline really wants from the check-in process is confirmation that a booked seat that has been paid for is used by the person holding the receipt.

It doesn’t really care who you are, provided it has the money. The information that is generated and attached to your PNR or passenger name record code, which is a unique combination of letters and numbers, may include data that is useful for security purposes, or most likely, useless.

But from the airline’s point of view, the reading of that PNR or reservation code is the gate pass that gets you on board, or provides the basis for selling you another fare or at least, another fee, if you miss the flight or have to cancel.

In accounting terms, it is the ching part of ka-ching.

Living some distance from Sydney or Melbourne, I use a really simple ticketing and checking in process for the various  XPT or Xplorer trains that can be used in combination with flights, or sometimes, to completely avoid them.

The train shudders to a halt at some god forsaken hour at an otherwise deserted highlands station, and at the door of the carriage in which I’m booked, a lady with a torch is waiting to lead me, like a theatre usherette in the 1950s, to a seat in the darkened car. She has my surname on a list and a seat number, Sandilands, Car B Seat 15B, or whatever.

It’s so simple. Country Rail has the money, and a tick to show the fare was used. I don’t even produce the bit of paper.

Maybe, just a thought, this is how it could work at an airport. You have your PNR code stored on your ‘phone,  or just written on a bit of paper. At the gate you say PV2X38 or whatever, to the voice sensitive barrier, which lets you pass, and you wander down the aerobridge to the waiting 400-500 seat half hourly shuttle to Sydney or Melbourne, with no more drama than catching a Manly Ferry, or a country train.

That’s even simpler than the tag systems already used by airlines including Air New Zealand and Qantas.

All you would need to do is be at the right gate at the right time, and say the right code.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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