Blog, Product Management

Airport check-in revolution: a plastic sleeve and a printed bar code


I usually fly a lot. And since the introduction of low cost companies a lot of people pretty much do the same. I also enjoy flying, I even like that little stress when the plane takes off and the one during the landing. But if I’d have to describe why I like it that much, I would just say that is because it is practical. It is more or less the same experience of a bus trip, but with a cruise speed of 900 km/h. With a plane you can travel the world really fast.

There are just a couple of moments that I hate of commercial flights and all of them are attributable to the same issue: wasting of time.

When you decide to take a train, there is no further brain in your acts. You buy the ticket, you get on the train, the train leaves. Stop. With flights, there is a complete different approach. There is this dumb airport check-in process, which I have never completely understood. If I register my name and passport number during the ticket buying process, it is necessary to do it again afterwards? At least lately they allow you to do it online or even from your mobile phone, which is great. Last time that I have used my phone to pass a security scan using my iPhone Passbook I felt as cool as Marty McFly skateboarding across Hill Valley.

The other frustrating moment at the airport is dealing with bags. If you have to travel during more than a weekend, your hand luggage won’t be enough. And due to the cabin security protocols that followed the 9/11, you can’t even take a bottle of water with you. Do not even think about carrying a Rosso Conero wine bottle to the cabin, that would be a declaration of terrorism.

So you need a bag, and you need to check it in, an operation that can blow all the time you saved with the online check-in for your physical person. At least it seems that this painful operation is going to change. A couple of players are strongly working on introducing new technology for the bag management.

The first one is British Airways, which propose an electronic tag with a NFC chip in it. But I personally prefer the Iberia approach, introducing this amazing and zero revolutionary concept called “print your boarding pass and put in a plastic sleeve”. Or as they fancy call it My Bag Tag. Iberia, sorry for making fun of the name. I really like it, and I could spend the next five minutes repeating it aloud. The name sounds hypnotizing. Mybagtag, mybagtag, mybagtag.

Where were we? Yes, the concept is no brain, you just print the barcode with a standard paper size, you bend it, you put in a resistant plastic sleeve they provide you (and is reusable) and go on with the classic bag drop. They say that the whole process starting with your arrival at the baggage drop, the code scan, the bag leave and your cheerful farewell is going to last less than 30 seconds. And you can even enjoy that time repeating constantly mybagtag-mybagtag-mybagtag.

Now switch to serious. This system is already working in a bunch of Spanish airports and quickly will be proposed to international airports and connecting flights. The barcode machine scored an impressive 100% successful reading even in difficult weather conditions.

I really hope this simple feature will be worldwide accepted as a standard from all airlines. It represent the kind of things I like the most: easy, practical, cheap and smart. You don’t need no expensive NFC mobile phone nor anything else. Just a printer and a paper. Now I am wondering why nobody thought about it before.

Photo by Ogilvy & Mather London.

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