London Heathrow has begun using technology that tracks passengers through its terminals to reduce delays to aircraft caused by people arriving late for their flights.
The smart boarding cards system – called “positive boarding” – is designed to help reduce airlines’ last minute searches for passengers and/or their bags.
It also provides travellers with more accurate information to help them smoothly move through the terminal, Heathrow claims.
Having been extensively trialled, Virgin Atlantic last week became the first airline to adopt the process in Terminal 3 and Little Red in Terminal 1.
When a passenger arrives at security, he now presents the barcode on his ticket at an automatic gate which, if verified, opens to allow him through to security.
When the passenger presents his boarding pass, details from the barcode are compared against the central flight information and tailored information for the individual flashes up on screen.
If a passenger is in the wrong terminal the message will tell him where to go, or if he has limited time, to proceed straight to the gate.
Should a passenger try to go through security with less than 30 minutes before his flight is due to depart, he is asked to return to check-in and seek assistance from the airline.
This real-time information of where passengers are in the terminal allows the airline to immediately begin unloading the baggage, helping them keep to the departure schedule as no bag can travel without its owner.
Heathrow today revealed that during the first week in operation, 35,000 passengers successfully used the positive boarding technology as part of their departure journey.
The data shows that 44 per cent of the departing Virgin Atlantic and Little Red flights had passengers who could have potentially delayed the departure. Of these travellers, 700 were informed by the automatic information display to promptly make their way to the departure gate to ensure they didn’t miss the flight.
Ten late-running passengers were instructed to go back to check-in as they didn’t have sufficient time to clear security and make their flight. This allowed the airline to unload their luggage and depart on time.
Terminal 4 will take delivery of the system – which can be used by all airlines and builds on the success of a similar system used by BA in T5, “Ready To Fly” – in September.
Kathryn Leahy, Director of Terminal 3, said: “We are thrilled that the new technology is now live in T3 and will help our passengers have a stress free flight. It also enables us to work with the airlines to improve the punctuality of departing flights.”