The cell phone as a remote control in the airport


Air travel in Corona times: is this safe given the crowds at airports? The IT service provider SITA shows how travelers can get by without touching anything and without queuing, using their cell phones.

Geneva (dpa) – Passengers should use the smartphone at the airport to complete all formalities in the future and thus make their trip safer in Corona times. The technology comes from the IT service provider SITA, which works with almost all airports and airlines.

“The cell phone becomes a remote control for passengers,” said SITA President Sergio Colella of the German Press Agency. Passengers who have not already checked in online at home could scan a barcode at a kiosk terminal with the cell phone camera and then enter data on the display of their own cell phone. This would allow them to print boarding passes or luggage tags without touching the screen on the airport device.

Further touches could be avoided with a personal “digital token”. Passport and boarding pass are combined with a facial scan at the airport, for example. Then travelers can identify themselves at camera barriers of the security or passport control or when boarding with their faces alone, without having to show papers. “We are working on applications that can recognize faces with a mask,” he says.

“At Los Angeles Airport, the face is already your boarding pass,” says Colella. Pilot tests were also carried out in other US cities and Athens. Lufthansa is already using the technology on flights from Miami. In Germany, due to the discussions about biometrics and data protection, there is still no legal basis for this.

Airports can continue to be used by passengers without a smartphone, Colella said. It is precisely because more and more passengers are using electronic applications that airlines have enough staff to take care of these passengers.

SITA is working on further innovations: The number of passengers can be registered at passport and security controls, for example, to suggest precise times for passengers to appear on their cell phones so that they can avoid queuing. The arrival of one’s own suitcase on the baggage carousel can also be signaled on the mobile phone – no more crowding on the baggage carousel.

Electronic health certificates are also possible – analogous to electronic visas, which are linked to the passport number of the traveler in the border guards’ computers. This could include vaccinations or current health tests. “In order to enjoy freedom of travel as before, we must be ready to provide more information about our health,” said Colella.

The corona virus pandemic will revolutionize air traffic as sustainably as the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, he says. Back then it was all about security, after terrorists were able to smuggle carpet knives on board four planes and crash them without the current strict ID and security checks. Today, the aim is to keep the risk of infection in the mass operation of an airport to a minimum.

SITA is a joint venture between around 400 companies in the aviation industry. It had consolidated sales of $ 1.8 billion last year.


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