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December 31, 2013

My tech-enhanced journey from Barcelona to London Heathrow

Modern airports are embracing technology.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

I spent the best part of yesterday travelling home from my Christmas holiday skiing in Andorra. I am not telling you this to brag, well maybe a little, but to illustrate how technology punctuated my journey back home to London and made it all the more efficient.

My first interaction on the tech-enhanced journey occurred long before I reached the airport when I was able to check in online, on my smartphone, using the British Airways app. I was then also able to download my boarding card, which consisted of my flight details and a bar code.

Upon arriving at the airport, having the boarding card on my phone saved considerable time, as there was no need to join the long queue to check in. I simply had to go to Bag Drop, a far shorter queue, and present my passport and phone with the pre-loaded boarding card.

Technology was also on hand to help those who did not own a smartphone, as touch-screen kiosks could be used to print boarding cards. This is the perfect solution for those who may have checked in online earlier in the day on a computer, but not had printing facilities available.

Progression through the airport was then made easy by simply scanning the barcode on the boarding card on my phone at various intervals throughout the airport: security, passing through the gates and boarding the plane.

This was made even easier as access to the boarding card was saved on my homepage. There was no messing around searching for the British Airways or Passbook apps, just a simple swipe and it was there at my fingertips.

Making use of mobile barcodes and scanners seem to not only make it more efficient for me to pass through Barcelona airport, but also reduced the number of staff needed to constantly check my ticket. The only problem I can envisage is if someone’s battery dies on his or her phone and was then not able to access their ticket. But the ability to print tickets at the kiosks would soon solve this problem.

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I was also delighted to see that BA embracing technology in the air as well as on the ground, as for the first time I was permitted to use electronic devices (in flight mode) during taxi, take off and landing.It was nice to continue using my tablet and eReader for the extended period of time and I look forward to seeing other European airlines relax their rules.

After arriving at Heathrow’s polished Terminal 5, I hoped that technology would continue to whisk me on my way with the same efficiency as it did at Barcelona. While this had been true of my departure (T5 is equipped with the same scanners and kiosks as Barcelona) my passport let me down at Arrivals.

As those of you who have flown recently will know, ePassports can make passing through the UK boarder a quick and easy experience. Unfortunately for me, my passport was issued in 2006 just before the chipped passports were introduced.

This meant I had to join an extensive, snaking queue to have my passport checked the old fashioned way. The rest of my party, however, joined a far shorter queue at the eGates. Here they simply looked into a camera, which scanned their face and eyes to approve them before letting them through the electronic gates: simple as that.

I am counting down to 2016 when I will get an ePassport of my own and will be able to utilise the eGates. Then my journeys through airports will be even more efficient.

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