Sep. 7, 2011 at 5:46 PM ET
Reporting from Future Travel Experience 2011 in Vancouver, B.C.
In the U.S., the phrase “touch and go” is an indication that your travel plans may be shaky, at risk and subject to change.
In Japan, it’s the proprietary self-boarding system developed by Japan Airlines (JAL) and, quite possibly, a sign of what air travel may look like elsewhere in the years to come.
Originally unveiled in 2005, the system uses automated gates that open when passengers scan any one of four types of “boarding tokens”: a two-dimensional paper boarding pass, a 2-D pass on their mobile phone, an integrated chip (IC) on their frequent flier card or via an app on their IC-enabled mobile phone.
The system coordinates with all aspects of the departure process and, according to Hideyuki Isomura, JAL’s manager of strategy and planning for passenger systems, has helped the airline streamline the entire process.
Once passengers have opted for Web check-in, he said, they now spend less than 20 minutes at the bag drop, less than 15 minutes at security and less 10 minutes at the gate.
Obviously, the security aspect makes translating such systems to the U.S. problematic, but there are pilot programs underway that show promise for the future. (More on that in a subsequent post.)
In the meantime, American travelers can take heart from the fact that JAL’s system has helped the airline post an on-time arrival rate of 89.9 percent while allowing passengers to board up to 15 minutes before departure.
In fact, according to Isomura, the airline can load a 500-passenger plane in 10 minutes.
“Faster is better,” he said. “Fastest is the best.”
More from Future Travel Experience 2011
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.