Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a global standard that paves the way for global mobile phone check-in using two-dimensional (2D) bar codes.

Mobile phone check-in enables airlines to send 2D bar codes directly to a passenger’s mobile phone, personal digital assistant or smart phone. Passengers simply register their mobile number with their airline at the time of booking to receive a text message with a 2D bar code, or instructions to download it. The bar code becomes the passenger’s boarding pass and it is read directly from the screen of the mobile device, eliminating paper completely from the check-in process. “Passengers want the convenience of self-service options in a paperless environment. This standard is an important step in getting rid of paper that bogs down processes and drives up costs,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Historically, airline global applications for mobile phone technology have been restricted due to different regional formats. The IATA standard uses existing codes: Aztec and Datamatrix which are used extensively in Europe and North America; and QR which is widely used in Japan. All three are proven technologies and can be read by a single scanner type that is cost effective and readily available globally.

“The creation of a standard code is only part of the solution,” said Bisignani. “In the next months we will be working with our members to develop standardised processes and guidelines that facilitate global implementation.”

The industry has set a deadline of the end of 2010 to implement 100% bar coded boarding passes (BCBP). Upon full implementation, BCBP will save the industry over US$500 million annually. A 2D standard for paper bar coded passes was established in 2005 and is the basis for web check-in. Both standards (mobile and paper based) can be issued and accepted by airlines worldwide. The global introduction of BCBP to replace magnetic stripe technology is one of five Simplifying the Business (StB) projects launched by IATA in 2004. The StB goal is to use technology to make travel more convenient while saving US$6.5 billion in costs.

Editors Notes:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents over 240 airlines comprising 94% of international scheduled air traffic.
  • IATA’s Simplifying the Business programme consists of five projects: electronic ticketing, common use self-service check-in, bar coded boarding passes, radio frequency identification (RFID) for aviation and IATA e-freight.
  • The latest generation of 2D bar code scanners, known as imagers, can read 2D matrix codes including Aztec, Datamatrix and QR. The previous generation of bar code scanners, known as laser scanners, could read only 1D bar codes and PDF417 which was selected in 2005 as the IATA standard for 2D bar coded paper boarding passes.
  • The standard was unanimously endorsed by IATA member airlines at the IATA Joint Passenger Services Conference held in Toronto, Canada this week.

For more information, please contact: