United Airlines recently became the first airline in the US to offer its customers the ability to check in for international flights using their smartphones. Passengers can simply scan their passports and check in with their iOS or Android devices, using the airlines bespoke mobile app, therefore streamlining the checking in process. United customers can access the feature in the 24 hour window before their international flight departs. Once a customer's passport has been scanned into the app's 'check-in' feature using their device's camera, Jumio, a credential's management company, will verify the passport for additional security with “proprietary computer vision technology.” Once everything has been checked, the customer can collect their boarding pass. Customers can also access previously stored passport data, so they only have to scan their passports once. It should be noted, however, that travellers requiring additional documentation, such as visas, will still be required to check in at the airport.
Passengers can simply scan their passports and check in with their iOS or Android devices, using the airlines bespoke mobile app, therefore streamlining the checking in process
Scott Wilson, United's vice president of merchandising and e-commerce, said the airline are “Focused on building the most useful travel app in the industry,” which he feels they may well have achieved. He says that "The new passport scanning feature saves valuable time and provides customers with more options to control their travel experience." Anyone who's ever spent a few hours waiting in line at the airport will probably echo his sentiments.
An example of what the 'check in' feature of the app will look like
The process is still in the testing phase, a period in which United will be collecting feedback from users concerning the functionality of the product, with the ultimate goal of improving it and also launching additional features that will also utilise the technology. The app itself was first launched last year, and has been downloaded over 13 million times thus far. It also no doubt helped United bag CIO Magazine's prestigious CIO 100 Award, which recognises the airline's commitment to mobile technology and using it to improve their customer experience.
The app itself was first launched last year, and has been downloaded over 13 million times thus far and also no doubt helped United bag CIO Magazine's prestigious CIO 100 Award
Later in the year, United will also start rolling out it's brand new website, which it hopes will provide customers with a more streamlined, intuitive experience. Indeed, speed, elegance and customer satisfaction involving technology seems to be the company's calling card, as they were also the first US airline to introduce mobile boarding passes back in 2007, and also the first US carrier to offer it at all of the 214 domestic airports in which they operate. In terms of international airports, mobile boarding with United is currently available at 54, which is more than any other US carrier. It's more than likely that each of those airports will also be utilising the mobile passport scanning technology in the near future.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK, who thinks the idea of mobile passport scanning is a double-edged sword. He hates waiting in line, but then he also doesn't really fancy the idea of having his identity stolen (if anyone would want to steal it that is).