Sabre unveils wireless check-in for air travellers

Within the next six months, Sabre Holdings plans to roll out a wireless check-in and boarding system that it says will let travellers avoid lines and navigate their way to planes with nothing more than a Web-enabled phone or a personal digital assistant (PDA).

The travel-technology giant, based in the US, has announced that it's teaming with wireless vendor Impulsity to develop the new system, which will use voice biometrics and screenshots of bar-codes to identify airline passengers and then send images of boarding passes to their mobile devices.

The check-in system will work on mobile phones that support the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and on PDAs such as the Palm VII, he added.

Development of the new system has been completed, and Sabre is negotiating with various airlines over possible deals to implement the technology. The company will make the technology universally available by this time next year.

Kevin Weber, information technology manager at American Trans Air, said he hopes to adopt the wireless check-in system soon after it becomes available. "When we heard about this, we said, 'My gosh, that's just going to be absolutely huge'," Weber said.

Weber said he doesn't expect to have to make any significant changes to the internal systems at American Trans Air.

Sabre said the wireless check-in system was built so that travellers won't have to memorise lengthy registration codes or personal identification numbers. Instead, passengers who want to use the system would register their voices with individual airlines via Impulsity-developed technology that asks users a few questions to establish a biometric voice print. Impulsity officials claim that it's 99.5 per cent accurate.

After establishing a voice print for an individual passenger, Sabre said, an airline's check-in system can then contact the passenger's WAP phone or PDA prior to a scheduled flight, verify the voice print and then supply a screenshot of a bar-coded boarding pass. The passenger would only need to wave the image in front of a scanner located at the assigned airport gate before boarding the plane.

A text message also will accompany each boarding-pass image, listing seat, gate and flight information.

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