Loosing the Bond: A tale of travel freedom and cell phones

I’ve just written a feature for the November issue of Airline Business about how mobile phones are poised to change the entire air travel experience. At least 90% of airline passengers carry mobile phones. But airlines are finally realizing how to take advantage of this fact for both their passengers’ and their own benefit.

To help me conceptualize just how big a deal this will be, my friends over at Airbus/SITA partnership OnAir sent me the following storyline. It’s about one man and his cell phone.

My Bond.JPG

I’ve embellished it just a tad. For example, I’m calling our adventurer James Bond (and in my version he looks more like Pierce not Daniel). Let’s also make him married (to a gal named, oh I don’t know…Mary) and willing to fly public transport. Yes, it’s a sacrilege but you’re reading RWG after all.

1. James is going from Geneva to Rio via London today.

2. Before leaving home in his Aston Martin, James checks in by mobile phone and receives his bar-coded boarding card on his phone.

3. He drops off his Louis Vuitton bag at the airport and the bar-coded baggage receipt is sent to his phone.

4. As he’s saved time on check-in, James now can afford to go to the VIP lounge. He uses his mobile phone to gain access through a bar code.

Mr Leblon I.JPG

5. When called, James boards his flight by running his mobile phone over the scanner at the gate.

6. On his flight to London, James sends a text message to his wife, reminding her to call the plumber (Mary jokingly tells James where he can stick the plunger).

7. Twenty minutes before landing in London, James receives a text message from the airline informing him that his connecting gate is 87 and that his flight to Rio will be delayed by 10 minutes to accommodate connecting passengers.

8. The flight crew is expecting connecting passengers and can verify that James Bond is indeed in the airport and traveling towards the right gate, thanks to the location sensing feature of his phone.

Early Times.jpg

9. On his flight to Rio, James decides to purchase some duty free items (he knows his wife likes cheep whiskey and expensive perfume). The flight attendant authenticates the transaction in real time through a special GPRS device.

10. During the flight James catches up on email on his BlackBerry. He also checks the financial news on the Internet (and takes a few minutes to read the RWG blog since it hasn’t yet been censored by the airline).

11. As he now relaxes, James finds voucher offers in the onboard catalogue. There are many offers for tourist events, such as reduced tickets for the Corcovado, the Tijuca etc but he’ll be in Rio for business. However a voucher for a football game catches his eye and he cannot resist. He sends an SMS to the number provided, with the corresponding event code. He receives a bar-coded voucher for the game that he will redeem at the stadium entrance.

12. As James continues to read the onboard literature he finds out about the onboard concierge service and decides to spend some of his miles on a limo with driver during his stay in Rio. He calls the concierge and books the limo.

13. One hour before landing, James calls his business colleague who was going to pick him up to inform his that he has ordered a limo instead.

14. Half an hour before arrival James receives a text message from the airline informing him that his luggage will be delivered on Belt 8.

15. James has enjoyed a seamless travel experience thanks to his mobile phone (and an airline that is willing to invest in the technology necessary to put the customer first).

The End

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7 Responses to Loosing the Bond: A tale of travel freedom and cell phones

  1. Ed October 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm #

    Hi Mary,

    How the industry (and others) will mess up this seemless travel experience:

    2. Before leaving home in his Aston Martin, James tries to check in by mobile phone. Unfortunately the airline he has to travel with today has a Telecoms Partner Alliance with a different mobile phone provider than James normally uses. However, as a seasoned traveller, James keeps a couple of cheap PAYG mobiles from different providers for these situations. Luckily, the check in program actually works with this particular phone model.

    3. He drops off his Louis Vuitton bag at the airport and the bar-coded baggage receipt is sent to his phone. Unfortunately James doesn’t receive it, as someone (direct action environmentalist or general prankster) sitting in check-in area has a portable mobile phone jammer. After 30 mins of swearing and confusion, James gets lucky as Someone goes to the loo, and moves out of range.

    4. No time for VIP lounge.

    5. When called, James boards his flight by running his mobile phone over the scanner at the gate. However, he still has to show his passport to human staff, therefore the queue to board doesn’t move any faster than it did before.

    7. …his flight to Rio will be delayed by 40 minutes due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft. He still misses it, due to long queues at immigration and security.

    9 – 13 (on later flight) cost a lot more than James expected, due to 2.

    14. Half an hour before arrival James receives a text message from the airline informing him that his luggage was sent to Riga rather than Rio.

    15. James resolves to make a stronger case to the finance department about NetJets for future trips.

  2. Mary Kirby October 15, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    Hah…brilliant stuff. Particularly good point on number 4. I interviewed BA planning and innovations manager Chris Carmichael for the AB piece and here’s what he had to say about that.

    International travel “more and more requires a desk visit to verify a passport or ID card so anybody travelling in and out of the USA, for example, has to have his or her passport checked”, says Carmichael. “The benefit of having a paperless boarding is a walk straight through the airport. As soon as you start to introduce desk visits, the need for that starts to fade.”

    Meanwhile, I think James’ fictitious wife needs to get a more up close and personal sense of the NetJets proposition :)

  3. Steve October 15, 2008 at 11:32 pm #

    I so wish I was James Bond…solely because of the Aston Martin, not because of who he’s married to… ;)

  4. Mary Kirby October 16, 2008 at 3:09 pm #

    Where’s my plunger? :)

  5. Wandering Aramean October 19, 2008 at 4:27 pm #

    While some of these things are a nice extension of ways to use the mobile device, a few of them are available today without any new technology. Delta actually has deployed a system that allows for check-in and boarding with just the barcode on the back of a SkyMiles membership card. They had this in place back in the 2000-2001 timeframe, but the miscarriage of justice that is the ID=Security mantra basically has rendered it less than useful in the USA. Still, it actually continues to work for any Delta flight today. No boarding pass required. And Continental is piloting paperless boarding passes with the TSA at four airports now (DCA, IAH, BOS, EWR). Things like connecting flight information and flight delays are currently provided by Continental with either SMS or email messages.

    Certainly extending SMS messaging to the skies is a nice idea for many (though the beeps and tones indicating new messages will likely become very annoying very quickly, more so than people talking on their phones, I think). Bot overall we really aren’t that far from making this stuff a reality, which is good. Assuming, of course, that the carriers actually go for it.

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