Australian Government pursues digitisation: mobile international boarding passes the latest example

The Australian Government has given the go-ahead for airlines to issue electronic boarding passes for international flights.

Travellers will now be able to show their boarding pass on a mobile device instead of using a paper boarding pass, while still following the normal border clearance path at the airport.

The push for digitisation comes under the Government’s wider ‘Seamless Traveller’ initiative, which receives an AUD93.7 million investment from 2015 to 2020.

According to Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge, who leads the initiative, 21.4 million travellers were cleared through the border departing Australian international airports in 2017. “This number will continue to rise”, Mr Tudge believes, adding that the increasing volumes “mean we are always looking for ways to clear legitimate travellers efficiently and seek out those of interest to law enforcement”.

The new capabilities will complement other Australian border control initiatives such as SmartGates, which provide a faster, simpler border process for travellers at the same time as maintaining the security of the border. Australia’s departure SmartGates process more than 73% of travellers departing Australia, reducing processing times and promoting ease of travel.

Despite the success of SmartGates, the Seamless Traveller initiative goes much further in the pursuit for digitisation. Despite being introduced less than 10 years ago, SmartGates will eventually be retired and replaced by a contactless alternative. By 2020 the Government aims to process 90% of travellers automatically, with no human involvement.

In mid-2017 the Government awarded Vision-Box a three-year, AUD22.5 million contract to deliver an upgraded SmartGate – these will enable known travellers to self-process through the border without the need to use an actual physical passport.

Vision-Box is a provider of electronic identity management solutions, and was awarded the initial contract to install Australia’s original SmartGates. Under the new contract, border controls would be relying entirely on facial recognition technology, managed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Qantas leading the charge for seamless travel on the airline side

In Jul-2018 Qantas confirmed that certain passengers on selected international flights would participate in a trial of biometric facial recognition technology orchestrated by Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport.

Qantas is the launch partner for the trial, which will test four key steps in the passenger journey – automated check-in, bag drop, lounge access and boarding.

Additional steps proposed for future trials include mobile check-in and automated border processing.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said the trial is the most extensive biometrics trial to date, and is part of a broader focus on investing in technology to make the airport experience easier and more convenient for passengers. The biometrics system, when fully tested, will mean passengers will be able to complete most stages of their airport journey using their face as their access identification. The Australian Government’s border processing procedures will remain unchanged, and travellers will still be required to undergo the current border processes.

“In the future, there will be no more juggling passports and bags at check-in and digging through pockets or smartphones to show your boarding pass – your face will be your passport and your boarding pass at every step of the process”, Mr Culbert said.