These two countries are piloting an e-passport on mobile phones, kick-starting paperless transatlantic travel

2019-06-27 10:07
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(Photo: Supplied, Heathrow Media Centre)

Canada and the Netherlands announced on Wednesday the launch of a pilot project for paperless travel between the two countries.

Identity data that is usually stored on a chip on a passenger's passport will instead be securely stored and encrypted on their mobile device.

Passengers flying from Montreal to Amsterdam will be able to manage their encrypted identity data, consenting to share it with border authorities, airlines and others.

Known Traveller Digital Identity 

It would be checked against biometrics at security checkpoints and airplane boarding gates "without the need for a physical passport," said a statement by the World Economic Forum, which is leading the initiative.

The so-called Known Traveller Digital Identity project is to be tested internally throughout 2019, with the first end-to-end paperless journey expected to take place in early 2020, it said.

"By 2030, international air travel is expected to rise to 1.8 billion passengers, up 50 percent from 2016. With current systems, airports cannot keep up," the World Economic Forum's mobility chief Christoph Wolff said.

"This project offers a solution. By using interoperable digital identities, passengers benefit from a holistic system for secure and seamless travel. It will shape the future of aviation and security."

Air Canada and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, as well as airports in Montreal, Toronto and Amsterdam are taking part in the pilot, backed by technology companies Accenture, Vision Box and Idemia.

UPDATE: Self-service and passenger experience central to Cape Town International's R7bn futuristic upgrade

South Africa's main airport are also undergoing major upgrades and changes in order to keep up with growing travel numbers.

Cape Town International, which serves more the 10 million passengers annual is one of the pilots for e-gates access including OR Tambo in Joburg and King Shaka in Durban. 

Cape Town International General Manager Deon Cloete, speaking to Traveller24 after recently attending the 2019 World Airports Expo in Heathrow, London says "technology will undoubtedly play a big role in the new terminals at this future-focused Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) airport, which will ascribe IATA’s Fast Travel Programme." 

“Technology creates predictability. Modern passenger wants to be in charge and to be in charge they need to know what’s going to happen. That predictability removes a lot of anxiety, creates calmness and adds to the passenger experience.”

"There are high levels of expectations, especially where service levels sometimes get tested, this refers to security processing, home affairs and immigration counters, so we’re looking to make these areas far more effective and efficient,” says Cloete.

The refurbishment of old infrastructure over the next year, including Common Use, Self-service Kiosks (CUSK) and Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) that have become outdated, will see passengers taking charge of everything from printing their own boarding passes to bag tags and bag drops for “seamless, quicker processing”.

Acsa expects to improve the current ratio of 80% Check-in agents to 20% CUSK counters. 

The upgraded tech will also allow for fluid integration of airlines across the Acsa terminals, for “efficient and optimal use of its infrastructure”, allowing more utilisation of self-service.

Timelines remain broad but the discussion are well underway, says Cloete, with necessary equipment for the roll-out at Cape Town international counters confirmed, he says. 

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