A new initiative by Singapore Airlines (SIA) has hit a security snag at Changi Airport.
In March, the airline rolled out for selected travelers mobile boarding passes that replace the paper documents.
The pass is downloaded to a traveler’s cellphone after he checks in online or via mobile app. It is then scanned by an airport security officer before he goes past the immigration area.
If all is clear, the traveler continues on his journey.
But at Changi Airport, there is an extra step, required by the police.
A paper receipt - about the size of a passport - has to be printed and issued to the traveller by the airport after the mobile boarding pass is scanned.
At other airports where SIA offers the same service - Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Munich and Athens - there is no such requirement, airline spokesman Nicholas Ionides said yesterday.
SIA is the only carrier at Changi that provides this service.
Travelers said that the receipt, which contains details like the flight and seat numbers and departure gate, defeats the purpose of going electronic and paperless.
A police spokesman, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said that the additional step is for security reasons.
"Due to operational considerations, we are unable to comment further," she said.
Paul Behan, head of passenger experience at the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said when the mobile boarding pass is scanned at the security station, the information contained in the bar code is verified against the airline's passenger data.
He said: "Since the electronic bar code data is sent directly by the airline, there is an argument that the mobile boarding pass is more secure than paper."
Changi Airport Group, which provides the scanners and printers to facilitate the use of mobile boarding passes, is working with other partners to provide more self-service options for travelers.
Spokesman Ivan Tan said this allows passengers to enjoy a faster and smoother travel process.
He said: "These initiatives will also maximize Changi's on- ground capacity. For example, if fewer passengers go to check-in counters, it will increase efficiency of processes at the various touch points."
Mobile is definitely the way forward, said Arinc and Amadeus, two firms that work closely with airports and airlines to provide information technology solutions.
Jim L. Martin, managing director of Arinc Asia-Pacific, said that mobile devices, particularly smartphones, offer more functionality and better user experience.
"As airports and airlines look to reduce costs, traditional check-in will continue to decline," he said.
John Chapman, a vice-president at Amadeus Asia-Pacific, said that Asia will lead the way in adopting such mobile technology.
It is estimated that the total number of global mobile subscribers will reach about seven billion by 2015, with 65 per cent of users in Asia forming the most significant region among the world's mobile markets, he said.
Ionides said that the airline is on track to offer mobile boarding passes to travelers at 18 more cities by the end of next year.
He said: "On our radar are airports in Europe, Japan and New Zealand."