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Air New Zealand Readies for RFID-enabled Boarding Passes

At 26 airports throughout the country, the airline's frequent flyers will use the permanent, reusable boarding passes to check themselves in, enter passenger lounges or board a flight.
By Dave Friedlos
The 13.56 MHz high-frequency passive tags comply with the ISO 14443 RFID standard, and have been designed by Israeli company On Track Innovations (OTI), specifically for use on mobile phones. The tags have a ferrite backing to shield them, and to prevent interference with mobile signals.

The RFID interrogators have been supplied by Air New Zealand's kiosk manufacturer, IER. The ePass is activated only when within 2 to 3 centimeters (0.8 inch to 1.2 inches) of an interrogator, to ensure there is no interference with other nearby mobile signals and applications.

The ePass is secure, Raue says, as it contains no personal information—only a unique number sequence and tag identifier. When an ePass' tag is scanned at the departure gate, data regarding that specific passenger—held separately in Air New Zealand's IT system—is used to verify that customer. Without such verification, the individual will not be allowed to board the flight.

"The tag will only enable access to the lounge or gate if there is a valid booking for the customer on that day," Raue says. "It is unlikely to be used fraudulently, as the customer would also present themselves at the airport, which would highlight the issue via an error at the kiosk, gate or lounge. And as the tag holds no personal details, it does not enable access to flight-booking data." If Air New Zealand is notified of a stolen ePass, she adds, its tag will be disabled and a new ePass will be issued to the customer.

Passengers will also be able to utilize the ePass to check their baggage at the kiosks, then place it directly onto the conveyor belt without waiting for employees to enter bag details manually. Passengers can simply scan their ePass tag at the check-in kiosk, where flight and baggage details are matched and a paper boarding pass is printed with standard boarding pass data and a bar code (the paper boarding pass is issued in case it is needed for security purposes). A baggage tag is also printed, and the passenger can attach the tag to his or her luggage, then place the bag on the conveyor belt and continue to the departure gate or customer lounge.

According to Raue, the ePass amounts to a permanent and reusable boarding pass, and will provide a number of benefits to frequent Air New Zealand flyers. "There are clear benefits for our customers in the speed through which they will be able to get through the airport, and the simplification of check-in and boarding transactions," she says. "The solution is elegant and high-tech, and the initial customer reaction to the ePass product has been fantastic. We will continue to monitor, track and report customer uptake."

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