Qantas has quietly begun trialling a system to allow customers to check in for flights by sending SMS messages.
The trial, which will initially only be available to frequent flyers travelling from Sydney to Melbourne on flights before 10am each day, will run until mid-September.
If successful, it is likely to be extended to other routes on Qantas' main CityFlyer network in 2005.
To use the service, customers need to pre-register their phone and associate it with a specific frequent flyer number. Check-in is accomplished by sending a text message up to six hours before a booked flight. A virtual 'boarding pass' including flight and seat allocation details is then sent to the phone, which must be shown to staff when boarding.
Passengers who are flying without baggage will be able to use the system without requiring ID, while the luggage-laden masses will be able to deposit their bags at a dedicated SMS check-in counter after presenting suitable identification.
Because the system relies on sending a barcode, only phones which support graphical messages -- which include most recent models -- can be used.
Last month, Qantas' low-cost subsidiary Jetstar outlined plans for customers to book flights using an SMS service. No such plans have been unveiled for Qantas, but the airline is already heavily reliant on Internet bookings and offers other technology-enhanced check-in services such as QuickCheck kiosks. Over the past two years, it has also relaxed requirements regarding the use of mobile phones on planes before departure, though their use in-flight remains banned.
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