Heathrow upgrades terminal technology

London Heathrow has introduced pioneering technology across its terminals that it claims will help to improve departing flight punctuality and passenger experience at the airport.

The ‘positive boarding’ feature will help reduce airlines’ last minute searches for passengers or their bags, as well as giving travellers more accurate and personalised information to help them make their flight on time.

Now live in Terminals 1 and 3, the software program enables airlines to monitor the departure process and it is compatible with all airlines’ computer systems.

Using the new boarding technology, passengers only need to present the barcode on their ticket, subject to verification, at an automatic gate that opens to allow them through to security. When the boarding pass is presented, details from the barcode are compared against the central flight information, and tailored information for the individual is displayed on screen.

Travellers who fail to arrive at the gate on time after checking-in can cause delays to the departing aircraft while the crews spend time trying to locate them. If the passengers are not found the flight is delayed even more as no bag can travel without its owner, so baggage-handlers have to unload their bags. Positive boarding helps the airlines to make timely decisions to remove the baggage and keep to their departure schedule.

After extensive trials at Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic is the first airline to adopt the process in Terminal 3, and Little Red in Terminal 1. During the first week, 35,000 passengers successfully used the positive boarding technology as part of their departure journey. According to the data, 44 percent of the departing Virgin Atlantic and Little Red flights had passengers who could have potentially delayed the departure.

Terminal 4 will take delivery of the pioneering system in September, and it can be used by all airlines. Kathryn Leahy, director of Terminal 3, said: ‘We are thrilled that the new technology is now live in T3 and will help our passengers have a stress free flight. It also enables us to work with the airlines to improve the punctuality of departing flights.’

Positive boarding is the latest improvement that is being used by passengers throughout the departure process, from checking in via mobile phones, to ‘self-service bag drops’ introduced in November 2012. The self-service bag drop enables passengers to generate and attach their own bag tags before placing their luggage onto the automated bag drop facility.