Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) is using hightech gadgets to make the stay at the airport more pleasant for travelers with more smoothly flowing departures and arrivals.
People can now use their cell phones to book flights and choose seats. This new self check-in system allows passengers to skip long lines and the stress that goes with them. Electronic passports and fingerprints are all that are needed at the automatic immigration counter. Afterwards, they can check out information on duty free stores, weather conditions, local times at their destinations, and airport restaurant menus. What were once inescapable negatives of the airport experience - long lines at the check-in and immigration counters, passport and boarding pass checks - will soon be things of the past all thanks to u-airport services.
The first of the new u-airport services is mobile check-in and information announcements. Passengers can now use their cell phone to access the Internet for flight bookings and seating options. Flight cancellations, delays, airport parking, and public transportation are also provided. Last year alone, 42,389 calls were made to use these services and the number is on the rise. The service is available for those who fly with Asiana Airlines and use SK Telecom and KTF mobile service providers. IIAC plans to form partnerships with Korean Air and LG Telecom by the end of this year to provide service to more people.
Self check-in kiosks are also located near manned check-in counters. Passengers use touch screens and press carrier icons to book tickets. All they need to do is type in reservation codes or flight numbers and press their passports against the screen; then they can select their preferred seats. When finished, they walk away with their boarding passes in hand. There are currently 55 self check-in kiosks for five airlines - KAL, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, North West, and KLM. Those with luggage can bring their bags along with their electronic boarding passes to airline counters for flight storage. The introduction of the self check-in kiosks reduced check-in time from an average of 12 minutes 14 seconds to 2 minutes 40 seconds.
Another new service is immigration- related. Passports are pressed against machine screens where they are read. Once this is accomplished, a door opens and a second reader reads fingerprints. Passengers do not need to have awkward conversations with immigration officials at departure or on arrival. All of this takes about 10 seconds which is much faster than the 1.09 minutes usually needed for conventional immigration processes. Currently 12 readers are in the departure hall and eight in the arrival area. Automatic immigration stands have been in service since June of last year and by year's end 830,000 people had used them. As of early February this year, the number of users surpassed 1 million. Roughly 1.1 million people are expected to use the automatic immigration stands this year. Those who want to use U-immigration services should have their ID checked, picture taken and fingerprints registered with the Ministry of Justice.
After passengers are done with immigration, they may want to eat something, check out duty-free stores, or find out the latest weather conditions and local times at their destinations. Many areas of the airport have u-Boards on which duty-free information including free products, prices, restaurant locations, menus, and the shortest distances to boarding gates can be easily found using touch screens. Passengers can also find information about flights by placing their boarding passes on the screens.
Unlike many other countries where big banners are used at airports to display messages, Incheon Airport uses LCD monitors. These monitors are installed at departure and arrival halls. These monitors display departure/arrival information, baggage claim area information, welcome messages, and bus arrival times. There are 49 LCD monitors, 8 screens at the departure hall and 41 at the arrival hall. The IIAC plans to increase the number of monitors at arrival gates to 30.
The new automatic boarding system that was introduced in July of 2008 allows passengers to board without having to wait in long lines and without the need of airline employees. In the new system, passengers do not need to keep holding their boarding passes. Instead, they only need to have their passports read by readers in order for the glass doors attached to the sides of the reader machines to open and allow them to board their planes. There are now six automatic boarding gates being tested now and the number will be gradually increased.
All in all, these u-airport services are expected to save at least 15 minutes that passengers previously spent on check-in, immigration, boarding, luggage checks and finding information. Thus, u-airport services are providing high tech solutions to real world inconveniences for all travelers who come and go from Incheon Airport.
Incheon International Airport has been named the number 1 airport in world airport services by the Airports Council International for four years in a row and was ranked first for three years in a row by Global Traveler, winning the GT Tested Award for Best Airport in the World. It also received rave reviews from the BBC and the Russian Government's Rosiskaya Gazeta daily newspaper. These new state of the art IT services and ubiquitous technologies will likely keep Incheon International Airport on the list of the world's best airports by making travel easier, more convenient and, best of all, fun.