To begin with a real-life air travel experience in Canada. I needed to go to Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan Province. I bought the airline ticket through Air Canada's apps. One day prior to the departure, I was told through the apps to check in online. Accordingly, I checked online and got the boarding pass in Air Canada's apps. I transferred the boarding pass to another app, that is, my wallet.
Next day at Toronto Pearson International Airport, as I approached Air Canada's check-in counter, a lady wanted to know whether I had any check-in luggage. I didn't have any. She then directed me straight to the security carryon baggage counter. I asked her about my printed boarding card. She asked me to show her the boarding pass in Air Canada's apps. I obliged showing her my wallet apps where my boarding pass was available. That was enough and no printed boarding pass was needed anymore.
I went to the security check counter and showed the security person my wallet apps and he scanned it and told me to pass through. I collected my hand baggage and proceeded to the departure gate. At the boarding gate, one lady checked my passport (with photo ID) and scanned my wallet's apps to check boarding pass and off I went.
The Toronto Pearson International Airport is one of the busiest airports. Last year, it served more than 47 million passengers. Every time, I fly through this airport, I find a touch of innovation intended to provide improved passenger services.
In my next trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia Province, I had one check-in luggage. As was the case last time, I checked in online and got the boarding pass in my wallet's apps. At the airport, once again a smiling lady asked me about my luggage tag. I told her that I would take it from the check-in counter. In reply, she told me that it was not needed and then she took me to the check-in kiosk. Afterwards, she placed my wallet's boarding pass and scanned it. It showed that I hadn't paid for the check-in baggage. I paid it through my credit card and she got the baggage tag printed through the kiosk. She attached it to the baggage and told me to go to the left-side luggage counter. I gave my check-in baggage at the counter and went straight to the security counter.
On return to Toronto from Halifax, I experienced yet another innovative system introduced in the airport. This time, another lady guided me to place the check-in baggage to the left luggage belt. As I asked her where it was, she showed that it was behind the check-in counter.
I went to the left luggage belt. There was no loader. I was watching the screen and the first instruction was to put the luggage on the belt and push the button. I did it accordingly and the luggage went a little and then stopped. After a few seconds, the screen showed that my luggage was scanned and it was now safe to go in the aircraft - thereby also wishing me to have a safe flight. The luggage belt rolled and I went straight to the security counter.
The Halifax International Airport is the first airport in North America to offer a self service baggage drop system for all passengers. Last year, traffic hit 4.0 million. What a unique system in place there - thanks to the digital initiatives.
Last year while I was at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, I was told that I would have to wait till the airport authority finishes their work in scanning the check-in baggage. We all passengers were waiting. As usual, we proceeded towards the immigration counter after getting the boarding card and there was also a long queue. After passing through the immigration, there is another lady or gentleman to check everybody's passport, ticket and boarding card again.
On my return from Dhaka to Toronto, I found another innovative system in place at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. It is aimed at easing the passenger rush so that they don't need to stand in a long queue at the immigration counter. As there is no immigration for outbound passengers, a new system has now been introduced for the incoming passengers so that they also don't need to stand in queue for immigration at a counter.
There are plenty of arrival kiosks to help the passengers side by side the airport staff. Like the check-in kiosk, you need to fill the customs form and go to any kiosk, scan your passport and get the printed copy. With this copy, you can go straight to the customs counter to hand over the printed copy. An official might look at it and ask you question - if any. But that's all. Years have gone by, but the Biman is yet to improve the check-in system at the airport. It takes a long queue and patient waiting, no matter which class of passengers you belong to. Why can't Biman introduce online check-in?
Nowadays, check-in has turned out to be the job of the airline in most of the countries. There are no immigration personnel at the departure.
While inaugurating Biman's new B787 Dreamliner aircraft the other day, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has aptly advised the airline to go for digitisation. The state airliner has now brand new aircraft from Boeing. All cockpit and cabin crew are well-trained. But unfortunately, there is no improvement in buying airline ticket and ground handling services of the passengers at the airport.
Why is not Biman introducing its own apps? It does not cost that much. But it may help the passengers tremendously to buy ticket online, check-in online and track any delay in the flight service and so many things. To enhance the image of Biman and render better services to the passengers, the state airliner must go with the flow, otherwise, it will be difficult for it to compete with other airlines.
Abdullah Mohibuddin, a former DC10 Flight Engineer of Biman, is President of Joint Investment Group (Canada) Inc, Waterloo,
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