Jump the queue online and jump aboard a jet

Want to write your own ticket? Then bypass (not join) the queue at Sydney and Melbourne international airports courtesy of a new Web-based boarding pass system from British Airways.

Online Boarding Pass, launched on November 18, allows BA passengers to book a flight on the ba.com Web site and use the printout of that reservation as their official boarding pass -- eliminating the need for a conventional pass usually issued at the airport.

Passengers can also choose where they sit on the plane and specify any special eating requirements, when booking their ticket at the ba.com site. BA claims to be the first international airline to provide passengers with a boarding pass via its Web site.

"It is what our customers wanted," said Mark Pavlides, BA's general manager for distribution. "The idea was about providing flexibility to our passengers." Fittingly, the first passenger used the service within 30 minutes of it going live.

The system is simple: when passengers arrive at Sydney or Melbourne airport, they bypass conventional check-in and head for a special desk where they drop off their bags, then proceed to the departure gate, where their printed pass is scanned before boarding the plane.

Pavlides said that worldwide, 19 per cent of all BA revenue was booked online. The Australian percentage is less, but BA has seen a 500 per cent growth in online activity in the Asia-Pacific region over the past 12 months.

Online Boarding Pass is the last major feature of its Web site plan, which now lets customers book a plane, check availability for a flights (with full transparency of costs), and edit/modify tickets.

Pavlides said BA.com used a Unix/Linux backend, with a large number of Oracle databases. The company uses BEA's WebLogic to interpret backend data. The online booking engine was written entirely in-house.

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Howard Dahdah

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