Air Transport World

On the bar-code road: electronic advances promise easier and faster movement from check-in to aircraft for passengers and their baggage.

Passengers and baggage should be moving through many U.S. airports more quickly and easily this fall, thanks to ongoing technological advances and loosening air line purse strings.

Several new information-technology products are beginning to progress beyond the test phase and into the mainstream of airline operations, among them Delta's Strategic Airport Systems and American's new AAccess electronic ticketing, which the latter airline says is the first to allow a traveler to go from home computer to airplane seat without any intervening stops inside the terminal.

Also making their appearance are direct links between FAA terminal radars and airport flight-information-display systems. real-time wireless baggage scanners and check-in terminals, curbside boarding pass printers and a variety of self-service devices with which passengers can perform tasks such as changing their seat assignments or checking their frequent-flier mileage. But Steve Clampett, senior VP-airline solutions at Sabre Decision Technologies, says: "The jury's still out as to who's going to get the real business value out of [these technologies] first. That's where the real race is."

Meanwhile, two big players in the IT solutions game are undergoing some fundamental changes of their own. The Sabre Group, of which SDT is a $350 million revenue unit, has emerged from under American's wing as a wholly owned subsidiary of AMR Corp., and rumors persist that all or part of it will be sold off. Shifting in the opposite direction and hoping to give SDT some strong competition is Delta's wholly owned --as of July 1--technology subsidiary TransQuest, which was created at the beginning of 1995 as a joint venture between the airline and AT&T Global Information Solutions (A71E 8/96). GIS became NCR with AT&T's restructuring earlier this year and TransQuest was divested.

With the launch of AAccess this month, SDT is devoting increasing attention to IT products that can improve the management of day-to-day airport operations, says Clampett. "Historically, the decision support community has spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to build good plans and not much time on mechanisms for executing those plans," he says. …

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