Jet Life: A Terminal Condition

Every silver lining has its cloud.  After spending last week in beautiful, cloudless California, I had the pleasure of spending two days at the Atlanta airport on standby.  Once I grew numb to the soul-crushing misery of the world’s busiest airport raining on my parade, I got to thinking about a question I asked myself when first walking into the 2nd lowest-lying airport in the world:

How can wireless technology such as near field communication be utilized to tame the honey badger that is airport travel?

With a near field, my smartphone could alert the airport that I had arrived immediately upon entering the building, automatically checking me in for my flight and relaying personal and flight information to the security checkpoint.  A well developed app could allow smartphones to communicate with any airport ticketing system, aggregating flight information from confirmations or even by sharing API with the airline’s ticketing database.  The app could prompt me to change gates in the event of an unforeseen switch, or inform me of a delay or cancelation.

Another NFC, or possibly, an RFID tag on my luggage could be loaded with the destination information for my flight.  Although RFID chips are cheap, it may be feasible to have the chip sync up with the device that receives the flight confirmation, overwriting the destination information each time.  In the event a passenger is bumped, doesn’t make standby, or volunteers to take a voucher, the baggage system could be alerted, separating those passengers’ baggage before it it arrives on the tarmac, or at least alert the receiving airport’s baggage system to hold it until the passenger’s arrival.

An additional consideration for this system is that it means paperless boarding passes and paperless luggage tags, reducing cost for the airport and abating ecological impact.

Upon approaching the full body scanner, a near field could pull up all my flight information as well as the information on my drivers license, most notably, my ID picture, on a screen visible to security staff.  It could even pull up a slew of Facebook pictures of me and scour YouTube for videos of me, depending how much TSA really wants to examine my mug.  No need to pull out my boarding pass and wallet again, just focus on taking off my shoes and my belt and putting them in a different bin from my laptop and terrorism supplies.

Shortly after this, a flight attendant will request that I turn off all electronic and portable devices, lest my iPod override steering and throw the plane into a nosedive.  Once at my destination, I can bring my smartphone back to life.  If my bag is tagged with an NFC chip and not an RFID, my smartphone could alert me when my bag was going to come out of the carousel.  Although, I think that would spoil luggage roulette, which appears to be the exciting reward for surviving air travel.  Personally, I wouldn’t know.  As the illustrious Mr. Jet Set himself said of excess baggae, “Nothin’ of it, I don’t check bags.  Just carry-on, leave the bullshit in the past.”

And here, your reward for surviving this article.  Pure Simpson’s gold.


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