Chinese aviation authorities will soon be allowing government-issued IDs to function as boarding passes to increase airport efficiencies and lower costs. From 1 January 2017, passengers flying domestically can proceed straight to security with just their second-generation Resident Identity Cards (RIC) instead of waiting at check-in counters. Boarding can be done by simply scanning the RIC, thus eliminating the need for paper and mobile boarding passes. To enjoy the service, passengers have to check-in and select seats (if applicable) in advance online. Chinese media are describing the new measure as “Single Document Clearance” as the only document necessary at airports will be the RIC.
While the news only recently attracted global attention after IATA gave China the go-ahead for implementing the plan, related reports have been circulating in China since quite a while ago. First attempts at using RIC for check-in purposes started as early as 2014. Airports including Fuzhou-Changle, Guangzhou-Baiyun, and Shanghai-Hongqiao have been offering exclusive security lanes to checked-in passengers with second generation RIC. Machines at the checkpoints print receipts containing seat assignments, random if no seat selection was done beforehand, and flight information along with a security certificate. Passengers can board the aircraft by scanning the barcode on the receipt.
New technologies along with regulation-amendments paved way for the new ID card check-in system. Previously, according to the Civil Aviation Security Check Regulations, only when both identity verification and boarding pass are certified by security officers can the flyer proceed to boarding. Chinese authorities have tweaked the rule in favor of a completely paperless system.
IATA regional vice president Baojian Zhang stated that, with decreased need for check-in counters and paper, the new system will allow airlines and airports to save up to 1 billion RMB per year. However, benefits of this new system seems to be apparent only in China. Take Japan for example, no identification is checked during domestic flights. Thus, a more preferable option is using mobile phones to check in and obtain boarding passes. This way, passengers can conveniently use a single device to complete all boarding procedures while checking the most up-to-date flight information.
Marketing effort for the new system also seems to be aiming at the wrong direction. Certain Chinese media have been reporting on how this innovative measure is more advanced the mobile barcode. >talkairlines fails to see the logic behind the statement. Even though passengers can use RIC as boarding passes, they still have to refer to at least one other document for information such as boarding time, gate number, and seat assignment. In this case, as at least one other reference tool has to be in hand. The only benefits >talkairlines sees are how the new system will save paper and decrease waiting times at security checkpoints. Nonetheless, we will be keeping an eye on related reports after implementation of the new plans next year.