Heathrow Tracks Travelers’ Airport Locations To Decrease Delays

Heathrow Tracks Travelers’ Airport Locations To Decrease Delays

The UK airport is the first to use a new system that lets airlines know where passengers are.

Leah Gonzalez
  • 1 august 2013

Passengers who are running late for flights can cause delays that not only affect flight schedules and everyone involved, but also cost airlines a lot of money. If a passenger is no longer expected to board the plane, the airline will have to remove the passenger’s check-in baggage and this causes even more delay.

To address this, Heathrow Airport has pioneered a new technology through its boarding card system that is designed to track the locations of passengers in the airport as well as direct the passengers where to go or what to do to catch their flight on time.

With the new system, which they’re calling ‘positive boarding,’ passengers simply present their boarding cards at an automated gate where the boarding card barcodes are scanned. The details from the barcode are compared with flight details and, once verified, the passengers are allowed to enter the departure area. Information about their flights also pop up on a screen so passengers will know if they are in the right terminal or if they have to go somewhere else.


If a passenger arrives at the gate less than 30 minutes before the plane is to depart, he or she will not be let through and is asked to go back to the check-in counter for more information.

The new system lets the airlines know which passengers are already in the departure area and which ones are unlikely to make their flights on time. The airline can start removing the baggage of the delayed passengers and stick to the flight schedule.

The ‘positive boarding’ system has already been implemented in Terminal 3 by Virgin Atlantic and in Terminal 1 by Little Red. For the first week of implementation, 35,000 passengers used the system successfully. Heathrow reported that 44% of the flights involved in the initial implementation had passengers who could have potentially delayed the flights. Of those passengers, 700 were informed at the automated gate to go straight to the departure gate to avoid missing their flights. Ten passengers were told to go back to the check-in counters.

Terminal 4 will be using the system in September.


Heathrow Airport

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