SSSS – not on our boarding pass please!

Have you ever wondered about those cryptic letters on your airline boarding passes? Now we are sure you are more than familiar with the flight class indicated on the pass. And you’d also be aware of the airport codes in case you fly to the wrong city with the same name (remember this post?).

Now if this article is accurate, then having the letters ‘SSSS’ printed on your boarding pass would be a big no no. Now just in case you did not read the article, let us summarize it for you. This code essentially identifies you for additional security checks before you board the aircraft. It means you will be Sadly Suffering Security Screening… though that’s not what it’s suppose to mean… heheh. Hey, this was the best we could come up with. Applause please.

Of course this was making reference the folks traveling to and from the US. But before you snicker at the thought that this does not affect you because you are not stateside, think again. You never know if this will be implemented in a different form elsewhere. Wonder why the security check folks ask for your boarding passes all the time even after you’ve been id checked? Perhaps in other airports there are similar codes which have been surreptiously incorporated onto your boarding pass without you ever noticing? Have we gotten you paranoid now?

Look out for strange and indecipherable codes on your boarding pass the next time. What did you find peculiar?

No more check-in counter staff?

We visited the newest terminal (4) of our little red dot’s Changi airport for an open house last year in August. And while we awed at the crisp new carpets and hardware of the terminal, the thing that caught our eyes were these odd looking pods at what appears to be the check-in area.

Except that there is no counter where a check-in associate will attend to you.

Instead, you will find this pod where you will place your passport for scanning. And to issue you the boarding pass you’d need to put your face into it too… heheh… ok, position your face at a certain angle. So that the software can take a quick scan and determine if you are you. And that you are not someone else who claims to be you. You got that?

Anyway. The iPhone can already do that. Big deal.

Put in your own luggage and should it be overweight, make payment somehow. Or take out some stuff… wonder how that will work in practice though at this stage there are folks around to guide you (yep the terminal went live in October last year). There has been lots written about the terminal since, and we will be trying it out for ourselves finally next month.

It is interesting to see how they do this to verify and issue you a boarding pass, but do not do the same at the passport control. There, you will still see customs and border officers looking at the photo in your passport and and then glancing back at you, perhaps asking some odd questions like why are you coming or leaving. Got any money on yea? How much? Good ole fashion verification… kinda odd isn’t it?

We wrote about travel likely getting easier (here), but we also wrote about it getting trickier (here). Will we make up our minds? Do you see the dilemna here?

A selfie is all it takes

Imagine you are walking to your airline departure gate. You have only your hand carried luggage with you. Your passport or identification documents are tucked safely inside your bag. No boarding pass. And you get onto the flight.

What! No hassles?

Yep. If the trial that this airline in the US proves viable (read here), we could all just be taking a selfie and get on our way – flying across the friendlier skies… without being beaten up or dragged off the plane heheh…

Yes. Simply take a photo at the boarding gate and you will be waved through when the system signals the all clear. Wow we hear you holler out. Is that possible in today’s security obsessed airport terminals? While it is only a trial between one port pair from Boston to Aruba (hmm… wonder why), this pilot (not the flier) has great potential to be rolled out across all airports and airlines. A wonderful development in our opinion. Because it’s definitely coming, since iPhones can already do that.

One thing though. Because this technology works on image recognition, one might want to ensure that one’s photo records in the passport, immigration and identification documents are closely matching. Perhaps the software is intelligent enough to get through it these days (such s the physical features), but it pays to be diligent. Because our facial features do change as we age (that’s another topic to delve into). Don’t rely on that old photo in your driver’s license!

We’ve been writing about how it gets more onerous to travel these days. So this is definitely one step in the right direction to lessen stress from air travel. Here’s to more seamless travel. One less hassle is always welcome.

Travel may become trickier

News about potential changes to the US visa waiver program first surfaced 4 months ago (read one of them here). You would also recall the ban on electronic devices larger than a handphone on planes flying in from certain countries to the US and UK that was hoisted on travellers without warning though that’s been scaled back..

Now if programs like visa waiver are suspended, it invites tit-for-tat retaliation because emotions run high. At first we thought requirements like ESTA was only for the fees that governments collect… but quite a few other countries (here) have implemented their own.

In addition, many countries around the world are starting to axe manage temporary work visa approvals as well. Thus it may be that much harder to get into Australia in the future to pick fruits… Suddenly, it’s like globalization going in reverse – being rewound but at 2x or 3x speed.

We think this is a harbinger of even more restrictive travel in the future. In the sense it may not mean less people are allowed to criss cross the earth, but rather that it will be much more onerous than it is now. As if we are not already complaining about it! Some day we might have to board airplanes only after passing through security checks wearing nothing but hospital gowns because it makes checking for illegal stuff easier. LOL… hmm… you heard this prediction first at our blog!

Where do you think the future of traveling is headed? A decline or continued unabated growth? Which do you prefer?

Don’t try this at security scans

Just for laugh.jpgThis bunch of guys played a prank that might just get you into trouble. But the video is really worth a look. We don’t recommend you try this at a customs near you. You may not get as professional a response as the video may suggest!

Creeping infringement on freedom of travel or paranoia?

This post was inspired by what I read yesterday about Singaporeans needing to register themselves with the Canadian authorities before travelling or transiting there. Now Singapore is one of ~50 visa-waver nations to Canada. Starting in mid March, these nations need to apply for Canada’s “electronic travel authorisation” (eTA) at a cost of C$7, which is valid for 5 years’ entry. Well the website for application was said to have been in preparation since last August.

According to the Telegraph: “A spokesperson said: “The new process will allow the Canadian government to screen all travellers before they enter the country. The authorization is electronically linked to your passport and is valid for five years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Therefore, you must travel with the passport that you applied for your eTA with, you can enter Canada as many times within the validity of the eTA.”

Strangely this applies only to air travelers and not to those coming via sea or land according to the Singapore Straits time article. Especially in regard to screening “all” travellers. Probably need to verify that one. You know with all government implementations, confusion is a must at least at the onset.

canada eTA visa

US ESTA visa

The US has its ESTA. Now Canada wants it own eTA (although it exempts Americans). Will the Europeans come up with something next? Or will Japan do the same?

For the sake of trying to screen out a tiny minority, it appears the majority now have to pay the price. Some say that the world has shrunk and flying is now like taking a bus for some. Perhaps. Not so for more than 6 billion people! Perhaps you might not want that too!

Is this about money? After all, the initial C$7 can be raised later. Really, can they really raise that much money from blokes like me flying through? No matter what the reasons are (conspiracy or not), this development if it perpetuates to more countries is just one more barrier being put up for cross-border travel.