Brisbane Airport trials automated boarding gates

By Chris C., September 7 2015
Brisbane Airport trials automated boarding gates

Passengers flying through Brisbane Airport may notice new self-serve boarding gates: now being trialled at the domestic terminal in partnership with Virgin Australia and industry heavyweight SITA.

Travellers simply scan their own paper or electronic boarding pass at the barrier – rather than presenting it for inspection by airline staff – and if the boarding pass is valid, the gate will open and you're good to go.

Installed as part of a four-week trial at Gate 38, Brisbane Airport Corporation's GM Strategic Planning and Development Roel Hellemons told Australian Business Traveller that "this Australian first is centred on improving the customer experience through passengers being in control of their own processing."

However, the gates also edge towards "a long-term view of increasing security through controlled passenger flow", and "in (the) future, biometrics could be included in these gates in addition to (the current) boarding pass scanners."

A SITA spokesperson shared that when self-boarding gates are fully-implemented at airports, they also "significantly reduce the time it takes to board passengers".

Already popular in Europe, “one airline reported boarding 90% of passengers in seven minutes. This also helps optimise airline resources and staff could then focus on passengers who require particular attention,” the spokesperson added.

Using the self-serve boarding gates is, however, entirely optional during the Brisbane trial: so if you'd prefer to interact with a human, you're welcome to use the traditional line.

Self-serve boarding: a growing trend?

While seldom seen in our part of the world, automated boarding is increasingly de rigueur in Europe, with over a dozen airports already having adopted SITA's self-boarding gates.

Europe carries the advantage of having a widely-adopted common border – known as the 'Schengen zone' – which makes travelling between participating countries akin to a domestic trip in Australia.

That in itself allows the technology to thrive in Europe by avoiding time-consuming passport and visa checks when travelling within the Schengen zone, which would often require manual intervention at other airports.

SITA's spokesperson highlights that "self-boarding gates are a pretty new phenomenon in Australia", but that 17% of airports worldwide have now adopted the technology across a total of 1,000 passenger boarding lanes.

Brisbane Airport: more tech for travellers

While self-boarding trials aren't currently planned for Brisbane's international terminal, other technology-based passenger innovations are still saving travellers time when heading abroad.

For example, BAC's introduction of ‘digital departure cards’ allows jetsetters to complete the bulk of that obligatory form on their smartphone before arriving at the airport...

... and then scan their phone at the airport – or now, their Apple Watch – to easily produce a printed, pre-completed copy of the departure card.

Read: Brisbane Airport takes outgoing passenger cards digital

Brisbane was also the nation's first city to feature departure SmartGates: automated lanes where travellers can self-process through outbound passport control, much as they already could for years when returning to Australia.

While the initial trial has now been completed, BAC's Roel Hellemons affirmed that "the installation of 12 (departure) SmartGates starts in the second week of October and will be completed by 14 December 2015.

"The first six gates will be operational by mid-November and all passengers and crew to all destinations will be eligible to use the gates."

Australian Business Traveller got hands-on with the new departure SmartGates earlier this year and found it took just 55 seconds to cross the border – rendering the traditional 'Express Path' the slow lane.

Road test: Australian departure SmartGate trial proves a real time-saver

That gives you more time to shop, hit the lounges or claim back the GST on recent purchases via the TRS desk: and of course, there’s a time-saving app for that too.

Read: iPhone, Android app speeds up GST refunds at TRS desk

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

04 Oct 2011

Total posts 25

Whilst the new self-serve boarding gates look like a great idea; the bottleneck with boarding will just move down inside the aerobridge, particularly when boarding narrow body aircraft such as the 737 and A320, the mainstay of the Australian domestic fleet.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 259

I've used self-boarding gates while boarding an A320 and a full A343 on LH, the A320 was maybe half full and boarding took less than 10 minutes. The A340 probably took about 30 minutes to board.

It's a very simple process and the only thing that could cause delays is if there were only one or two sefl board machines per gate. I think LH in FRA and MUC has 4 per gate.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 284

I think this is a really good idea!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

Is that "one airline reported boarding 90% of passengers in seven minutes" Lufthansa which have had gates like these for a while or some other airline?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Sep 2014

Total posts 50

I look forward to a national rollout.  Random system issues and unlikely power outage aside, the only hurdle to overcome are those hopeless people who take their precious time akin to the hopless minority of selfcheckout users.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Sep 2014

Total posts 50


24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1204

I used this with VA in BNE a couple of weeks ago.  Still needs a bit of work.  Generally quite slow and needs boarding pass held just at the right angle to work.  There was a gate agent assisting just about everyone which probably defeats the purpose but I assume the issues will be worked out.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

I don't see that much value, the rate-limiting step is generally the speed at which people file onto the plane, put their bags away and make it into their seats.

I was on a Virgin flight last night where they weren't using the back stairs, and it took about ten minutes of standing around in the jetway before I could actually get on board.

07 Aug 2012

Total posts 193

Are we all so foolish to think this was done for passenger convenience? It's primarily about reducing cost for the airline, any benefit to the passenger is consequential. Just like the supermarket checkout mentioned above. 

Outsourced ex-airline staff

04 Jun 2014

Total posts 13

Precisely the point .... cogent obsevation....  It's all about saving $ and reducing/ (hopefully) eliminating the labor force while spinning it out to the public with meaningless phrases as '...customers being in control of their own processing..'.  If I were in conrol of my own 'processing', I'd eliminate it entirely !! ( how's that for eliminating labor AND technology ! ).....Please... almost as offensive as the concept itself is the insulting corporate doublespeak...  'Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining !'

10 Sep 2015

Total posts 5

good idea. but working in the industry this would probably cut jobs. but staff would need to monitoring it.

also if there are problems with ones boarding passes (which there always is) it would cause some congestion/delays = frustration.

take into account people from an older generation; confused/no idea how to use these systems. self check in kiosks are already a problem for a lot if people.

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