Heathrow's new Positive Boarding tracks passengers to avoid delays

Heathrow Airport has become the first airport in the world to implement a pioneering service that claims to improve punctuality and make sure flights take off on time.

The extensive system, entitled Positive Boarding, has been trialled at Terminal 3 and works with the airport’s automated security gates to allow various passenger details to be displayed, thereby helping to make departures a more streamlined experience.

“We are thrilled that the new technology is now live in T3 and will help our passengers have a stress free flight. It also enables us to work with the airlines to improve the punctuality of departing flights,” said Kathryn Leahy, director of Terminal 3 at Heathrow.

Positive Boarding gets to work as soon as a passenger scans their boarding pass, when the details of everything contained within the barcode is compared with central flight information. This allows factors specific to the passenger to be displayed and alerts them if they are in the wrong terminal or have a short amount of time to get to the departure gate.

If a passenger turns up too late to get to the gate, they are instructed to return to the check-in desk and “seek assistance from the airline." When this happens, airlines are able to unload the specific passenger’s luggage, as real-time information helps to alert them as to where passengers are.

Virgin Atlantic is the first airline to adopt the new system in Terminal 3 and for Little Red in Terminal 1. Signs so far point to it being a success, with some 35,000 passengers successful using the technology in its first week.

Data from Virgin shows 44 per cent of departures for its two airlines had passengers that could have potentially caused delays. Out of this number, 700 were automatically informed by the display to make their way to the departure gate immediately. An unlucky 10 passengers were made to go back to the check-in desk, as there was insufficient time to get to the gate.

Terminal 4 will get the same system in September, which is similar to Terminal 5’s Ready to Fly implementation.

Technology for travellers is continually evolving, with a Juniper Research report earlier this month showing that by 2018, 16 billion transport and event tickets will be delivered to smartphones per year.

One example of mobile ticketing at Heathrow involves a free app, launched in January 2011, which allows Heathrow Express shuttle train users to buy tickets on their device.