Airline Special Service Request (SSR) Passengers Tracking System Using RFID
1.1 Introduction to the Project
When Wright Brothers first flew their Wright Flyer, nobody could predict how the flying machine, created purely for the purpose for the mankind to conquer the skies, would greatly change the way we live nowadays. Some 50 years later when Pan American World Airways launched its Boeing 707 flights to Europe, only the rich could enjoy the “jet-set” experience.
Long gone are the days when flying was only reserved for the rich and elite. Technology advancements have made the flying more accessible and affordable, not to mention safer, just like AirAsia’s slogan “Everyone can fly”. Though, to make such slogan stay true, some passengers need some form of assistance from the airline. Those assistances required from the airlines are collectively called Special Service Requests.
Special Service Requests (thereafter called SSRs) are employed by airlines to capture special requirements for a particular passenger, for instance unaccompanied minors, wheelchair-bound passengers, and passenger with disabilities, which are covered in the project scope, as well as other information that are beyond the project’s scope such as passengers with special dietary requirements or passenger travelling with pets in the cabin.
SSRs are supplementary to Passenger Name Record (PNR) and are typically requested upon booking so the airline can be informed about the passenger’s special requirements in advance and prepare accordingly, for example special dietary requirements (Halal, Vegetarian, Diabetic, etc.) need to be requested at least 24 hours before flight. Some of the services are chargeable, such as Unaccompanied Minors. Typically passengers with SSR will be assisted by the airline’s ground staff at both the departing airport and arriving airport.
1.2 Problem Background
Often managing large amount of passengers causes management headaches to the airlines and the airport authorities, especially if the airport is a particular airline’s main hub which thousands go through the airport daily or even hourly (Atlanta’s main airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, processed 90 million passengers in 2008 and is among the world’s busiest), and more so if irregularities happen, for example multiple flights are delayed due to bad weather. Add in human errors and omissions, often resulted due to extra, unexpected workload in such situations, and this creates an opportunity for Murphy’s Law to happen – if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way.
The primary problem with existing SSR system for handling unaccompanied minors, wheelchair passengers, and disabled passengers is its lack of a central tracking system. As mentioned earlier, human factors can cause irregularities to happen if someone is not careful. On June 2009, Continental Airlines failed to put two unaccompanied minors on the flights they were supposed to be on, the result being them arriving somewhere they didn’t expect to arrive at.
Such incidents tend to cost airlines financially in terms of monetary compensation, replacement flights to send the passengers to the right destination, as well as charges imposed as a result of civil lawsuits. It can also dent their reputations and turn away potential customers, both new and recurring. If a central tracking system can track exactly where they are, and whether they are at the right place, it can possibly save the airlines in the long run.
1.3 Project Aim
The project aims to develop an RFID-based tracking system for passengers with certain SSR codes that can provide near real-time location about their whereabouts and notify the administration staff accordingly.
1.4 Project Objectives
The objectives of the project are to:
- research for similar system and the industry’s requirements
- design the system according to the specifications obtained using appropriate system design
- develop the system, and
- test the system for its functionality
The scopes for the projects are as below:
- The research will only be done in one airport for one client (i.e. airline), although it could be implemented for other airlines and airports as well.
- The system only covers passengers with following SSRs: unaccompanied minors, wheelchair passengers, and disabled passengers.
- The system runs independent from PNR database as the format for PNR is not known, and it may not be standardised among different airlines.
- The system assumes the passengers possess their own RFID tags at all times.
- The system only tracks outbound passengers’ movements and not inbound passengers nor connecting passengers.
1.6 Importance of the Project
If the usage of the RFID-enabled boarding passes for passengers with SSR is deemed acceptable, the RFID boarding passes can track all the passengers requiring special attentions and reducing possibilities of mishandling caused by one human’s error. Such could save the airline financially in compensations due to mishaps as well as liability charges caused.
Furthermore it can also be made possible to extend the functionality of the system by implementing the tracking system for everyone who is flying. Passenger counts for both ground staff and cabin crew can be automated to reveal who has not been aboard yet or who has boarded the wrong flight.
1.7 Report Organisation
Chapter 2 will cite references and citations related to the industry and system’s design as well as implementations.
Chapter 3 will discuss methodology used in the designing of the system.
Chapter 4 will highlight specifications for the system. And,
Chapter 5 will conclude the report.