Qantas and Virgin Australia both offer mobile-based check-in, but that service requires a graphics-capable smartphone with an Internet connection. A new SMS-based option from Jetstar can automatically check passengers in 24 hours before a flight using an SMS confirmation, meaning that virtually anyone with a mobile phone can use it.At the airport, the SMS message is photographed and scanned by the check-in kiosk and a paper boarding pass issued. Despite increasing pushes towards automation, no airline has eliminated paper-based passes entirely, in part because in regional locations and when refuelling phones need to be switched off prior to boarding.
Jetstar began offering the service earlier this month, but it got widespread publicity this week after IBM issued a press release promoting its role in developing the technology. Unlike its poor-value offer of an SMS itinerary, there's no charge for the service.
The option isn't yet available at all Jetstar airports. Case in point: at Newcastle Airport, where I checked into a Jetstar flight this morning, the check-in kiosks were all switched off and everyone had to go to a desk. It also isn't available for international flights.