Copa pioneers mobile check-in: new service lets passengers receive boarding passes on cell phones.

Author:Sutter, Mary


Mercedes Morris Garcia, director of external relations at copper miner Minera Panama, has been a paperless traveler for years. When she checked in at Panama's Tocumen airport, she would typically show counter agents flight information from emails on her BlackBerry. She is now benefiting from a new service from Panama's airline Copa that allows passengers to generate electronic boarding passes for smart phones and other portable devices--the first of its kind in Latin America, Copa says.

"I've traveled on Copa six times in the past five weeks and am thrilled with the new service," Garcia says. "To have a mobile site enabled just for this, with all flight data quickly available, as well as an electronic scannable code on my screen instead of the thermal printout for the gate check, is convenient and travelerfriendly."

Although the functions on are limited compared with the regular website,, the service has been a hit, airline executives say. "It's had a much better reception than we expected," says Frank Kardonski, the carrier's distribution director.

Roughly 200,000 visitors have used the mobile site, and about 25,000 have used the site to check in for a flight. Other features include real-time flight status updates, contacts for Copa offices and reservations, and travel policies and procedures.

At launch time, the e-boarding passes were valid only at Copa's home base and hub, Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Since then, two more Latin American airports have come aboard: Comodor Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, and Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Other regional airports considering adopting e-boarding pass technology have approached Copa for advice on doing so, according to Diana Mizrachi-Kopel, customer experience director for Copa Airlines. Airport authorities "are very supportive of the idea. It's less paper--a seamless experience," she says. "There are plans to roll it out to more countries."

Copa has found that some travelers log into the regular website from...

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