Battle over business seats dominates Australian skies

Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:52am EDT
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By Michael Smith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - A battle over business class seats has broken out between Australia's two domestic airlines who are pulling out all the stops with new technology and perks to lure executives into the front of their planes.

Qantas Airways will next week start trialing a high-tech frequent flyer card to enable passengers to check in for flights within seconds and skip queues at airports.

Passengers can touch their smart cards on scanners as they pass through the airport terminal and will be sent details of their seat number, flight time and departure gate in a text message to their mobile phone which acts as a boarding pass.

Qantas also said it would be the first airline in the world to trial a new electronic tagging technology for passenger luggage, removing the old-fashioned printed baggage tags.

"Now we are creating a process at the airport for our premium customers that will make check-in so smooth and easy it basically disappears," Qantas executive manager for customer experience Alison Webster told reporters.

However, there is a catch. Passengers will still have to queue to pass through security and the new technology will only be available to 100,000 of Qantas highest-paying travelers initially.

Qantas' smaller rival Virgin Blue is also on the hunt for more business-class passengers.

Its new chief executive John Borghetti is a former Qantas executive with a passion for fast cars and good suits who spearheaded a revamp of that airline's first and business-class lounges.   Continued...

<p>Two Qantas passenger jets are seen on the tarmac at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport December 16, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas</p>