Consumer Payment Card News

Smart Corp Card

American Express and Continental Airlines will begin a pilot Nov. 1 involving several thousand AmEx Corporate Cardholders to test ‘Smart Corporate Cards’ in Continental’s ‘Electronic Ticket Machines’. The corporate chip card will enable cardholders to check-in for flights quickly and permit him or her to change seat assignments, make simple flight changes, upgrade to first class, check bags and to enter club rooms. The trial follows another similiar AmEx smart card pilot with the Hilton Hotel chain which got underway June 1.

American Express (NYSE: AXP) and Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAI) today announced a pilot program using Smart Corporate Cards for faster airport check-in with Continental’s Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs). The multiple-function cards also offer an application for storing electronic passes on the computer chip embedded in the card. These passes will grant Cardmembers access to Continental’s Presidents Club lounges at six U.S. airports.

Several thousand American Express Corporate Card customers who are frequent business travelers have been hand-picked by their companies to test the new applications in the pilot, which runs from November 1, 1997, through May 31, 1998. In addition, the test participants will be able to join an ongoing pilot, which began June 1, 1997, and ends June 30, 1998, in which they can use their smart card to quickly and easily check in and out of eight participating U.S. Hilton hotels using self-service kiosks in the hotel lobbies.

“This smart card gives time-pressed business travelers the three things they crave most: the ability to save time by avoiding standing in long lines, the ability to view and update their personal travel profile information, and the convenience of having one card to use when traveling,” said Jud Linville, Senior Vice President, American Express Corporate Services.

“With this smart card test, Continental and American Express are building a new model for business travel. We view smart cards as a natural complement to our self-service strategy. E-Ticket Machines combined with smart cards put convenience and control into the business traveler’s hands, while providing greater security,” said Bonnie Reitz, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Continental Airlines.

The selected pilot participants will be issued new American Express Corporate Cards, which have the traditional magnetic stripe on the back for charge functionality as well as an embedded 8K IBM multifunction computer chip on the face of the Card. The chip is pre-loaded with the Cardmember’s travel profile, which includes basic information such as name and address, along with his or her Continental OnePass and Hilton HHonors(R) Worldwide frequent travel program numbers, and travel preferences such as type of airline seat and hotel accommodations.

When using electronic tickets, these travelers can bypass airport check-in lines by inserting their Smart Corporate Card into Continental’s ETMs at six participating U.S. airports (Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, LaGuardia, Newark and Washington National). The ETM reads the traveler’s profile from the chip and allows him or her to:

— select or change a seat assignment;

— make simple flight changes (i.e., take an earlier or later flight);

— confirm OnePass number for proper mileage;

— upgrade to first class (for Gold Elite-level OnePass members);

— check bags (at ticket counter locations); and

— check-in by obtaining a boarding pass and receipt.

The participants also will receive four complimentary Presidents Club passes. These passes are stored electronically on the chip, eliminating the need for travelers to carry the traditional paper coupons for Club passes. Upon entering the Presidents Club, the smart card will be inserted into a special countertop smart card reader, which will deduct a pass from the chip. Participants will receive a $50 discount on the annual Presidents Club membership fee after using all four passes or following the conclusion of the test. As an added incentive, participants will earn additional OnePass frequent flyer bonus miles (50% of each flight or 750 miles, whichever is greater) for flight check-ins using the Smart Corporate Card at the participating ETMs.

Travel Industry Innovators

With the first multiple function smart card test in the travel industry, one of the largest tests in the airline industry, and the first government multi-application smart card with global financial capabilities, American Express is an innovator among card companies in developing smart card solutions. American Express is pursuing a variety of smart card applications that will speed travelers past check-in points at airports, hotels and car rental agencies, enhance loyalty and rewards programs, and streamline the entire travel expense management process.

“We believe smart cards will play a critical role in changing the travel experience for the better,” said Marlee Laks, Vice President in the Smart Card Center of Excellence at American Express. “Pilot tests like the one with Continental Airlines and Hilton Hotels Corporation clearly demonstrate our commitment to providing our customers with value and convenience through interoperable, multi-application smart cards.”

Continental’s E-Ticket Machine also represents state-of-the-art technology in the travel industry. “Our E-Ticket Machine is the first product of its kind to address customers’ needs with the convenience of electronic purchases and faster airport processing, thereby enhancing their total travel experience,” said Steve Cossette, Staff Vice President of Distribution Planning, Continental Airlines.

About the Two Companies

American Express Corporate Services, which includes the American Express Corporate Card, Business Travel Services and Corporate Purchasing Card, assists companies in managing and controlling their business travel expenses. It is a unit of American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Express Company — a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking. More information about the company can be found at

Continental is the fifth largest airline in the U.S., offering more than 2,000 departures daily to 131 domestic and 65 international destinations. Operating major hubs in Newark, Houston, Cleveland and Guam, Continental is strategically positioned for transcontinental travel, and offers extensive service to Latin America and Europe via its Houston and Newark gateways. Recently, Continental became the only airline in history to earn the Frequent Flyer magazine/J.D. Power and Associates award two years in a row for best customer satisfaction on long-haul flights. In addition, Continental was named 1996 “Airline of the Year” by Air Transport World and was rated as having the best business class product among U.S. carriers by both Entrepreneur and Smart Money magazines, as well as the Best Elite-Level Frequent Flyer Program by Inside Flyer magazine. Additional information about Continental Airlines is available on the Web at

Leave A Reply