The paperless boarding pass system is a technological innovation which allows airline passengers to download and display travel information on an Internet-enabled cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). During airport check-in, the phone or PDA is presented to airline staff and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials for scanning in lieu of a traditional paper boarding pass. In addition to being environmentally friendly, this system is intended to provide heightened security and simplify the air travel process.
Generally, a US traveler who wishes to utilize the paperless boarding pass system must first check in on the airline’s website. She will then receive an email which includes an encrypted barcode. This barcode contains all information that appears on a traditional boarding pass, such as gate numbers and seat assignments. The traveler then presents her mobile device with this barcode displayed to TSA officials and airline staff at all airport checkpoints. Using a handheld device, officials and staff scan this barcode, verifying that the boarding information is genuine.
TSA authorities claim that the paperless boarding pass system can facilitate heightened air travel security. The encrypted barcode used in the system is said to be much more difficult to forge than paper boarding passes. Thus, as paperless boarding pass usage increases, the incidence of fraudulent boarding passes will likely diminish. To make airport security as exhaustive as possible, however, TSA officials require all travelers utilizing the paperless system to provide valid photo identification which corresponds to the information contained in the barcode.
In addition to strengthening air travel security, the paperless boarding pass system can also simplify the airport check-in process, reducing the stress that sometimes accompanies the air travel experience. This simplification is due mainly to the fact that the encrypted boarding information can be refreshed on the traveler’s handheld device. Once refreshed, the boarding information will display any changes that might have been made to the boarding gate, the flight itinerary, the passenger’s seating assignment, and so forth. This capability allows the traveler to avoid mishaps such as reporting to the wrong gate.
One final benefit of the paperless boarding pass system is its abandonment of physical boarding cards. Displaying boarding information electronically saves paper and is thus environmentally friendly. In addition, it can potentially speed up the travel process by eliminating the possibility that a traveler will misplace or forget her card, a mistake which can normally be rectified only by obtaining a new card.