Will paper boarding passes disappear too soon?


Air Canada Electronic Boarding Pass
It doesn’t seem that long ago that checking in for an airline flight and printing a boarding pass at home or at a hotel was a novelty. Now, some airlines even penalize passengers who don’t check in online, often with higher baggage fees, but in the case of low-cost carriers, sometimes with a flat fee at the airport.

One problem: Electronic boarding passes still are not totally glitch-free.

One problem with advance check-in, however, has been printing a boarding pass from the road. Increasingly, hotels have been setting up printers for their clients, although the airlines in turn are encouraging mobile boarding passes, sent directly to smart phones.

Now, certainly a mobile boarding pass is a greener alternative, and I have to wonder, how long until airlines make them the default option? United Airlines, for example, already automatically offers a mobile phone check-in option for return flights when passengers check in for the outbound.

However, the phone option is a long way from perfect, and that’s even before considering the possibility of a lost or stolen phone.

On a recent trip from Dulles, I had a mobile boarding pass, but my phone had a hard time getting consistent signal; eventually, I chose to wait in line to print a paper pass. It took several minutes, but turned out to be a good decision, because one of the two TSA lines was having trouble with their scanner. I watched a woman spend at least a few minutes trying to get her electronic boarding pass scanned. (She and the TSA agent were still working on it when I passed through the other line.)

Another client called this week after sending a boarding pass to his phone, but was told there was a problem with a barcode and sent back to the check-in counter. Fortunately, he was at the airport early and had plenty of time to return with a paper boarding pass.

Plus, more than one person has told me of losing phone battery power at the airport, thus rendering their boarding pass useless. (This last problem might be increasing, as the newer, faster phones often have shorter battery life.)

Personally, when I can get a printed boarding pass, I do. It seems simpler. Would I pay more for one, though? That’s a tougher question. I do have a feeling that it won’t be too long until some airline decides to find out.

As always, I would love to hear additional comments and stories from Consumer Traveler readers.