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|Have You Ever Used Your Cell Phone as a Boarding Pass?|
|Written by Brandy Schaffels|
|Wednesday, 08 April 2009 03:34|
Stumbled across this article at BudgetTravel.com that says "Cell phones are gradually replacing boarding passes, with increasing numbers of U.S. airports encouraging passengers to hold up the screen of their cell phone (or Blackberry, iPhone, or similar device) under the airport security scanner, rather than show a paper boarding pass."
Delta Airways even has a page devoted to explaining how paperless mobile check-in works, saying:
"Mobile check-in saves time at the airport by letting you check in from your PDA or web-enabled cell phone up to 24 hours prior to departure. It's the fastest, most convenient way to check in." In their blog about the new technology, Brian Rutter, Delta's Director of Sales & Marketing even says "How great does this sound? You can use your electronic boarding pass, displayed on your mobile device--no paper!--to proceed to the security checkpoint, and then straight to the gate to board your flight.... At the same time, think "green." You'll be helping environmental sustainability by reducing paper and ink usage. No matter how you look at it, we believe that this is a winner!"
Continental Airlines encourages the practice too, saying the option is available to passengers who check in online, "heightens the ability to detect fraudulent boarding passes while improving customer service and reducing paper use."
"It is going to be significant for customers but conceptually it is real simple," said Mark Bergsrud, a senior vice president for Houston-based Continental. "And we love to save paper. It is good for the environment." Apparently this paperless program is consistent with an upcoming global standard of the International Air Transport Association for bar coding of passenger boarding passes. An article at the Houston Chronicle says The IATA (which represents 240 airlines comprising 94 percent of international air travel) is requiring all airlines to stop using magnetic strip technology on boarding passes by the end of 2008 and to use the so-called "two-dimensional" bar codes by the end of 2010.
Uhm... I never thought I was a Luddite, but I still rely on a printout of my eticket when I check in at the airport. Especially because there are some tricky logistics involved at the security checkpoint, where you have to push all your gear, shoes, jacket, carryon stuff, gels and liquids in their bag, computer out of its bag, and other miscellaneous keys and electronic gadgets through the x-ray machine before you can pass through the metal detector.
So, your cellphone, along with your electronic boarding pass displaying neatly on its screen, will be completely OUT OF REACH INSIDE THE X-RAY MACHINE at exactly the moment you are asked to show your boarding pass to the impatient TSA agent. Little bit ironic, don't you think?
Apparently, airports that are testing this technology include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, D.C. (Reagan), Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, Orange County, California, San Antonio, New York (LaGuardia and Newark), and Seattle. However, the procedure doesn't seem widespread enough yet to be detailed on TSA's travel assistant page, which outlines how best to "move more quickly and efficiently through the security process."
According to a TSA spokesperson quoted in the BudgetTravel article,
"Currently, airports that accept paperless boarding passes will ask passengers to show their boarding pass in front of the checkpoint where all boarding passes and IDs are checked. In some airports, as passengers approach the metal detector, they may be instructed to divest everything for X-ray but their cell phone. Then passengers will approach the metal detector, show their boarding pass on their cell phone to the security officer, and then backtrack to put the phone in a bin for X-ray screening."
Okay, call me a killjoy, but I'm just imagining this not-very-entertaining bunny hop line jump being played by frustrated (and probably late) travelers trying to get to their gate while Mr. High Tech Traveler tries to retrieve his cell phone from within the x-ray machine. Or jumps back into line after backtracking to the conveyor to find a basket for his lone device. Or whatever he is going to do to mess up the already complicated flow at the screening area.
I've got a flight to Toronto on Monday. I think I'll just print my boarding pass at the self-check-in kiosk. Call me old-fashioned.