We’ve gone from checking in at the airport desk to get a boarding pass, to printing out our own at home, and now soon we won’t need them at all. The TSA in conjunction with several airlines has been testing the use of smartphones to carry digital boarding passes. Passengers can receive their boarding pass as a digital barcode when they purchase a flight. At security they simply show an ID and have the barcode image on their smartphone scanned.
The first airport to use digital boarding passes was Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, December 2007. Continental Airlines first developed the encryption methods up to TSA standards, followed by five other US airlines. Currently there are 71 airports in the United States equipped for paperless boarding passes.
Since this method of boarding is still very new, there have been complications. Passengers going through security have discovered the battery on their smartphone is dead, the barcode unretrievable. Others have found security or gate checkpoints without a scanner, and had to wait while one was found.
Issues like these can be expected before a good, universal system is in place. But with current trends, the days of traveling paperless are just around the corner.