When it comes to boarding passes, what's better: paperless or paper?

Launched in 2007 by Continental Airlines as more or less of an experiment, paperless boarding has grown into the preferred way to travel for many. Today, most major airlines offer mobile boarding at airports in nearly every state in the U.S. and in other countries across the globe. While there’s no doubt that paperless boarding saves time, there are both pros and cons to using the service. Let’s weigh in on the pros and cons of keeping your ticket behind a touchscreen wall:

Pros of Paperless Boarding Passes:

  • Mobile boarding passes reduce the risk of losing or misplacing a piece of paper.
  • You can access your boarding pass simply by opening an email or logging in to the airline’s website.
  • Mobile security helps prevent fraud.
  • Without the need to print out physical boarding passes, paperless boarding helps preserve forests and reduce paper consumption.
  • You can have your boarding pass emailed to you from anywhere with internet access, be it your living room, a library, a hotel, or at the airport.
  • Paperless boarding reduces waiting at checkpoints and speeds up boarding.
  • The airline industry saves nearly a half billion each year by offering paperless boarding.
  • Mobile technology provides an added layer of security and protection.

Cons of Paperless Boarding Passes:

  • Display errors and other technical issues may occur on mobile devices.
  • Each mobile boarding pass is only valid for one passenger on one device; group travelers must each have a separate pass emailed to their individual phones.
  • Refreshing the browser can occasionally log you out of the airline website, creating a delay in boarding.
  • While many airlines offer paperless boarding, some have yet to adopt the service.
  • If your phone runs out of battery power before you check in, you must still obtain a paper boarding pass from a check-in attendant or print one out at an airport kiosk. Depending on the location of your gate and the time left until departure, this can cause a significant delay.

You can help reduce the risk of these issues by keeping your phone charged and up to date. If you plan to travel in a group, don’t wait until the last minute to sort out your paperless boarding options. If your phone happens to run out of power at the gate, you can usually find an outlet to charge it.


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