Both American and United have expanded their paperless boarding pass programs within the United States in the past week. If mobile boarding basses are your cup of tea, you’ll be able to check in wirelessly and receive an e-mail containing your boarding pass, which is scanned right off your phone at the gate.
American’s announcement brings their count of cities to 27 airports. United’s count is thirteen. Continental is still the leader, with 48 airports (including 2 overseas, in London and Frankfurt.) The TSA’s website lags reality, it seems, listing 43 airports in the US currently participate, across all airlines.
The expanded service is being pitched as a convenience to customers. And it is convenient, if you’re not able to print your passes. But be sure to save that e-mail or text message on the phone: If your miles don’t post, you’ll need to find a way to print that message to prove you actually took the flight.
This is only available at those airports where both the airlines and the TSA are linked up and able to scan the boarding pass. That’s what’s really holding this up from more widespread adoption nationwide.
Taking the convenience equation out of the picture for a moment: For you to move through security with one of those mobile boarding passes, you need to have it scanned by TSA first. What bugs me about this is the TSA’s involvement in the equation makes “revenue protection” the U.S. government agency’s job, in the name of security. (As I’ve argued ad nauseam, checking ID’s and passes does nothing to make you safer; true airport security does not hinge on holding a boarding pass or having an ID.)
This will be more and more widespread, going forward. But it’s still not truly widespread in its adoption — yet. In a reader poll back in November, 38% of readers had used a paperless boarding pass. That’s pretty high, but let’s face it, the readers of this site are highly travel-savvy, frequent-fliers. The general flying public is far less likely to have gone paperless. But not to worry, that will change.