Paper boarding passes are indeed becoming a relic of the past in many parts of the world, as airlines increasingly adopt digital solutions. This trend is driven by the convenience and efficiency of digital boarding passes, as well as environmental considerations.
Emirates Airlines, for instance, has recently mandated the use of mobile boarding passes for flights departing from Dubai. This move reflects a broader shift in the airline industry towards digitalization. Passengers can now receive their boarding passes via email or SMS, and those who check in online can store their passes in digital wallets like Apple Wallet or Google Wallet, or access them through the Emirates App. This system also extends to checked-in baggage receipts, further reducing paper use.
This digital approach offers numerous benefits, such as reducing the risk of losing or misplacing boarding passes, streamlining the check-in process, and cutting down on paper waste. For duty-free shopping, passengers can simply show their digital boarding pass, which staff will scan.
However, not every passenger can use digital boarding passes. Certain groups, like infants, unaccompanied minors, those needing special assistance, passengers with connecting flights on other airlines, and travelers to the United States, may still require printed passes. Also, in cases where passengers don’t have access to a phone or Wi-Fi, or if their phone battery is low, they can request a printed boarding pass at the check-in counter.
The trend isn’t limited to Emirates. In the United States, some Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints don’t require a boarding pass for U.S. citizens. Instead, travelers can present a driver’s license or other government ID, with the system confirming flight details and conducting security checks. This technology, available at over 175 U.S. airports, has been shown to expedite security lines.
Alaska Airlines is another example, phasing out check-in kiosks in favor of iPad-based stations that only print luggage tags. This move encourages passengers to use digital boarding passes, further signaling the decline of paper passes.
While many airlines worldwide, including KLM, Lufthansa, American Airlines, Air New Zealand, Finnair, Air Canada, and Turkish Airlines, offer digital boarding options, the availability of such services can vary depending on the airport or terminal. In some cases, passengers may still receive paper boarding passes, especially for international flights.
While digital boarding passes are increasingly the norm, paper passes remain an essential backup, especially for travelers who prefer the security of a physical document or in situations where digital options are not feasible. The shift towards digital boarding passes represents a significant change in air travel, promising greater convenience and environmental benefits.