Air travel without a paper ticket

I have been my own travel agent for many years.  The Internet has made it easy for anyone to make travel arrangements without having to go through a travel agent.  I always book airline flights directly with the airlines.  One advantage of booking directly is that, in most cases, you can check in for your flight online within 24 hours of the flight departure and then print a boarding pass right on your local printer.  Advanced check-in allows you to go to the airport, check bags if necessary, and then go straight through security to your departure gate without stopping at a ticket counter.  I can’t remember the last time I had to stand in line at an airport ticket counter.

It has always been easy for me to print boarding passes right before I leave my house.  The problem is that printing a boarding pass for the return flight is sometimes difficult.  Hotels where I stay will sometimes have computers available for use with a printer.  But I don’t always have a printer handy to print boarding passes while I’m on the road.

Another option has been available for a couple of years that I have not had the courage to try until now.  That option is to use a smart phone to display an electronic boarding pass.  During the past year, while I have been traveling with boarding passes that I’ve printed, I have watched other travelers using their smart phones to display their boarding passes.  As long as you are using an airport that can accept electronic boarding passes, it appears to be a simple way to go.

There is one limitation to using an electronic boarding pass.  If you’re not traveling alone, everyone in your group would need their own smart phone and each would need their own flight reservation.  That would have been a problem for me on previous trips.  I have always purchased airline tickets for everyone in my group on my one account with the airline.  When multiple tickets are purchased that way, it’s very difficult to separate the tickets out to everyone’s individual smart phone.  In most cases, airports won’t allow you to use one smart phone for multiple boarding passes for different passengers.

In a few weeks, my wife and I will be taking a couple of flights.  In order for me to try out the electronic boarding passes, I set up an airline account for my wife on her smart phone that is independent of my account.  When I was ready to purchase the airline tickets, I had both phones, side by side.  I purchased the flight itineraries for both of us on our respective smart phones, making sure that we had airline seats together.  Now, as long as we both have working smart phones, we are set for our airline flights without the need to print out paper boarding passes.

I had wondered how a smart phone was used at the TSA checkpoint where ID is checked against a boarding pass.  At airports that accept electronic boarding passes, the TSA checkpoints are equipped with readers that are located in front of the checkpoint podiums.  With your electronic boarding pass displayed on your smart phone, the phone is placed in front of the reader and you provide your ID to the TSA agent.

Here’s to a paper-free trip!

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