TSA Tests Paperless Boarding Passes

Continental Airlines is testing out a new method of issuing boarding passes. In a pilot program with the Transportation Security Administration passengers can download an electronic boarding pass onto their cell phones. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Houston is the only place in the nation where travelers can do this and Continental is the only airline testing the program. If it's successful, the TSA could soon allow passengers across the country to board planes with nothing more than an electronic barcode. TSA Field Operations General Manager Mel Carraway says laptops, cell phones and PDAs can display a two-dimensional barcode on the screen that TSA officials will scan at the security checkpoint.

"What it does is there's a security feature in it where it cannot be duplicated. This is the first time we've done it anywhere in the world and it's accomplished through the partnership between TSA and Continental. A passenger now can have this convenience, but also a feeling of security that this paperless boarding pass cannot be duplicated or misrepresented anywhere."

TSA came up with the idea to create a completely paperless system. Two years ago, they began developing the concept with Continental Airlines. Continental's Senior Vice President of Marketing Programs Mark Bergsrud says they found out people like to check in at home best.

"More people check in today at home or in the office or on a laptop than check in on a kiosk at the airport. So it's a logical extension really of that program. And the logic is you don't always have your computer with you, you don't always have a printer, but you may have your phone or your PDA. So it just offers more flexibility and more choice to customers."

Craig Galway is a regular traveler who flies several times a year for business. He says he's not sure if he would actually take advantage of the electronic boarding pass, but thinks it's a good idea.

"Anything to speed things up I think will make life a lot easier."

To use the paperless system, passengers must have an electronic device that can connect to the internet. The barcode meets the standards set by the International Air Transport Association, so the system will be compatible with airports around the world once the technology spreads. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.ξξ

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