December 06, 2007
Please present your BlackBerry to the boarding agent as your row is called

This is cool.

A unique new check-in procedure using cell phones or personal digital assistants as boarding passes is being unveiled by Continental Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration at George Bush Intercontinental Airport today.

The three-month pilot program involves technology using encrypted bar codes on mobile device screens, something not being used anywhere else in the world, TSA official Melvin Carraway said.

"We have been in favor of this for a long time and had fairly consistent dialogue with TSA on our desire to do this," said Mark Bergsrud, a senior vice president for Houston-based Continental. "We were ready technically and we are pretty nimble with our ability to develop software and test it."

Carraway said the TSA, which has had a problem with people trying to use fraudulent paper boarding passes in the past, is confident the technology can't be cracked.

The program will allow passengers to receive boarding passes electronically, then present bar codes on the screen to be scanned by TSA security officers at the checkpoint, according to Continental.

Ultimately, it could eliminate the need for a paper document besides photo identification. Continental is the first U.S. carrier to test paperless boarding passes.

Initially, the pilot program will be used solely on Continental flights at Intercontinental. If successful, plans call for it to be rolled out to other airlines in about three months, Carraway said.

"Can't" is a pretty strong word to use when the subject is "cracking technology". I don't doubt this is better (and more environmentally-friendly) than paper, but I say never say never. Be that as it may, we're going to be flying on Continental out of IAH in the near future, so perhaps I'll get to see this technology firsthand. If I do, I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 06, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I understand why they are doing it, but from a passenger usability point of view, it actually sounds like a big pain the ass to me compared to a paper ticket. I'm curious to see it in action to see how it actually works in the line at the gate.

Posted by: John on December 6, 2007 9:35 AM