TSA and Continental Airlines Continue to Expand Paperless Boarding Pass Pilot Program

April 25, 2008

Photo courtesy of chron.com. In an effort to reduce the vulnerability associated with fraudulent boarding passes, TSA has partnered with Continental Airlines to create paperless boarding passes displayed on passengers' cell phone or personal digital assistants (PDAs). Paperless boarding passes contain a hi-tech two-dimensional (2-D) barcode encrypted with specific passenger information, such as the traveler's name and flight information. Rather than the traditional vertical barcode that most people are familiar with, the two dimensional barcode is a rectangle of black and white squares resembling the static "snow" on an unreceptive television.

How It Works
At the checkpoint, Continental passengers present their cell phones or PDA with the encrypted 2-D barcode to a TSA travel document checking officer. The officer will scan the barcode using a handheld device to verify its authenticity. Passengers will still be required to show photo identification so officers can validate that the name on the boarding pass matches that on the ID. The complexity of the two dimensional barcode creates an additional layer of security because it cannot be altered without being discovered upon scanning at the checkpoint.

Partnership & Innovation
TSA and Continental Airlines worked hand-in-hand to turn the idea of a paperless boarding pass into a reality. Continental was supportive of this effort for some time, and worked with TSA to develop the two-dimensional barcode, which the International Air Transport Association (IATA) plans to require all airlines to use on their boarding passes by the end of 2010. Both TSA and Continental—currently the only airline using the new technology—are enthusiastic about their heightened ability to detect fraudulent boarding passes while also improving customer service.

Expansion of the Paperless Boarding Pass
Use of the two-dimensional barcode and paperless boarding pass, which was initially implemented on a trial basis at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in November 2007, will continue on a permanent basis for passengers traveling via Continental Airlines out of IAH. In Spring 2008, other Continental passengers will be able to take advantage of the new technology when paperless boarding pass initiatives are launched at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport on April 23, 2008, Boston Logan International Airport on April 30, 2008 and Newark Liberty International Airport in early May 2008.

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