Air Canada Brings Your Boarding Pass To Your Mobile Phone

Air Canada, Technology

In another, “Why is the US so far behind?” moment, Air Canada announced last week that you can now go straight to the gate without a paper boarding pass. Just check in on your mobile phone and show the barcode on the screen to the gate agent for boarding. How cool.

The way it works is pretty simple. You go to the Air Canada mobile site on your phone and check in for your flight just like you would online. They then send you two SMS messages – one with your flight info and another with a link to your boarding pass. 07_09_24 mobiqaClick the link and it will open the image of a barcode in your mobile browser. You can use that to get through security. Then the gate agent will scan it and you can board the plane without a single piece of paper.

Of course, there are restrictions on where you can use this. You may not be surprised to find out that you can’t use this on US flights. Nope. Only flights within Canada or flights departing from Canada and going to any other country as long as it isn’t the US. I’m sure there’s some silly TSA restriction preventing this from happening, and that’s unfortunate. I can’t see why this is any different than a regular boarding pass except that this version saves trees.

Now, Air Canada isn’t the first to do this, but I believe they’re doing it best right now. A company called Mobiqa (image at left) has something similar that will be used by Nok Air of Thailand and Spanair of Spain. The way Mobiqa works is a bit different. A big negative is that you have to check in online. You can’t use your phone. But once you’re checked in, they send you an MMS message with the boarding pass. That’s easier than having to click on a link, but not being able to check in using the phone is a big downfall. This is also the way WestJet does it. (Updated 9/25 @ 1019a)

The good news for me is that I’m flying Air Canada in a couple weeks from Canada to Europe, so I am hoping I’ll be able to try this out. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.

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8 comments on “Air Canada Brings Your Boarding Pass To Your Mobile Phone

  1. I just took a couple of flights in and from Canada and I thought I heard rumblings that WestJet was already doing this. I could be wrong though!

  2. You know, this is kindof hypocritical of the TSA, given that they still haven’t closed the security hole that allows you to get by the security checkpoint under your name, but board under a false name, thereby bypassing all of the electronic data screening that the TSA does.

    The one thing that I think Air Canada should encourage is having the security checkpoint scan all of their boarding passes.

    I know no airline wants to have the additional cost of building a data interface to the TSA, or posting an agent at the checkpoint to verify boarding passes themselves, but simply the fact that this hole exists is old news, and it reeks of indifference.

  3. There’s actually a push, I think from IATA, to move all airlines to a standardized barcode. Part of the reasoning for this is to allow scanning of boarding pass printed by other airlines (think code share and interline connections).

    If the bar codes for all airlines were in a standardized format, it wouldn’t be hard for the TSA to use scanners during the ID check to verify they have the correct boarding pass/person. All the TSA would need is a simple decoder program to display the data from the barcode, so airlines would have no need to worry about the TSA having access to their computer systems or pay an agent to scan passes.

  4. NickB — if the IATA is going to push a standardized barcode that actually has the name and flight number etc encoded into the barcode (al la UPS’s Maxicode) it won’t close the hole. The TSA needs to be comparing the person’s ID to the data in the record. The boarding pass should just be a way to access the record, honestly even having the person’s name on it is unnecessary..

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