AA Boarding Pass & iPhone

I was travelling yesterday to San Antonio. An all-day, down and back.

Last week I went to Houston via Southwest Air and had Twittered I wanted to use my iPhone as my boarding pass. Their gate agent wasn’t playing along. So, had to use the paper ticket. (What they do with those is anyone’s guess).

But, yesterday, I prepared to try it again only this time with American Airlines. The morning flights to Dallas and then on to San Antonio were packed. So, I didn’t want to be the one to cause a ruckus. On the way back (San Antonio to Dallas) I asked the gate agent if he thought the PDF of my boarding pass would scan. He said, “I don’t know. Let’s try it.”

And, it worked great!

I asked him if AA had tried rolling anything like that out yet. He said not to his knowledge. He was impressed in the quality of the resolution of the barcode. Then a couple of other guys huddled around and got to thinking their Blackberry’s could display PDFs too… So, who knows… Maybe if enough of us show up and wave our gizmos under the boarding scanners…

I asked the AA gate agent what they did with the paper tickets they sometimes retain and he indicated they were for “audit” of some kind or other.

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31 Comments on “AA Boarding Pass & iPhone”


  1. [...] uses his iPhone’s web browser displaying his PDF’ed boarding pass to get on his flight (via [...]

  2. Sebastien Says:

    I tried this many times with different airlines without success. I am pretty sure you were lucky to find the right guy. This guy probably didn’t do his job right as I am certain they need to see a paper ticket at the gate (which of course is totally 1982 to me….).

  3. Ken Kniskern Says:

    Hey Gerald! Saw your article linked on TUAW. Nice!

    Hope all is well in T-Town, and that Jim is taking care of you in the store up there. If not, let me know and Ill give him a sound beating.

    Cheers!


  4. Sebastien – I think it’s a matter of time before the airlines, grocery stores and a lot of other places get over their technology phobias and open up to the possibilities their customers are interested in.

    I can’t tell you how many heart palpitations I’ve had over the years by temporarily misplacing by boarding passes. The message I hope this sends is mobile devices (specifically, but not limited to, the iPhone) are capable of a good many things AND come with some “green” benefits (ie. no paper).

    Whether the guy was doing his job right or not shouldn’t matter. In a day and age where the airlines are taking it in the shorts everytime they turn around… Someone at the counter doing ANYTHING to create a positive relationship with a customer should be put in charge of the joint! :) Kudos to this guy.

  5. Brendan West Says:

    Actually, according to The Times, Continental has begun a pilot program (har. No, actually, it’s only for nonstop flights out of Houston) to use BlackBerries as boarding passes. And if BlackBerries, why not iPhones?


  6. Air Canada has actually been running a program like this for some time, where they just send a link to a barcode to your BlackBerry OR mobile phone. I haven’t yet used it, namely for the reason that I’m never quite sure if the security agents would accept it, and I’m also wondering how to submit the boarding pass then for my expense claims. Digital photo perhaps???

  7. imaG Says:

    Hey I live in SA. and thats cool. I think my phone can display PDF. ill have to try that oen day. <3

    - http://www.anythingblack.net

  8. TranceMist Says:

    And you got past TSA without a piece of paper?


  9. @Trance – Absolutely not! I presented my PRINTED ticket/boarding pass to TSA. I just wanted to see if the gate would be able scan my iPhone presented boarding pass. Answer was an emphatic “YES!” when the green light dinged.

    So, to be 100% clear. I’m not on any kind of fast track program to get through TSA. I have to do it the same way the vast majority of everyone else. Proper credentials, shoes off, metallic objects out, no containers with fluids over 3 oz. All that.

    I just had a curiosity about the scanning at the gate.


  10. [...] Finally. Something my iPhone CAN’T do. April 25th, 2008 My iPhone continues to amaze me. I’ve had it literally since “day 1″ and I still discover new uses for it. For example, I learned this week that it can be used as a boarding pass. [...]


  11. [...] while ago I read this post (linked from here) which tells about how Gerald Buckley had successfully used his iphone to display [...]


  12. [...] your iPhone as a boarding pass I saw this interesting post on Gerald Buckely’s blog: he tried to use his iPhone as an e-boarding pass on a flight from San Antonio to Dallas. And [...]


  13. [...] This fellow managed to get an American Airlines attendant to successfully read a bar code from a PDF of his boarding pass on his iPhone. [...]


  14. [...] cell phones will follow. Now there is news of the iPhone being used to board a plane. Blogger Gerald Buckley writes about how he was allowed to board an American Airlines flight from San [...]

  15. killer's dad Says:

    Heck, I’ve been using my iPhone barcodes at ticketing kiosks since July 1, 2007. What’s the big deal? A barcode reader inside security is different than barcode readers outside the secured area?

    But I’m not about to let the TSA guys stamp and initial my hand!


  16. [...] This blogger was able to display the pdf file of his boarding pass on his iPhone and it scanned properly so that he could board his plane. It worked with American Airlines but not Southwest: http://gwhiz.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/aa-boarding-pass-iphone/ [...]


  17. [...] e-tickets. And now it seems that all you need is your mobile device to get boarded onto a plane. One man reports that he used his iPhone to get a boarding pass. All he had to do was have a PDF version of the [...]


  18. I’m actually quite surprised that this worked, but for reasons that most of the commenters have overlooked: as I understand it, the predominant means of barcode scanning is not compatible with LCD screens.

    Traditional barcode scanners rely on reflectivity to differentiate the black lines of a barcode from the whitespace; however, I believe the difference measurable by a laser scanner between black and white reflectivity is greatly reduced when a barcode is displayed on a screen.

    It could be that the scanner used was an image scanner, and not a laser scanner, which might explain why it worked at all.

  19. Ron Says:

    See here a video on some solutions with our reading- and validation equipment in the Airline Space as we showed it on the Passenger Terminal Expo in Amsterdam last April:

    The technology behind it is imager based with all sorts of software- and optical enhancements.

    Cheers, Ron

  20. Ron Says:

    Btw. IATA has set a global standard for mobile ticketing but this is not including the PDF417 barcode, this is the barcode standard for e-tickets:
    http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/2007-11-10-01.htm


  21. Good to know Ron. I’m really familiar with IATA from my days as GM at Thrifty.com. Glad to hear they’ve nominated the standard. Wish it would be adopted broadly across the chain of events (TSA, websites, et al)

  22. Trae Says:

    FYI, I used to get free movie coupons from Blockbuster and didn’t want to print them out all the time so I just set up a link to them in my Blackberry and they scanned just fine.

  23. passingby Says:

    here in japan you can just use your mobile phone for everything including the boarding pass thing too.
    but if we loose it, then we loose everything too!

  24. scott Says:

    I live in Brisbane, Australia. I regularly use my blackberry as a ticket. for example, when I pre-purchase movie tickets online, I open the emailed confirmation straight from the blackberry.
    The ticket person then just scans the barcode striaght from the device.
    Although, I have found that this will not scan if you have a screen protector on the device.

  25. Jorge Says:

    That’s an interesting and cool use of the iPhone :) But I don’t really think that many guys would have said “Let’ try it”.

  26. Man Called E Says:

    The reader who mentioned the “image scanner” had it right. A traditional laser scanner will not read an LCD screen. Imagers (basically small, low res camera) seem to read LCD displays very easily.

    Motorola DS series scanners work well for this, and many of them off Bluetooth connectivity.

  27. albusicailuex Says:

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  28. albusicailuex Says:

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  29. albusicailuex Says:

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