Houston, Texas - Passengers will be able to board flights using just a cell phone or personal digital assistant instead of a boarding pass in a three-month pilot program launched Tuesday at Houston's Intercontinental Airport.
If the test is successful, the program could expand nationwide.
Continental Airlines and the Transportation Security Adminstration will let passengers board planes starting Tuesday without a paper boarding pass. Instead, passengers will show a code the airline has sent to their cell phone or PDA.
The two-dimensional bar code stores the passenger's name and flight information. A TSA screener will confirm the bar code's authenticity by scanning it with a special handheld device. Passengers still need to show photo identification.
“We have been in favor of this for a long time and had fairly consistent dialogue with TSA on our desire to do this," Mark Bergsrud, a Continental executive, told the Houston Chronicle. "We were ready technically and we are pretty nimble with our ability to develop software and test it.”
The pilot program will initially be limited to Continental flights at Houston Intercontinental.
While Continental will be the first airline in the USA to try the technology, it's not new to North America. Air Canada has been offering paperless boarding to customers who check in using a cell phone or PDA since September.
Air Canada introduced the technology as part of broader initiatives aimed at simplifying travel and replacing paper with electronic documents. “Our customers love the new service,” Air Canada spokesman John Reber said Tuesday.
The number of fliers using the new procedure has doubled each week since Air Canada launched the option, Reber says. Most people who use the electronic boarding pass use it with a PDA, such as a Blackberry or Treo.