January 22, 2023

What Is A Boarding Pass

By Paul William

January 22, 2023

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links which means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through them.

A boarding pass is a document that lets you pass through airport security, board your flight, and find your proper seat assignment on the airplane.

Whether you’re taking a 2 hour domestic flight between different states, or a 12 hour widebody jet trip overseas, you’ll need a boarding pass to be allowed onto your plane.

Each boarding pass contains a unique 2D bar code (or QR code) that will be scanned as you pass through the airport security checkpoint, and again as you board your flight.

When can I get my boarding pass?

You will get your boarding pass when you check in for your flight, either online or in person. Check-in usually opens up 24 hours prior to a flight departure time. However, this timeframe may vary depending on the airline’s policies and whether you’re flying domestically or internationally.

Also note that this 24 hour checking period is unrelated to the other “24-hour rule” that allows you to cancel your ticket within 24 hours of booking with no fee if it meets certain criteria.

It’s always a good idea to verify the specific check-in requirements for your airline to ensure a smooth travel experience.

How do I get my boarding pass?

man at an airport check in kiosk printing a hard copy of his boarding pass

If you purchased your airline ticket online, you may be wondering how you get your boarding pass. There are several options depending on your preference and destination:

  1. Electronic: When you check in online, the airline will generally let you download a mobile boarding pass to your phone. You’ll usually receive a unique link via a text or email that facilitates this process.
  2. Print at home: If you have a printer, you can just print it out and be done with it. Be sure to double-check your departure gate information when you arrive at the airport, as it can change frequently and your ticket may no longer have the correct information.
  3. Print at the airport: All major airlines now utilize self-service check-in kiosks that will allow you to pull up your reservation, check bags, and print boarding passes. There are also check-in agents who can assist you, but some budget/foreign airlines may charge a small fee for in-person assistance.

Note for international flights: you’ll likely need to pick up your boarding passes at the airport, as check-in agents are required to confirm that your passport is valid.

What is on a boarding pass?

example of a boarding pass

A standard boarding pass will contain the following information:

  • Passenger name
  • Airline name and logo
  • Fare Class (distinguishes between basic economy, economy, business, first-class, etc)
  • Sequence number (on some airlines, the boarding pass will show how many people checked in before you for your flight)
  • Barcode/QR Code
  • Departure gate (changes often so be sure to double-check)
  • Departure/Arrival city
  • Departure/Arrival time
  • Boarding time
  • Boarding group (Usually a number 1-5)
  • Seat number (not always applicable on budget/regional carriers)

Can you print boarding passes at home? Should I print it at home?

For domestic flights, you can almost always print your tickets at home — as long as you still have a printer!

Many travelers have switched to mobile boarding passes, but with a paper ticket, you never have to worry about your phone running out of battery at the wrong time.

For international flights, you’ll likely need to print your boarding pass at the airport, since you’ll need to show a valid passport.

Can I show my boarding pass on a phone?

Yes — in most cases, you’ll be given the option to download an electronic version of your boarding pass after you check in for your flight. This is an acceptable practice and will allow you to pass through security and board your flight.

Travelers who opt for a mobile boarding pass will need to show their phones at security and again at the boarding gate — so be sure to bring a charging cable if your battery is running low.

The same electronic scanner that is used by gate agents for paper tickets also has the ability to scan your phones screen.

What if I have an electronic boarding pass but my phone dies?

This is an unfortunate (yet common) occurrence at the airport nowadays. If you have no way of quickly charging your phone, speak to a gate agent or check-in agent as soon as possible and they will reprint your pass after you show them proper identification.

Is the Gate on my Boarding Pass correct?

If you notice the gate listed on your boarding pass appears to be wrong, then it is probably wrong. Due to flights arriving ahead of (or behind) schedule, air traffic controllers often route planes to different gates or terminals.

It’s highly recommended to check the electronic departure screens at the airport, as these will have the most up-to-date information. If there becomes too much confusion, you can always ask any airline gate agent, who should be more than happy to assist you.

What if I lose my boarding pass?

Speak to an airline agent asap so they can provide you with a new pass. Remember to bring your ID or Passport as they will need to confirm you are who you say.

How can I board the plane without a boarding pass?

You cannot board a commercial airline flight without a boarding pass. If you lose your pass or leave it at home, speak to an airline employee immediately for assistance.

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