Observed: Luggage, Passport … QR Code?

Boarding passes. The stress of getting them in time, or remembering to print them out before you get to the airport, and not losing them. Can QR codes replace them?

Recently I went to Midwest UX in Columbus, Ohio and flew Delta for the trip. Checking in the night before, I was presented with a screen asking if I want my boarding pass:

  • Printed
  • Emailed to me
  • Sent to my phone
  • Saved to be printed at the airport

Curious, I chose to have the boarding pass sent to my phone. What I received was a text message to the Safari page below. Immediately I was intrigued. A QR code for my boarding pass? I had never seen any additional infrastructure at the terminals to account for this? But if it saves a few sheets of papers I’ll give it a go.

The Excitement

Going through security I held up my phone to a scanner a proceeded to the metal detectors. The same, at the gate, I loaded the web page and scanned my phone as I walked down the jetway. Smooth as could be, I was pleasantly surprised as the efficiency of the process. Neither security nor the gate attendants questioned my boarding pass, it was as if they expected it. This isn’t without complications though.

Where it Failed

Despite the streamlined workflow and the pleasure of not needing to us the walk-up-and-go terminals there are still a few places my digital boarding pass fell short.

Gate Number

Scroll to the bottom of the boarding pass, the gate number states Check Monitor. This makes sense a night before my flight, but again, when I checked the page at the airport it said the same. Digital boarding passes should provide accurate and current information. Tie the boarding pass to the main system and update me, in real time, of gate information and delays if appropriate. Don’t make me use one piece of technology to hunt around for another.

iPhone Lock

I have a password lock on my phone. Add this to the iPhone screen turning off (and locking) after a minute and timing is everything. I’m in line for security – wanting to make sure I have the boarding pass up when I get to the front of the line, but I don’t know when that will be. The same when boarding the flight. I don’t want to be that guy delaying boarding and I also dont want to keep toying with my phone just to keep the screen active. There needs to be a balance.

Overall this was a new and good experience as a part of my airline travelling experience. I challenge to look at the implications of technology though. If I am saving paper, alleviating lines at check in, can I get a fast track lane as a reward for my planning? Where can we leverage analog methods within a digital realm to streamline the experience further?

David Farkas

David is an interaction(s) designer working in the online and mobile realm. He focuses on the relation between the digital and the physical. Usability, goal oriented design, and consistency are key.

One comment on this article

  1. Jayakrishnan G on

    NFC supported phones should help in the future.