Mag-Stripe Airline Boarding Passes Are a Thing of the Past

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Magnetic stripe airline boarding passes will be joining paper tickets in history museums, according to the director general of the airlines' worldwide trade association. They've been overtaken by newer barcode technology.


Giovanni Bisignani, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said airlines and airports worldwide have achieved 100% adoption of 2D bar-coded boarding passes.

Unlike 1D barcodes, which consist of straight lines like UPC codes scanned in supermarkets, the 2D version includes squares, dots and other geometric patterns -- which enables the barcode to contain much more information than a magnetic stripe.

With 2D barcodes, airline passengers can check in for flights on a PC, at an airport kiosk or on a mobile device, such as a smart phone or PDA.

About 30 airlines worldwide are already moving towards the next step of eliminating the paper boarding pass altogether in favor of sending the 2D barcode image to passengers' mobile devices.

Bisignani said the newer technology also opens the door for automated access to fast-track security lanes, airport lounges and other premium services.

Plus, it saves money for the airlines.

The old magnetic stripe boarding pass required special printers and special paper. The 2D barcode can be printed on regular computer paper using a home printer.

The five-year conversion project required a joint effort by the world's airlines and more than 2,000 airports.

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