Glossary

Boarding Pass

A boarding pass is a document that gives a passenger permission to board the plane. It contains information about flight times, boarding times, and seat assignments for that flight.  

Is my boarding pass my ticket?

Not technically. Your boarding pass is your “ticket” to board the plane, but technically your ticket is generated as an “e-ticket,” or an electronic ticket, when you book your flight. Your boarding pass will be generated upon check-in, either online or at the check-in counter.

When will I get my boarding pass?

Boarding passes are provided at check-in, either online (online check-in is usually available 24 hours prior to the flight) or in person at a kiosk or at the check-in counter.

What information does a boarding pass include?

A boarding pass includes the legal name of the passenger and flight information including: the airline name; departure gate information; departure and arrival cities; flight numbers; departure time; boarding time; boarding group number (when applicable) and seat assignment (when applicable). There will also be a bar code (paper boarding pass) or QR code (mobile boarding pass) for scanning at the security checkpoint and when you board the plane.

How do I get my boarding pass?

If you check-in online prior to your flight, your boarding pass may be emailed to you for printing at home. You can also request a mobile boarding pass, a link for which will be emailed or texted to you. Some international flights will allow you to check-in online but you may have to visit the check-in counter to receive your boarding pass so they can verify your passport.

If you check in at the airport, you may print your boarding pass from a self-service kiosk near check-in, or an airline representative can print one for you at the check-in counter.

If you lose your pre-printed boarding pass or misplace the link, you can reprint your boarding pass when you get to the airport.

NOTE: Some airline may charge you for printing out your boarding pass at the airport (Air Asia does, for example, and Spirit Airlines will charge $10 if a Customer Service Agent prints it at the counter though using the kiosk is free). Be sure to read the fine print or you may be hit with extra charges.

Is printing out your boarding pass necessary?

If you have a mobile boarding pass, printing out your boarding pass may not be necessary. However, remember that phones can lose battery or technology may fail. To ensure timely boarding, having a paper copy is often a safe choice.

How does a mobile boarding pass work?

A mobile boarding pass is just like a paper boarding pass but it’s electronic. When you arrive at security, the TSA agent will scan your mobile boarding pass (or ask you to hold your phone over the scanner) just as they would scan a paper version. Ditto at the gate. You will still need to have a form of identification (drivers license, passport) to pass through security.

Can I use a screenshot of my mobile boarding pass?

You can use a screenshot of your mobile boarding pass; just make sure that you screenshot the entire boarding pass (QR code, seat assignment, etc.)

Can I go straight to security with mobile boarding pass?

If you’re not checking any bags, you can proceed straight to security with your ID and mobile boarding pass.

What happens if I lose my boarding pass?

If you haven’t gone through security yet, return to your airline’s check-in counter and reprint a boarding pass from the kiosk or ask an agent at the check-in desk if there are no kiosks. If you have already gone through security, go to your departure gate and ask the gate agent to reprint your boarding pass.

Can I go through TSA without a boarding pass?

You cannot go through the TSA security checkpoint without a boarding pass in either mobile or paper form. One exception is if you are accompanying a minor or disabled person and you have an escort pass.

What is an escort pass?

An “escort pass” is a pass you can request if you want to accompany a minor child or a person with a disability (age-related or not) to a departure gate. It will allow you to pass through security without a boarding pass to see your person to the gate. You can also request an escort pass if you are meeting a minor child, elderly relative, or person with a disability on a domestic flight and you want to meet them at the gate. Escort passes do not work for international flights because of Customs and Immigration.

How do I get an escort pass?

Go to the check-in ticket counter with your ID and request an escort pass. Though escort passes are not guaranteed, most airlines will issue them without any hassle.

Can I board the plane without a boarding pass?

You cannot board the plane without a printed or mobile boarding pass. If you’ve lost yours, you’ll need to ask a gate agent to reprint your boarding pass.

Does my boarding pass need to match the name on my ID?

Your boarding pass should match the first and last names on your ID or passport exactly. Some airlines don’t include middle names on boarding passes, and some run the middle and first name together. If you’ve made an error entering your name when purchasing the ticket, call the airline as soon as possible to have them correct the error.

If I’m recently married, does my boarding pass need to match my legal name?

Your boarding pass needs to match the name on your ID (or passport, for an international trip), regardless of your “legal” name. This means if you’ve recently changed your name but haven’t updated your passport yet, you should make sure to book your ticket in the name listed on your passport.

Why is it a bad idea to post a photo of my boarding pass online or on social media?

Other than the fact that you’re giving people your legal name and all of the details of your flight, there’s another reason not to post this info online. Your boarding pass contains a barcode or QR code that has all of your personal information for that flight encoded on it. Anyone with a decoder could use it to access that information.

Additionally, that barcode or QR code could contain a six-digit code called a passenger’s name record (PNR). This PNR code can give a hacker access to further personal information, allowing him or her to steal frequent flier miles, change your seat assignment, change your contact information or even change or cancel your flight reservation. If you keep credit card information stored in your airline frequent flier account, they could steal that, too. In short, it’s a bad idea.

It’s best to shred or destroy your boarding pass and luggage claim tags after your trip so that information can’t fall into the wrong hands.  

Last Updated 
May 16, 2019
Scott Keyes
Co-Founder & CEO

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Scott’s Cheap Flights in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.