Travelers with PDAs or cell phones may soon be able to go to the gate without any paperwork. A pilot program at O'Hare that starts this week lets some travelers skip the lengthy lines for boarding passes.
"They're already walking about with an iPod or BlackBerry . We are allowing them to a take more control and save a little more of that precious time," said Jared Miller, Continental Airlines.
Continental Airlines started the pilot program with a device that displays a boarding image that passengers can then hold their PDAs to the scanner. If it turns green, the boarding information is accurate. However, the Transportation Security Administration will still step in to insure the information matches.
"The comparison of the photo can be made with the person, the information from scanner compared to the ID, and the person is allowed to proceed through the checkpoint," said Kathleen Petrowsky, T.S.A.
A traveler from Houston who used his BlackBerry to board go through security. John Hatcher was in Chicago for business; Continental in Houston has been using paperless boarding passes for over a year.
"It keeps me from having print a boarding pass ahead of time, makes it a bit quicker," said John Hatcher, paperless passenger. "I'm an avid BlackBerry users so it was kind a natural for me to use this electronic check in."
While this advance in boarding technology may speed the process for passengers, officials say there is also security information encrypted in the image.
Officials didn't want to elaborate on those details, but say it helps keep passengers safe. "Change up the process, change up the methods which we screen individuals so that we are unpredictable. So that we are unpredictable to those who would cause harm to the system," said Petrowsky.
In Chicago, only Continental and American passengers at O'Hare can use paperless boarding passes. If the pilot programs go well, passengers may have this option at more destinations.
Airports using the paperless system: