Home Airports The Pros & Cons of Printed vs. Electronic Boarding Passes

The Pros & Cons of Printed vs. Electronic Boarding Passes

by joeheg

We have a difference of opinion in our household about the necessity of printing a boarding pass. While I’m satisfied with pulling up the pass on the airlines’ app, the digital wallet on my phone or from a text message link, Sharon still prefers printing out our boarding passes before a trip.

Some things aren’t worth fighting about so I print passes when I can. It’s gotten to the point where I even print a boarding pass for flights I’m taking myself.

When we’re on the road, it’s occasionally a different story.

Most hotels have a business center, or at least a computer available, for you to print out your boarding passes. Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn or Candlewood Suites usually has a PC for guest use.

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The only problem is if the printer is out of ink or paper or if it refuses to connect to the computer. For privacy’s sake, I always wipe clear the browser cache when I’m done, just in case.

When we were staying in London at the Great Northern Hotel, they didn’t have a business center so the front desk staff helped us check in from their computer and printed the passes. A little too hands-on approach for me but I needed to check in.

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I had an issue at another hotel that didn’t have a business center. I asked the front desk if they had a way to print a boarding pass. They didn’t but said I could email the document to them and they would print it for me. Um, that seems like a little too much work, and I’m not sure how to email a boarding pass, anyway. I mean, I checked and there wasn’t an option on my phone. I’d have to get out my laptop. Forget it.

I have apps for the airlines on my phone and can see my pass when I add it to my phone’s wallet. But what about Sharon’s boarding pass? I checked and she doesn’t have all the airlines’ apps ON her phone. We’d have to download it and then set up her account, which means looking up her password, which I don’t have handy. Or I could do both on my phone but then we’d be standing at the gate with me swiping one pass and then the other.

I can always go to one of the self-service kiosks at the airport to (re)print our boarding passes but this seems like a whole bunch of trouble just to have a piece of paper.

I do see the advantage of having a pass printed. What if my phone dies? What if the airline computers have problems or their website or app crashes? Having the pass printed is a good backup plan.

What do you do?

How about you? Are you a Luddite who still prints your boarding pass when flying or are you a techie who just scans the boarding pass from your watch when getting onto the plane?

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43 comments

Aron October 23, 2018 - 5:34 pm

I go digital… I love having my boarding pass on my Apple Watch. However, if I check a bag at curbside, they always print my boarding pass even when I tell them I’ve already got a mobile boarding pass on my phone!

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MEM August 1, 2022 - 6:34 am

I print out all boarding passes and also have airline apps.
Don’t want any boarding system going down and you can’t get on the plane.

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Just some traveler August 3, 2022 - 12:04 am

I usually take a moment to print one just in case. Just because my phone usually works doesn’t mean it always does. I frequently have issues getting any cell service near the gates at LAX and SFO.

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John Reber August 5, 2022 - 12:06 am

After a bad experience at the gate, I now overkill it. I always use the boarding pass on the airline’s app and take a photo with my phone camera, but I also print one at the kiosk at the airport just to be safe.

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amy October 25, 2018 - 12:34 pm

Always print it out-and have it in the airline’s app in my phone too.

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Melanie June 9, 2019 - 11:25 am

I see both sides, I love going digital, but I always like a backup just in case something goes wrong and I always seem to have a black cloud over my head!

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Steven Kasower August 1, 2022 - 3:32 pm

If I don’t print it at the hotel, I print it at the self-check in kiosk at the airport. I carry both electronic and paper versions …cheap insurance.

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Devon August 3, 2022 - 2:02 pm

I usually check-in on the phone and go to airport with full battery and print boarding pass on the kiosk in the airport. It works for me.

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StAugustine November 17, 2019 - 6:37 pm

I’m an old guy. I remember going to the airport with a paper ticket! I always print out a physical boarding pass because, well, you have to have that piece of paper. Then it stays in my carryon and I use my phone.

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Me November 17, 2019 - 6:44 pm

Most gate scanners are not designed to have you wrist stuffed in. Don’t ask me how I get to know it LOL

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Cathy August 1, 2022 - 1:20 pm

My husband will check us in on his phone then screen shoot my pass and text it to me. I have it in my text messages and photos

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Marlene August 3, 2022 - 11:22 am

We do the same!! Works very well

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Carl WV November 17, 2019 - 7:03 pm

I’ve waited behind people that have their app time out, or they lose connection, or whatever. Nothing is going to happen to my printed pass as long as I don’t lose it (and then I’ll try the app).

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Jon Ben November 17, 2019 - 7:14 pm

Heres the thing, you can always print it up in the airport if your phone dies.

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Carl WV November 17, 2019 - 11:21 pm

Would that require going back to ticketing and through security or can they do it right at your gate?

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John August 1, 2022 - 3:39 pm

Don’t you need your confirmation number or some other info that’s probably only on your phone that died?

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INDcornDog November 17, 2019 - 7:56 pm

Recently, while in flight, I was approached by the flight attendant and asked to show my boarding pass. Seems there was some doubt I was in my reserved seat. The airline, Spirit, does not offer in-flight Wi-Fi service. I was so glad that I had printed my boarding pass and was able to show it to the attendant to verify my seat.

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Ron November 17, 2019 - 8:42 pm

Print. In many airports it is needed to get through immigration.

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Ray November 17, 2019 - 9:01 pm

Take a picture of your digital boarding pass with your smartphone. Then you don’t need to worry dodgy about WiFi connections.

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Gizmosdad November 17, 2019 - 9:19 pm

I use the electronic boarding pass on my phone, but I take a screen shot of it as soon as I check in. That way if there are future connectivity issues, I still have an image of my boarding pass on my phone.
If I am doing a complicated set of international flights, I do print out boarding passes from an airport kiosk “just in case”

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Davinder August 1, 2022 - 9:52 pm

I take the screenshot and send to whatsapp then it is always there if you don’t have wi-fi

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Toys Samurai (@ToysSamurai) November 17, 2019 - 10:43 pm

Not only do I print mine, I also keep a PDF copy in my Google Drive available for offline viewing, in addition to using the airline app.

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Tony November 18, 2019 - 12:14 am

i feel like the only people who print boarding passes are the ones who like to take pictures of it to brag where theyre going or that they’re flying business/first class

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Frank November 18, 2019 - 12:29 pm

I love the convenience of the app, but if you ever have a problem with the miles crediting correctly, you will need to provide a copy of your boarding pass. I always take a screenshot of my boarding pass and keep it until the miles are credited just in case.

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Jinxed_K November 18, 2019 - 12:33 pm

Digital if I can, but some foreign airlines don’t have apps that I can bring up a boarding pass in that I can use with a NA based login or FF account so I end up checking in and printing the boarding pass at the airport.

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Guflyer November 24, 2019 - 8:56 am

For some for many itineraries, a mobile boarding pass is not an option.

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Margaret August 1, 2022 - 3:52 am

I use the mobile boarding pass and take a screenshot of it.
This way I can turn off wifi and “unplug” even before boarding.

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Mango August 1, 2022 - 9:06 am

Go for Digital, use your Face as boarding pass. No need print anymore or store in app. It’s the new trend I’m always using that now when I need to travel.

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Justina Hamberg August 1, 2022 - 11:02 am

I take a screenshot of my mobile boarding pass, so it’s available to me if i lose internet. But I do like having the printed pass in case I lose my phone or the battery dies before I can charge my phone.

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Lance August 1, 2022 - 11:27 am

I do both. The very first time I tried to go digital, I had the airline app and my boarding pass working. Got to the security line, opened the app and no boarding pass. Tried to reload and any other option I could think of quickly and nothing. I did have the printed on as backup as if wad my first try at digital but that turned me off of digital for a while. I’ve used digital more recently with no issues and I can always get a pass printed at the kiosks if something goes wrong. I almost never print passes at home anymore and I have never printed passes at a hotel

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Stephen M August 1, 2022 - 11:33 am

And then there are the situations the airline wants a boarding pass as proof of travel.

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Jo August 1, 2022 - 3:49 pm

I prefer the paper, simply because I get tired of constantly entering my phone’s unlock code. It seems that the TSA or gate agent always gets distracted or interrupted when I have the screen up, and I have to unlock the screen a couple of times before it gets scanned. But copy on the phone is a good backup if something happens to the pinted copy.

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Samuel smith August 2, 2022 - 8:52 am

Does anyone have any experience via a vis operational upgrades with boarding cards or checking in online?

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B August 3, 2022 - 11:19 am

I love digital, but after cracking my phone screen the day before I returned home on my last vacation, I would definitely keep a printed copy on standby just in case. I had to wait in a long line to get mine manually printed at the airport because the scanner couldn’t read my pass anymore. 😒

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JT August 3, 2022 - 6:37 pm

We used to be a “paper printout only” household as my husband didn’t trust the electronic means but we’ve slowly migrated to digital / in-app passes as generally now most major airlines’ apps are more or less reliable. In the early days of using digital, we would still have back up printouts, which did come in handy a few times when the apps wouldn’t work or the equipment wouldn’t scan. Now we generally just use digital but have one or more digital means (screenshot, saving barcode to Google Pay or similar “wallet,” emailing it ourselves during the check in process so the PDF boarding pass can be accessed another way if the app is not working, etc.) I remember one time with a Spirit flight NOT printing because the hotel couldn’t and Spirit charges for paper, but of course that day it wouldn’t work in the app or the reader so she sent me to the kiosk and I had to explicitly make sure I wouldn’t be charged since it was their issue.

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Tony N August 2, 2022 - 9:02 am

Seems like such a trivial thing to write a whole lot about. But yes, I print, at the kiosk. I have boarding passes from years ago!. LOL.

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Donna T. August 2, 2022 - 9:18 am

I’ve always had a habit of printing out 3 copies of everything …flight schedule, boarding pass, hotel reservations , tickets to attractions. I put one copy in my checked luggage, one copy left at home for others to check and one copy in a folder I carry with me in my carry on. I also keep stuff in a travel folder on One Drive.

I’ll still use my phone apps for everything but I don’t trust it to be working when I’m desperate for it to work. Just took a cruise where your booking docs were in your app. Problem was area was overloaded and no one could get a cell signal to use the app. Which is why I have backups.

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That Guy August 2, 2022 - 12:03 pm

Title: “THE PROS & CONS OF VS. PRINTED VS. ELECTRONIC BOARDING PASSES.

I always print a copy for backup in case I get delayed, phone charger doesn’t work, phone gets lost, phone falls in the toilet on the first of 3 flights….. etc.

And if you can’t figure out how to print a boarding pass from your phone, how are you able to bring up said boarding pass when needed?

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William Hugh Murray August 2, 2022 - 3:31 pm

I am trying to be paperless, cashless, cardless, and contactless. As often as not I now leave home without so much as a credit card. Friday I will board the Bridgeport Ferry using the QR tag on the pdf of my ticket.

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Jonathan Mohney August 3, 2022 - 7:22 pm

I see all these people using digital apps having to find the ticket on their phone, resize it, adjust the brightness, have their phone go to sleep. Paper copy is so easy to pull out and scans correctly the first time. It goes so much smoother especially if you have luggage you are carrying.

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Kent Michitsch August 4, 2022 - 9:46 am

I like to have a “just in case” back up and always get a printout. I will always get it at the airport kiosk since I always arrive in plenty of time before my flight. I also use this opportunity to check seating in case any better seats have opened up.

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Sammy August 4, 2022 - 1:53 pm

You do not need the airlines’s app or an account to get your boarding pass,all you need is the last name and the reference #.

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Robert August 4, 2022 - 8:11 pm

Don’t forget the print at home or mobile pass will not work if your gate has changed, plane has changed or a hundred other reasons and you get the invalid boarding pass message. Printed from the kiosk will never fail and can be checked by hand in case of a network problem. Whenever there is a problem I happily walk around the mobile passes and enjoy my flight.

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