Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Self-Printed Boarding Passes

_DSC0841On this trip to Bangkok, I checked-in online and printed my own boarding pass. It’s not new. It started over a decade ago. I thought it had gone out of fashion, at least for some airlines, because frankly it was more hassle than regular boarding passes, or mobile boarding passes that have some to replace it. So I was pleasantly surprised that Jetstar Asia still uses self-printed boarding passes.

The very first time I used a self-printed boarding pass was over a decade ago. It was a very amusing experience.

Back then, at Changi airport, it was customary that checked-in baggages are pre-screened before you join the check-in queue. The security officers manning the Xray machines there were stunned when I presented my self-printed air ticket. One of them had to run over to the airline counter to enquire about my printout.

The check-in itself was smooth. Well, it has to be, because I’ve already checked in. I just needed to deposit my check-in baggage, and the airline staff needed to “authenticate” my self-printed boarding pass.

Now, at that time, security measures were slightly beefed up, so they actually also post-screen the carry-on baggage of passengers who were leaving the check-in area. I presented my self-printed boarding pass to the security officer, and they too were stunned like the ones earlier.

Thereafter, I proceeded toward immigration. As you know, there are also security officers there manning the checkpoint where you cross over to the passenger-only area. This is the most amusing part. I was travelling with my wife (though that was before we got married). We presented both our self-printed boarding passes together. The security officer looked at the paper with astonishment, then looked at us, and asked, “why one got colour, the other no colour?”

I answered with all solemness, “she used a colour printer, I only have a black and white printer.”

He shot back, “you mean you printed these yourself?”

Yeah, and then a small group consultation assembled before us.

We got through. At the immigration counter, the customs officer was stunned too. Every counter closed momentarily as every officer there assembled at my lane to discuss about our self-printed boarding passes.

Finally, at the boarding gate, which you know, is manned by the airline staff themselves, I though things would be rather uneventful. Everyone in front of me had regular boarding passes, and they got through painlessly as their boarding passes were read automatically (magnetic stripe back then). Yes, until my turn. My self-printed boarding pass did not have a magnetic stripe. It does have printed barcodes, but the station did not have a barcode reader. The staff had to manually enter a very long string of something on the keyboard. Maybe twice, because of typos.

Yeah. So the self-printed boarding pass was such an excitement back then.

This time, my self-printed boarding pass did not cause much difficulties. Just a little. First, the silly A4 size paper was very inconvenient to handle. I folded it. Everyone struggled to unfold it and orientate it correctly for reading. Everyone struggled briefly to locate the right spot on the paper containing the information they needed to read. Everyone struggled to assemble the clumsy paper before returning to me.

At the gate, the airline staff had to tear off a portion of the paper. It’s like how they tear off a stub from traditional boarding pass. However, it is not so easy with self-printed boarding passes since there are no perforated tear guides. It’s silly too, since it is self-printed, I could have printed extra copies for myself.

So, I think this self-printed boarding pass technology ought to be obsoleted. Move on to mobile boarding passes. Something you can put in your phone. But, please, don’t make users install yet another app. Or, use some common app platform like iOS’ passbook. Pity there isn’t one officially sanctioned by Google for Android.

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