Coming to your smartphone: airline boarding passes

McClatchy Newspapers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Paper boarding passes could become an endangered species as more airlines offer boarding passes via mobile devices, which allow you to download a bar code to your Web-enabled phone or other device in place of printing a piece of paper.

United Airlines began offering the service recently in 13 airports. The airline expects to expand to 30 others by summer. “It gives customers added convenience,” said Sarah Massier, a United spokeswoman.

American Airlines last week added 19 new airports to the eight where it already had offered the service.

Southwest is expected to debut the service soon, said Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for the airline. Continental, Delta and Alaska already offer mobile boarding passes.

No more scrambling to find a printer when you’re staying at a hotel or visiting your grandmother. Just connect to airline Web sites to check in, receive a link to a boarding pass with the bar code, click on it and save it.

At the security checkpoint and at the gate, turn on the device, such as an iPhone, and a scanner device will read the bar code. You’ll still need picture identification.

Continental Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to offer the service, beginning in December 2007. Continental now offers it in 40 cities, said Mary Clark, a spokeswoman for the airline. The service should hit its 2 millionth customer later this year, she said, and the airline is continuing to add cities.

The service has proved popular with business travelers who are flying alone and might make frequent changes or have multiple destinations, said Tim Smith of American Airlines.

“It’s great for those road warriors,” he said.