Rethinking the Boarding Pass

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Ever wondered how air travel has changed so much in recent memory, but there's one stubborn element which has stood the test of time? The title gives the game away - I'm thinking of the boarding pass.

Jason Dunn Boarding Pass
© Jason Dunn
The advent of smartphones, on-line checking-in, low-cost airlines shaping (read: coercing) our pre-flight behaviour, and increasingly being directed to interact with electronic machines at every step and turn at airports by airline staff would lead you to think that this a moot topic or indeed the paper boarding-pass as a whole is obsolete. But have you ever thought to yourself what happens if I lose my phone or it runs out of battery - what of my mobile boarding pass then? Or I like the comfort of a tangible boarding pass in my hand instead of a flimsy print-out. Or as is often the case when I travel, I've checked in on-line, printed off my boarding pass, and at the baggage drop, they issue me a classic one anyway! And let's face it, not every country or traveller has embraced the digital version.

Tyler Thompson Boarding Pass
© Tyler Thompson
From a design point of view, for such an ubiquitous and essential document, the opportunities to reinvent and rethink the boarding pass to positively impact the experience of millions of people have perhaps been passed by in the face of technological innovations such as the ones referred to above. Nonetheless, it still should be in my view and I have come across some very interesting and well-thought out redesigns, which I'd like to share and hopefully one day (in the not so distant future) we'll have gracing the middle page of our passports while we're browsing duty-free.
Alex Chen Boarding Pass
© Alex Chen

Alex Chen, a university student at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, redesigned the Air Canada boarding pass (above) to enhance the hierarchy of what is most important to what is least important. A relatively small change, but with a significant impact.

        Peter Smart Boarding Pass
© Peter Smart
Peter Smart's redesign is perhaps one you've already seen before (left). He strips away the strangely ordered acronyms, oddly formatted times and indecipherable numbers and sequences - replacing them with clearly stated essentials and useful bits of information such as what type of seat you have (aisle, window or middle), the weather at your destination, and the time difference from your point of departure.

The perennial problem of your pass bending, fraying or the boarding portion being mistakenly detached have also been fixed with a simple resizing that complements the length and width of your passport - with just the top of the boarding pass visible to remind you of your flight number and gate.

Adam Glynn-Finegan (below) presents key information based on when they are likely to chronologically become useful. He wanted to provide answers to questions in the order that they would likely arise in your mind such as 'What time do I fly?', 'What gate do I leave from?', and Which boarding group am I in?' Similar to Peter Smart's design, where exactly your seat is situated is a helpful guide to avoid any confusion once on the plane. How passengers still manage to find and sit in the wrong seat (especially when it's mine) never ceases to amaze me!

Adam Glynn-Finegan Boarding Pass
© Adam Glynn-Finegan
What's even more fantastic about these designs is that they are still exactly the same standard dimensions of the old boarding pass - no new printers, cards or costs! I'm convinced, here's hoping the powers that be are equally convinced very soon too.

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