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TSA signs off on paperless boarding

On-screen bar-codes replacing boarding passes

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The US Transport Security Administration says it has successfully completed tests of electronic boarding passes sent to mobile phones as bar-codes, setting the stage for expanded use of the technology.

The passes have been in use at a few airports around the USA, including deployments by Delta Airlines at LaGuardia (New York) and Alaska Airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International, USA Today reports.

Japan has had paperless boarding passes for a long time, thanks to a Felica application that utilises the short-range radio technology built into some models of phone. However, with no dominant operator who also happens to own a bank and dictate handset features, the USA has had to adopt a more device-independent approach - thus the use of bar-codes sent over the cellular network or email.

While traditional airlines still tend to use cardboard boarding passes, low-cost airlines moved to "bog-roll" thermal paper years ago. EasyJet even reuses boarding passes on some flights. The airline also managed to get sponsorship on its sick bags, demonstrating an admirable business savvy.

Compared to such compromises, sending a bar code to a mobile phone makes complete sense, saving costs and being environmentally sound. But it won't resolve disputes over seating when no one involved is allowed to switch their phone on to check. ®

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