Rethinking the Airline Boarding Pass

Pre-Requisite: Read Peter Smart’s Rethink The Airline Boarding Pass

Rethinking the Airline Boarding Pass

Rethinking the Airline Boarding Pass

This post has been sitting in the ‘Draft’ column for far to long, so, here we go.

I don’t want to entirely rip off Peter Smart, the author of the original article – Rethink the Airline Boarding Pass – but, rather leave my thoughts on his redesign.

Various Redesigned Airline Boarding Passes

Various Redesigned Airline Boarding Passes by Peter Smart

I forget how I originally stumbled on this article, but being extremely passionate about good design and traveling, the article has really resonated with me for (I think) years now.

Let’s face it.

Airline boarding passes are ugly as sin.

And they haven’t changed much since the inception of commercial air travel.

1986 Delta Boarding Pass

Believe it or not, this is a 1986 Delta Boarding Pass.

You could argue that boarding passes back in the 80’s were more efficient at communicating to customers than today’s passes. Clear concise design is universally loved. Especially when it comes to what is usually the high-stress act of traveling. Landing across the world with jet-lag and fumbling through your passport, customs form, and boarding pass can quickly become stressful.

My favorite part of Mr. Smart’s proposed solution is how all of the important information is sticking out of the passport. What your flight number is and what gate. I couldn’t find any statistics on the number of flights that have changed gates, but that would make this boarding pass obsolete already. Having the weather is awesome on a boarding pass. This could even be taken one step further by providing various events going on in the city, places to visit, and other places to eat.

Delta Mobile App Screenshot

Delta Mobile App

This is where mobile applications have really began to shine. Personally, I’ve been using TripIt Pro and the Delta app. I believe that the Delta app will notify you of gate changes, upgrades, and other updates to your itinerary. By having the Barclay Arrival Card+, I was granted a year of TripIt Pro for free. TripIt not only tracks your flights, but also any other reservations that you might have.

Sporting events, concerts, hotel bookings, etc – they support it and include it in their app.

TripIt Logo

TripIt Logo

In my opinion, airlines are just stuck in their old ways and are stubborn. They seem to be behind the curve in regards to good, user-centric design. Within the past couple of years, I feel like they’ve slowly been investing in making a great looking website or app. But, every consumer touchpoint should be all one cohesive experience.

JetBlue is an airline that brands themselves – The Jet Blue Experience. However, their boarding passes are still archaic.

Perhaps the next revolution in the airline industry will be unifying the design of everything. Get rid of the white-wall boarding areas, boring beige gates, and lackluster interior designs.

I think that the future of air travel will continue to become more design-centric. Users are beginning to expect more in terms of service and ease of use. Hopefully the airline boarding pass will be the first to be redesigned.



Life-Long Learner, Explorer, & Web Developer. Currently a Software Engineer at Jazz.