BLOG: Anatomy of a Boarding Pass

Though each airline’s boarding pass may be laid out a bit differently and the layout may vary from printed pass to mobile device, there are several basic pieces of information that make up your boarding pass. Here’s what they mean, what you need to know about each and why you should just toss away your used boarding pass.

NAME FIELD
Did you know that almost all airline systems have only two name fields? One is surname and the other is first. This means in many cases where your ticket has a middle initial or full middle name, it will run together with your first name (e.g. Rachel Ellen Smith becomes SMITH/RACHELELLEN). Do not panic when you see it presented this way – it’s the way the airlines expect to see it.

PRECHECK DESIGNATION
If you have signed up for and been awarded TSA PreCheck, you will see a notation on your boarding pass. Generally it’s found along the top but the location can vary by airline. If you don’t see the notation on our pass it can be because of a number of reasons which can include:

  • Your PreCheck membership has expired.
  • Your PreCheck (Known Traveler Number) hasn’t been added to your frequent flyer membership or reservation. It’s highly recommended that once you’ve obtained TSA PreCheck, that you enter that number into your frequent flyer account.
  • The name on your ticket and your TSA PreCheck/frequent flyer membership names do not match. To ensure a higher rate of success, every account which contains your name and seen by an airline, hotel or car vendor should match what your reservations will be issued under.
  • The airport you are flying out of does not have a TSA PreCheck lane.
  • You have been selected for SSSS – Secondary Security Screening Selection. It is uncommon, but it does happen.
  • The Transportation Security Administration states that even though you’ve purchased PreCheck and cleared screening, you are not guaranteed the amenity each and every time.

MEMBERSHIP STATUS
If you are enrolled in an airline’s frequent flyer membership program, it will likely list your level of status on the boarding bass. This makes it easy for gate personnel to identify your eligibility to board early, if applicable.

FLIGHT INFORMATION
Each leg of your trip is divided onto a separate boarding pass. The information included is your flight number, origin and destination information, boarding time, departure time and potentially your expected arrival time.

SEAT INFORMATION
Also featured on your boarding pass is your assigned seat number for that particular leg of your journey. There also may be additional details regarding your seat type such as the cabin (e.g. coach) or if it’s a specialty seat (e.g. economy plus).

BOARDING GROUP
Almost every airline splits travelers into various boarding groups. Some people have elevated status within the airline’s membership program or have booked a first class/business cabin that allows early boarding. Additionally, airlines offer passengers who need extra time (e.g. families with small children, physically impaired travelers, etc.) the option to board early. The rest of the passengers are then split into different boarding groups. What group you land in can also be defined by the type of ticket you buy – Basic Economy, the no frills, no seats, no overhead bin space fare, means you’ll be boarding in that last group.

CONFIRMATION NUMBER
In some cases the airlines also print your airline confirmation number on your boarding pass. This can be different than the record locator provided to you by your travel advisor if you booked with one. Also included may be your actual electronic ticket number.

BAR CODE
BCBP (bar-coded boarding pass) is utilized by over 200 airlines and is used during the boarding process by the gate agents. In recent years there have been repeated warnings about destroying your boarding pass as you would your credit card statement.  The reason is the code contains personal information such as your name, flight information, frequent flyer number, etc. While it would take some ingenuity, it’s not worth the risk to you to just toss it in the trash.