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All airlines now offer bar-coded boarding passes

2D bar coded boarding passes (BCBP) have entirely replaced  the previous generation of more expensive and less efficient magnetic stripe boarding passes, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced.

"After electronic ticketing in 2008, the conversion to BCBP is the next important step to provide passengers with more convenience and choice," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director general and CEO. "Completing many tasks during the journey will now take seconds with the swipe of a bar code,"

The completion of the industry project gives passengers greater choice in checking-in at home, at a kiosk, on a mobile device or at an airport check-in counter. BCBP also allows airlines to issue a single, printed boarding pass for multiple flights, simplifying the journey for passengers with flight connections. Moreover, BCBP opens the door for automated access to premium services. For example, with a scan of a BCBP, eligible passengers can access fast-track security lanes or lounges.

"Airlines issue over 2 billion boarding passes every year. The conversion to printed 2D BCBP has been a five-year project and will save the industry up to $1.5 billion every year. With more and more airlines offering the possibility to receive the bar code via a mobile device, we are well on the way to truly paperless travel," said Bisignani.

Magnetic stripe boarding passes, which have been used since 1983, require special printers located in the airport, at a check-in desk or inside a kiosk, limiting where the passes can be issued. They also require expensive and unique paper stock.

In the 1990s, some carriers begun using one-dimensional bar codes comprising a series of parallel vertical lines, but these can only carry a limited amount of data.

The IATA industry standard established in 2005 for airlines is a two dimensional (2D) code known as PDF417, which holds more information by using patterns of squares, dots and other geometric patterns. This code allows flexibility in the size, readability of codes and is supported by many different types of scanners and printers. The printed 2D code also allows for many security and encryption features.

The industry in 2008 agreed on a bar code standard for paperless, mobile passes. The data in the printed and mobile boarding passes are the same but the look of the code on mobile devices is slightly different. Nearly 30 airlines now offer mobile BCBP and use is expected to grow significantly.

Reaching the 100 per cent BCBP goal was a joint effort of airlines, airports, service providers and IATA.

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