It’s time to

Rethink the airline
boarding pass

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I’ve boarded 14 planes in the
last two months

There is something thrilling about flying – soaring thousands of miles at unimaginable speed around the globe. However, somewhere between check-in and boarding, I realised something:

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Boarding passes are pretty awful.

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The Problem

You’re standing in an airport.

For many, airports can feel overwhelming. In a busy, fast-moving environment, knowing where you need to be, at what time and how to navigate the airport labyrinth is crucial. Therefore this should be as simple and stress free as possible…

The problem is, it isn’t.

Information

Take a look at your boarding pass. You want to know where you need to be and how to get there – your boarding pass should quickly and simply communicate your next steps. The problem is, it doesn’t. What you’re looking at is a collection of strangely ordered acronyms, oddly formatted times and numbers and sequences that demand significant attention to decipher.

You’re feeling jet-lagged, you start to feel uncertain and you’re not sure where to head amongst the thousands of other passengers trying to reach their gate. Surely something so crucial should be simpler?

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Format

Now you’re heading in the right direction. You’ve tucked your boarding card into your passport and put it away. The frustrating thing is that the pass sits extended out of both ends of your passport. So, when you’re trying to remember your gate – or retrieve your card for the third set of security – it gets caught in your pocket, bends in your bag or falls out of your wallet.

Boarding passes need to be kept safe. Their current format makes this difficult to do.

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Three key users

Boarding passes are highly functional tools, used by both passengers and airline staff to successfully ferry passengers from airline desk to plane seat. They contain complex data, each line communicating important information to one or more sets of users. They’re used by three, distinct user groups:

1. Passengers
2. Airline Staff
3. Machines

Therefore, my solution could not simply be passenger focussed. It must be user focussed – meeting the distinct needs of both traveller and operator.

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What If..?

At over 80 hours in the air, I stopped accepting the pieces of paper I was being given and started asking questions.

What if key information was more accessible?

What if boarding passes felt less awkward to handle?

What if boarding passes added value to your travel?

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Key Limitations

In order to be executed as a seamlessly as possible, I was determined for my solution to be tailored to and limited by existing constraints:

Information

The solution must look to try and include all information carried on an existing boarding pass.

Format

The result must use the same, standard dimensions of an airline boarding pass.

Colour

My solution must be printed using only black ink to use existing boarding pass printers and not increase cost implications of printing.

What if a boarding pass made your life easier?

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Clear hierarchy

Information is presented logically so you can quickly see what you need to.

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Legible information

Users need to see quickly and act confidently. Care has been taken to space and group information well.

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Simple structure

A simple three column grid keeps information well structured.

A boarding pass that fits your passport

Format

Wherever you keep your boarding pass, you’ll have taken it out and put it away multiple times before the gate. Traditional passes tend to get stuck and bend because they’re too long for your passport.

What if your boarding pass naturally folded to the size of your passport? No more bends or breaks. Just simple reuse of the existing perforation.

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What you need. At a glance.

Rather than having to take out your entire boarding pass when trying to remember your flight number, what if key information was just a glance away? This is helpful when trying to distinguish between multiple boarding passes too.

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Same size. New orientation.

Your boarding pass uses the same, standard dimensions of a old boarding pass. No new printers or cards – just a portrait orientation to reduce line length of information and make it easier to find and read.

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What if a boarding pass made things simpler?

A helpful hierarchy.

What if information was laid out logically in chronological order? A simple grid makes information easy to read and quick to act on.

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Will I need my coat ready?

Travel is simpler when you know what to expect. What if your boarding pass tipped you on the weather, or how far to wind your watch on?

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Once you’re aboard

Once you’ve gone through your gate, you’ll be left with your stub. What if it didn’t just let you know your seat number, but what kind of seat you’ll be sat in too?

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A simple framework

Although each airline will have its own unique information, used by passengers and ground-crew alike, imagine a consistent experience – one that is immediately understandable, no matter who you’re flying with.

Innovation starts when you ask simple questions

These ideas are the result of 14 flights, 14 boarding passes and one, simple question: “How could this experience be better? The solution is by no means perfect and further iterations will see greater levels of refinement. However, as designers our aim should be to question what is otherwise accepted – a relentless mission to better, simplify and improve the experiences of other people.

Innovation starts with a natural distrust of the status quo. When you’re prepared to start asking simple questions of everyday things – the world is suddenly full of possibilities.

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