Later this year (hopefully) we have a flight on China Eastern. If we check in on line can we go through security with a boarding pass that is printed on our home printer? At this time the flight is still scheduled because it isn't until September 2020.

  • Won't you have bags to check in? – jcaron Apr 9 at 14:01
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    @jcaron: Your point being... ? – Sean Apr 9 at 20:11
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    @Sean that when you check in bags they will often print out a boarding pass even if you checked in online (though that varies a bit depending on the airline). – jcaron Apr 9 at 20:16
  • @jcaron: 1) often =\= always; 2) people don't always have checked baggage (usually, but, again, not always). – Sean Apr 9 at 20:19
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    No, not always, but on a long haul flight like that, with a question asked by someone who is most probably not a frequent traveler, the probability is quite strong. Not 100% indeed, hence the question... – jcaron Apr 9 at 20:52

If the airline will provide you with a boarding pass that you can print on your home printer, you can use it to pass through security. You can also generally display such a pass on a phone or other mobile device.

Source: I've done this several times myself.

However, there can be cases where the airline does not allow online checkin, or for some other reason you cannot get or print or show the pass. In such cases, you can pick up a boarding pass from the checkin kiosk or a ground agent and use that instead.

Source: I've also done this several times myself.

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  • TSA implies USA, where "can also generally display such a pass on a phone or other mobile device" is true but note that it is not yet generally available in a lot of other countries when flying TO the USA. – Dragonel Apr 10 at 16:52
  • Forget domestic. But have you ever done this on an international flight? If so, from which country to which? – smci Apr 10 at 20:20
  • United made me scan my passport into their app on my phone in order for me to get a boarding pass when I traveled internationally. It was very picky about scanning though and I was not successful for a trip 2 years ago, later that year I was able to finally get it to scan for a different trip. – Whitney Apr 10 at 20:37
  • @Dragonel the question is about JFK, which is explicitly in the US. – phoog Apr 11 at 1:51
  • @smci I have had a mobile boarding pass for a Lufthansa flight from JFK to Munich. – phoog Apr 11 at 2:01

When you enter the line at TSA security you will be asked to scan the QR code on your boarding pass. You can do this from any means at your disposal. Many people use their phones these days. But it's perfectly fine to use a boarding pass printed at home if your airline provides it.

Note that in 2020 TSA is moving toward a new document checking system which will require showing only your ID to TSA; you won't have to also show your boarding pass as their computers will look it up using your ID. Once implemented you will only need the boarding pass at the gate. This system is already being tested in a few airports, but as of this writing JFK is not one of them.

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  • "if your airline provides it": if it's on your phone, it has been provided and can be printed at home, can't it? But what is this new system? I've read about scary systems that would use facial recognition after taking a photograph of a traveler at check in, but not about systems that would scan ID documents. Do you have a link to more information? – phoog Apr 9 at 4:29
  • @phoog thepointsguy.com/guide/no-boarding-pass-airport-security Not a whole lot online about it right now, but I'm still looking. – Michael Hampton Apr 9 at 10:12
  • Ahhhhh government contracts... $27K a piece... The trouble I see with this is slight discrepancies between full name on booking and on ID will make this fail. Given the number of questions we see here about such divergences (due to people who change name when getting married, names too long to fit, multiple given names, single name...) I hope they have a good fallback (and you should still have a boarding pass at the ready). – jcaron Apr 9 at 14:06
  • Also I'm wondering... How does the system distinguish between multiple people with the same full name? IIRC Advance passenger information is only required for incoming international passengers, so airlines don't have birth dates or ID numbers for domestic US passengers, do they? – jcaron Apr 9 at 14:10
  • This document from DHS says they have birth dates and genders in the Secure Flight database, but "If name mismatches occur, CAT/BPSS will display a list of Secure Flight data on passengers with similar attributes (e.g., the same date of birth, gender, last name, and/or first name) that are scheduled to travel on the same day at their assigned airport in order to compare data and resolve name mismatches." – jcaron Apr 9 at 14:18

CAUTION. Even if this is allowed by the airline, you may be stopped by TSA if the bar code on your boarding pass is illegible to their reader. (This has happened to me when I relied on a finicky inkjet printer.) When that happens, you will be sent back to the check-in counter to get a new boarding pass. You will then have to stand in two more lines to reach the TSA checkpoint.

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  • That's why you don't print, but use a mobile boarding pass. They don't smudge. – Aganju Apr 14 at 0:15
  • Having had the experience of my phone locking up and needing to be rebooted just as I got to the TSA agent, the phone is not foolproof. – Jon Custer Apr 15 at 13:45

Practices vary with airlines and airports. What I've found when flying to China is that there's no problem getting through security on a home-printed or cellphone boarding pass, but while waiting at the gate for the first leg of my journey I'll be called up so that my visa can be checked as being valid for entry into China. I never travel with hold baggage, so the airline won't have seen me that day or otherwise interacted with me physically.

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