When you purchase a plane ticket, all of the information necessary for travel is stored electronically. Some major airlines, such as American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines, send the boarding pass directly to your smart phone -- referred to as "mobile boarding passes" -- so that you'll be able to use this rather than a hard copy of your boarding pass. However, if you don't have a smart phone or prefer not to use mobile boarding passes, you also have several options that allow you to travel with a hard copy of your boarding pass.
Printing Paper Tickets
Many airlines will give you the option of printing paper electronic tickets at home when you purchase plane tickets. Once you book your plane ticket, most major airlines will email you a copy of the travel itinerary as well as your e-ticket, which you can then print and use as your boarding pass. If you lose it, you can go back online and print another hard copy of the e-ticket.
You can also get hard copies of your plane ticket at the airport. For domestic flights, check in about an hour ahead of time -- an hour and a half to be safe -- at your airline's ticket counter desk. For international flights, check in two to three hours ahead of time. When you purchased your airfare, you were most likely given a confirmation or ticket locator number; write it down and take it with you to the airport, as well as bringing a state or federal-issued ID. The confirmation or locator number may be one of the fastest ways for the ticket clerk to look up your information. After you successfully check in at the counter, the ticket clerk will issue you a hard copy of your boarding pass.
Several major airlines also have ticket kiosks at the airport. If you do not have to wait in line, the fastest way to get a hard copy of your boarding pass at the airport might be through an airline kiosk. If the airline has made ticket kiosks available to it customers, they should be located adjacent to or just outside of the airline's ticket counter area. Carry your ticket locator or confirmation number or the credit or debit card that you used to purchase the ticket, as you'll use one of these to retrieve your ticket information. You might also be able to pull up your information by typing in your full name and travel destination. After you type in the relevant information, the kiosk will print out all necessary boarding passes for your trip. Kiosks are straightforward and easy to use, but if you run into problems, ask an airline official for help.
Advantages and Disadvantages
An advantage to using paper boarding passes is that you don't have to worry about your smart phone battery dying or malfunctioning, which would prevent you from using your electronic mobile boarding pass. Cell phones might also have poor signal reception at the airport, which could prevent you from downloading your mobile ticket. If you're traveling with your family, your mobile airline application will most likely not be able to handle them at once. In this case, it might be easier and more practical to use paper boarding passes. However, paper ticketing also has its drawbacks. Compared with mobile boarding passes, you waste paper and time. If you're checking in and getting paper boarding passes at the airport, this might mean waiting an extra 10 to 15 minutes or longer if kiosks or ticket counters are experiencing long lines.