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Published August 14, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hector International Airport studying expansion of paperless passes to Fargo

FARGO – Hector International Airport has explored allowing boarding passes to be electronic.

By: Jessica Ballou, INFORUM

FARGO – Hector International Airport has explored allowing boarding passes to be electronic.

Shawn Dobberstein, the airport’s executive director, said by his estimation, electronic boarding passes may be a year and a half or two years away, but discussions between the airport and the Transportation Security Administration are under way.

An electronic boarding pass involves bringing a mobile phone or PDA to the TSA checkpoint with flight information, as opposed to a paper boarding pass.

Homeland Security and TSA are trying to adapt a universal reader for all electronic boarding passes to verify their authenticity and make sure they work, but Dobberstein said this change is dependent on government funding.

Passengers download the electronic boarding pass to their phone from the airport’s website.

The TSA is implementing a paperless boarding pass pilot program to allow travelers at participating airlines and airports to receive their boarding passes on mobile phones or PDAs, according to Carrie Harmon, TSA’s regional public affairs manager.

The pilot project started in 2007. Twenty airports were using the technology by 2009, expanding to 110 by March 2012, according to the TSA. Paperless passes are in use at airports in Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Dobberstein said he’s noticed business travelers and others who fly frequently prefer self-check-in, while a family traveling with children may prefer to check-in with employees due to a large amount of baggage. Some customers who don’t fly often might prefer the engagement and assurance from employees as opposed to a more streamlined digital process, he said.

Other new innovations being considered at Hector are trusted traveler lanes and priority boarding lanes, but Dobberstein said the airport may not have room for those in the near future.

The airport has also recently upgraded its free Wi-Fi in the terminal.

“I think we’re doing what we can for an airport our size,” Dobberstein said. “I think we’re more advanced than other airports of our size.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 235-7311