With air travel being such a common mode of transportation, you’ve likely held both a boarding pass and ticket in your hands at some point. But what exactly is the difference between the two? And why are boarding passes used anyway if you already have a ticket?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A ticket allows you to travel from one destination to another on a particular airline and flight. A boarding pass contains your seat assignment and allows you to actually board the plane for your ticketed flight.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about boarding passes and tickets: their definitions, main differences, why both are needed for air travel, and more.

Defining Boarding Passes and Tickets

Boarding Pass Definition

A boarding pass is a document that allows a passenger to board a specific flight. It is issued by the airline after the passenger has successfully checked in for their flight. The boarding pass contains important information such as the passenger’s name, flight number, seat assignment, departure and arrival times, gate number, and any other relevant details.

It serves as a confirmation of the passenger’s reservation and acts as their official authorization to board the aircraft.

Ticket Definition

A ticket, on the other hand, is a document that confirms the purchase of a seat on a particular flight. It is typically issued by the airline or a travel agency at the time of booking. The ticket includes important information such as the passenger’s name, flight details, fare, and any applicable restrictions or conditions.

In the past, paper tickets were the norm, but with the advent of electronic ticketing, most airlines now issue e-tickets, which are essentially digital records of the passenger’s reservation.

While both the boarding pass and the ticket contain essential information for air travel, they serve different purposes. The ticket is the initial document that confirms the passenger’s reservation and purchase of a seat, while the boarding pass is the document that allows the passenger to physically board the flight.

It’s worth noting that in some cases, the boarding pass may also include the ticket information, especially for electronic tickets. This means that the boarding pass serves both as a document for boarding and as a confirmation of the passenger’s reservation.

Key Differences Between Boarding Passes and Tickets

Information Shown

One of the key differences between boarding passes and tickets is the type of information they display. Boarding passes typically include details such as the passenger’s name, flight number, departure and arrival airports, departure time, seat assignment, and boarding gate.

They also often feature a barcode or QR code that can be scanned for faster check-in and boarding processes. On the other hand, tickets usually contain information about the booking or reservation, including the passenger’s name, flight details, and the confirmation number.

They may also provide information about baggage allowances and any special services requested.

When They’re Issued

Boarding passes are typically issued to passengers after they have checked in for their flight. This can be done online, through a mobile app, or at a check-in counter at the airport. Once the passenger has completed the check-in process and obtained their boarding pass, they can proceed to security screening and eventually board the aircraft.

On the other hand, tickets are usually issued at the time of booking or reservation. They serve as proof of purchase and are generally required to be presented during the check-in process to obtain the boarding pass.

In some cases, electronic tickets can be used, where the ticket information is stored digitally and can be accessed through a mobile device.

How Long They’re Valid For

Boarding passes are valid for a specific flight and date. Once the flight has departed, the boarding pass becomes invalid and is no longer required. However, it is always recommended to keep the boarding pass until the end of the journey, as it may be needed for any potential claims or inquiries.

Tickets, on the other hand, are valid for the duration of the booked itinerary. They can be used for multiple flights if the journey includes layovers or connecting flights. It is important to note that tickets usually have an expiration date, beyond which they may no longer be valid.

This expiration date is typically mentioned on the ticket or confirmation email received at the time of booking.

Why You Need Both Boarding Passes and Tickets for Air Travel

Tickets Allow You to Reserve Your Travel Plans

When it comes to air travel, tickets are essential for reserving your travel plans. They serve as a confirmation that you have purchased a seat on a specific flight. Airlines require passengers to present their tickets before they can board the plane.

This helps ensure that the flight is not overbooked and that the airline can manage their passenger capacity effectively.

Furthermore, tickets contain important information such as the flight number, departure and arrival times, and seat assignment. They also include details about any connecting flights you may have. Having a ticket makes it easier for both you and the airline to keep track of your flight itinerary and any changes that may occur.

It’s important to note that nowadays, most airlines issue electronic tickets, also known as e-tickets. These are sent to the passenger via email or can be accessed through the airline’s website or mobile app.

E-tickets have largely replaced traditional paper tickets, making the check-in process more convenient for travelers.

Boarding Passes Help Manage Airport Crowds and Security

While tickets are necessary for reserving your travel plans, boarding passes are what you need to actually board the plane. A boarding pass is a document that confirms your eligibility to be on a specific flight.

It is typically obtained after checking in for your flight, either online or at the airport.

Boarding passes provide important information such as your name, flight details, seat assignment, and boarding time. They also include a barcode or QR code that can be scanned at various points throughout the airport, such as security checkpoints and boarding gates.

One of the primary purposes of a boarding pass is to help manage airport crowds and enhance security. By scanning the barcode or QR code on your boarding pass, airport staff can quickly verify your identity and ensure that you are authorized to be in restricted areas.

This helps maintain the safety and efficiency of the airport operations.

Additionally, boarding passes often include information about the boarding sequence or group number. This helps airlines streamline the boarding process and avoid congestion at the gate. Passengers are usually called to board in specific groups, such as families with young children or those needing special assistance, followed by other groups in a particular order.

Other Boarding Pass and Ticket Facts

Boarding Pass Barcodes

One interesting fact about boarding passes is that they often contain barcodes. These barcodes hold important information about the passenger and their journey. When scanned, the barcode can reveal details such as the passenger’s name, flight number, seat assignment, and departure gate.

This technology has made the check-in process more efficient and streamlined, allowing passengers to quickly and easily board their flights.

Tickets Used to Be Paper

Before the advent of digital technology, tickets were typically issued as physical pieces of paper. Passengers would receive their tickets either through the mail or at the airline counter. These paper tickets contained all the necessary information for the journey, including the passenger’s name, flight details, and seat assignment.

However, with the rise of e-tickets and mobile boarding passes, paper tickets have become increasingly rare. Nowadays, most travelers simply present their digital boarding passes on their smartphones or tablets.

Boarding Pass Alternatives

Although boarding passes are the most common form of travel documentation, there are a few alternatives available to passengers. Some airlines have implemented biometric technology, allowing passengers to use their fingerprints or facial recognition to board their flights.

This innovative approach aims to enhance security measures while also providing a seamless boarding experience. Additionally, some airports are testing the use of RFID-enabled wristbands or smart cards as a convenient alternative to traditional boarding passes.

These technologies are still in the early stages of development, but they have the potential to revolutionize the way we travel.


So in summary, while boarding passes and tickets serve complementary purposes for air travel, they are quite distinct documents. Tickets reserve your right to travel while boarding passes manage airport crowds and security. Both are essential elements of the air travel process.

Next time you’re preparing for a flight, keep this boarding pass vs ticket comparison in mind. Understanding their unique roles will help you better navigate the airport experience from ticketing to takeoff!

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