American Airlines Checked In but No Boarding Pass – Why?

Are you planning on taking a flight soon? Whether you’re flying domestically or internationally, you’re going to need some documentation. This documentation typically takes the form of personal identifying documents, such as a passport or driver’s license, and a boarding pass. Is there a way to check in without a boarding pass?

A boarding pass will always be needed for boarding a plane, but some boarding passes can be carried and accessed digitally, via a smartphone, e-mail, and through an official airlines app. In addition, new technology also exists which combines boarding pass information with identity verification, eliminating the need for a physical pass during the initial check-in.

Keep reading to learn more about the physical and digital boarding pass, the technology that may someday replace it, and what to bring on your next flight.

What is a Boarding Pass?

A boarding pass is a physical or electronic document containing information about your identity, flight, ticket purchase, and schedule that is scanned upon arrival at the airport.

This lets the airport know that you have checked in and helps verify that you have paid for your flight. A pixilated code will be found on the boarding pass that references all information relevant to your flight. Keep the boarding pass on you at all times.

How Do I Receive a Boarding Pass?

A physical boarding pass can be mailed to you via the postal service if you choose so. You may also have the boarding pass sent to your e-mail and can print out a physical copy from there.

Alternatively, a digital boarding pass may be used from your smartphone, or through the American Airlines App. Just open the app, access your digital boarding pass, and scan the code as you would with a physical pass. It will work in the same way as a paper pass and confirm all of the same information.

What Other Documentation Do I Need?

You’ll also need at least one form of valid, government-issued ID, such as a Driver’s License, State ID Card, or passport. The document will need to be up-to-date, and is used to verify your identity visually, and officially.

International travel will require a passport and may require other documentation, depending on which countries you will be traveling to.

What to Do If You Have No Boarding Pass

What do you do if you’ve forgotten your boarding pass at home, in the taxi, or if you’ve lost your phone? This is a common problem, and you needn’t worry. Just head over to the check-in desk, and they can get another copy printed out for you, right after they’ve verified your ID.

You’ll need to give your name and your destination to the clerk and confirm your ID. The information should be in the system, and getting another copy for you is as simple as pushing a button. Be prepared to wait a bit for this process to happen, as the clerks on duty will be processing other guests at this time, as well.

Am I Able to Check-In Online?

If your first flight is not American Airlines, you won’t be able to check in via the American Airlines app. Other limitations may also apply, such as those checking in with children, or pets.

The airport you’re leaving from will also need to accept mobile app check-in. Not all airports allow this, so please check with the airport before arriving.

If the airport you’re departing from accepts mobile check-in, you should be able to use the mobile app to check in, without a physical boarding pass. You can also check gate changes, departure times, and delays using the mobile app.

What Alternatives to Boarding Passes Exist?

New technology is also being developed to help speed up the process, and eliminate the need for a boarding pass when checking in. Credential Authentication Technology, or CAT, is being used to make things faster, more efficient, and more unified at the terminal.

This technology simply scans and verifies official identification cards and documents, and links this personal information to your flight reservation, and ticket payment. The TSA employee swipes or scans your ID as he would a credit card, and verifies the data that shows up on his screen.

This seamless process streamlines identity check, boarding pass info, and payment verification into a single act of scanning an ID, and can have you on your way quickly. You will still need a boarding pass to get on the plane, however. You just won’t need to show the boarding pass to check in.

Not every airport has this technology, but some major airports such as Boston’s Logan International are using it already.

Why Was CAT Created?

The Credential Authentication Technology system was developed for several reasons. A major reason was to combat fraud. You see, it is in fact possible to create fraudulent yet scan-able boarding passes on a home computer that can trick the system.

Thus, some scammers were printing off their fake boarding passes and essentially flying for free. The losses for airlines were considerable, and the security risks were daunting, as well. Scanning one’s ID as a single-step process eliminates a space wherein fraudulent boarding passes can be used.

Fraudulent ID documents have also been an issue. It’s not terribly difficult to produce a fake ID with a home computer and a laminator. The CAT system also automatically checks for valid ID numbers, registration dates, and birth dates, and checks all of this information against the ID presented on the documentation, thus making it more difficult, if not impossible, to sneak by with a fake or fraudulent ID.

The CAT system was also created to help relieve some of the line fatigue at major and minor airports. The process of waiting in line to receive or scan a paper boarding pass, as well as additional time spent in line to verify ID can be unified with a single step.

These digital ID scanners link up all relevant and verified info and allow flyers to pass through security a bit faster. As travel continues to pick up post-pandemic, airlines have an added incentive to keep people happy, moving, and flying in competition against busses, trains, and car travel.

How Can I Use CAT?

There are a couple of ways to use this new CAT technology. You can simply bring your physical ID and have the attendant scan it, or use the Airside Digital Identity App to take a photo of your face, scan your physical ID, and enter your American Airlines frequent flyer number. This app will generate a QR code that can be scanned at check-in and your in-app data will be matched against your physical features at the terminal.

Either way, the process takes your information and links it to your ticket purchase and flight information in one step. This makes things more efficient for travelers, as well as for airport staff.

While this new technology is being rolled out across the country, it’s not universal yet. Call ahead to see if the airport you’re flying from processes flyers through the CAT system, so you won’t be caught unawares if the system is not yet in place there.

Will the CAT System Be Better?

As any new technology rolls out, there are concerns about expense, security, and necessity. The CAT system has not been cheap to implement, and there are some concerns that the expenses will simply be passed along to flyers who may have to pay more for tickets in the long run.

This new system will definitely help cut back on lines at check-in, however. And verifying a person’s ID, the authenticity of their ID, and their ticket payment in one motion is an added security bonus for flyers as well as for airlines.

This system may eventually eliminate the need for boarding passes at any stage, too. As it stands, you’ll still need one to get on the plane, either a physical or a digital pass. But for now, a single step has been eliminated by CAT, and this may be the future of all air travel.


Boarding passes are physical or electronic documents used to verify the flier’s ID, ticket payment, and flight information. Increasingly, this boarding pass is being used in conjunction with the Credential Authentication Technology (or CAT) system, which simply scans a valid form of ID and verifies that this data is accurate, and linked to ticket purchase.

This eliminates the need for a boarding pass upfront when you check in. You’ll still need to show a boarding pass at the departure gate, however, so don’t toss your boarding pass just yet.

The CAT system has not been fully rolled out nationwide yet, so make sure it’s in use before heading out to the airport. If it’s not online near you, you can still print out a physical boarding pass, or download a digital pass via an app or e-mail. Should you lose your physical pass, simply as the front desk to print another one for you, after you’ve verified your ID.