Why Do Foreign Carriers Re-check Your Boarding Pass When You Enter the Aircraft?

US airlines check your boarding pass before you enter the jet bridge, and that’s it — while many international airlines have flight attendants standing at the door of the aircraft who will look at your boarding pass again.

Flight attendants on most airlines around the world will see you’re on the right plane, direct you to the correct class of service, and tell you which side of the plane to proceed down in the case of a widebody. Although it’s common on single aisle aircraft as well.

This is extra labor for the flight attendants, another duty that takes up a crew member (or often two, even three in the case of having someone there to escort first class passengers to their seat). Is it really necessary? Why do they do it?

The procedure didn’t help last year when perhaps for the first time ever a majority of people on a plane were flown to the wrong city. Thirty four passengers wound up flying from Sundsvall to Luleå in Northern Sweden instead of flying south to Gothenburg. That’s 34 people on a 50 seat CRJ-200.

If you come up with a valid reason for international airlines to check your boarding pass mere feet from when it was checked as you entered the jetway, that explanation also has to account for why it isn’t done on US airlines.

This has often seemed strange to me, yet I’ve never asked, but would love some insight. Any thoughts out there?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think it is just an extra security step. It really ramps up when you fly certain routes. I flew from Antya Turkey to Tel Aviv on Turkish a few months ago. I had to show boarding pass and go through metal detectors and a bag scanner just to enter the terminal, then had to show a boarding pass and a passport to enter the gate area on the second floor and then go through TSA like security to get into the gate hallway holding area. Then about an hour prior to boarding, you had to show the boarding pass and passport as well as have a very intense body pat-down and hand search of each bag, purse, etc. just to enter the gate area. Then when boarding started you had to show the boarding pass and passport to get on the jet bridge and then again at the end of the jet bridge to enter the plane door. Obviously the gate security was due to the fact that Israel is very serious at avoiding hijackers, etc.

  2. Your theory is incorrect. On international flights, it is common for USA airlines to also check your boarding pass at the door of the aircraft. I assume it’s to get you pointed in the right direction on a widebody. I can’t recall if I’ve seen it done on narrowbody aircraft.

  3. My guess, and it’s only that, is that a few factors account for this practice. The factors are more prevalent abroad than in the United States:

    1. The passengers could hail from many different countries, increasing the chances of their misunderstanding what plane they’re supposed to board.
    2. Or they may be boarding from the ground after taking a bus to the plane, rather than directly from the jetway, also increasing the chances for confusion.
    3. Or they may be poorly educated or first-time flyers.
    4. Many carriers fly a greater share of international flights than American airlines do, and it can be accordingly more complicated and expensive for a carrier to return a passenger to their country of origin if they are on the wrong flight.

    Perhaps, in view of these factors, foreign carriers make it a standard policy for the flight attendants to check the boarding passes, even where none of the above conditions apply for a given flight.

  4. They are just being nice by guiding you to your seat after checking your seat number on your boarding pass.
    It just adds a warm welcome ambiance.
    Much better than the cold attitude of US airlines where no one cares about you.

  5. Because it was (is) a common practice during bus-based boarding and they still blindly continue it even with jet bridge boarding?

  6. One thing around the world is the use of bus gates and common walkways to multiple planes.

    The us uses mostly jet bridges Dedicated to a single aircraft.

  7. I don’t think it is merely to help direct you to the right row on a widebody. In times past i’ve recalled telling the FA “I’m in 31B” and she still wanted to see the boarding pass.

  8. For my domestic Swedish flights, and I’ve got a ton — the FAs most commonly don’t check/look at boarding passes. So why even bring up the Sundsvall incident when it has no connection to FAs on the plane doing boarding pass checks/looks?

    It almost seems like the Sunsdvall incident was brought up by someone who has no experience about how flights there operate and tried to score a point in European ice hockey by playing rugby with a rugby ball in Australia.

  9. I’ve noticed this on Qantas especially. its super annoying. Like what’s the point of scanning your boarding pass if they’re gonna check it at the door? Is the scanner going to let u scan the wrong boarding pass? in the early days of mobile boarding passes, Qantas would even print out a ticket when you scanned a mobile pass from your phone so the flight attendant would have something to check at the door…kinda defeated the purpose of having a mobile boarding pass if you printed out a paper.

  10. I agree with Matt B, it’s not just to direct you to the correct aisle on a widebody. Asiana flight last year and at the door I said “I’m in row A I know where I’m going” and she said “No, sir, I need to see your boarding pass.”

  11. One thought and one dumb question / potential hypothesis:

    Thought – redundancy in systems is not exactly a bad thing. Look at the design of aircraft themselves. Yes it happens that pax get by the gate agent for the wrong flight. Are the regulations / ramifications to an airline for transporting a passenger to an incorrect destination more stringent internationally? I’d certainly think that there’d be a higher risk of visa / diplomatic issues.

    Dumb question / potential hypothesis – are gate agents more likely to be contract workers internationally? If so, then the first official point of contact with the airline – which would bear the burden of any errors – would be that FA at the door.

  12. @DaninMCI I haven’t flown out of Istanbul since the 80s, but flying to NYC I had what you described plus picking up my checked bag on the tarmac and moving it to another area before they would load it on the plane. Just to confirm you were flying with your checked bag. I guess they were only worried about bombs back then and not suicide bombs.

  13. I like it. As Tom says, it affords the crew an opportunity to welcome all passengers by name, and for us to greet them in return. It also serves as an additional touchpoint for elite recognition: “Welcome back, good to have you on board”. With ever increasing automation and self service (to which I am not opposed in general), interactions like these help to humanise the travel process. Qantas do this well, in my experience.

  14. An FA once told me that in addition to things mentioned above, they do it to see who is drunk before boarding especially on longer flights. Make whatever you may of this info. I’m not sure I believe it but maybe it makes sense.

  15. In India there is someone on the jetway right at the door of the plane checking your BP again. In case somehow you got lost walking down a metal tube.

  16. Systems and security vary from country to country. For example, flying on UA to LHR, I will have to show my passport at check in (unless UA already has the info), then again at security, and my boarding pass twice, and then boarding pass and passport at the gate. UA will usually expect me also to show my boarding pass as I get on the plane, but not when nobody is at the door to the plane.

    On the return from LHR, security does not require the passport, and only requires the boarding pass once, the passport will be required before reaching the gate,, and the boarding pass is required at the gate and then again on the plane.

    In total, there’s slightly more showing things leaving the US, but it’s done at different times.

  17. I can one up this- last year when I was flying home from Tunisia, they scanned my boarding pass at the gate, someone looked at it again as I walked down the jet bridge (he was mad when I tried to walk past without doing it- I thought they had just stopped one random person, not that they were stopping everyone!) and then checked it again when I got on board. It was….thorough. This was an LH flight from Tunis to Frankfurt if I recall correctly.

  18. Until a few years ago BA checked even for short haul flights, but a trial was done and then they did away with that.

    My understanding is that the fines can be quite significant for flying someone to the wrong country so it’s supposed to be the last chance to prevent that expensive fine from happening.

  19. In Sweden, or even between Sweden and Denmark, I can fly carry-on only with a ticket that has me down as Mr. Donald Duck or Mrs. Minnie Mouse or Dr. Royal Antiroyal and the airlines wouldn’t notice. On such routes within Scandinavia, the boarding pass is checked to get to the security screening area and at the boarding gate, but it’s to check for a valid boarding pass without any of the ID checking nonsense.

  20. They aren’t checking your boarding pass at the door. They are looking at the seat assignment and directing you to the correct seat/aisle. Its also a nice touch for customer service reasons, such as greeting people or if a passenger needs to alert crew to a specific situation. I’ve never had cabin crew do more than glance at my boarding pass to see the seat number. I don’t really understand the concern about extra labor or whatever. Its the cabin crew. They have to be on the plane anyway and they can’t very well be roaming the aisles while passengers are filing on.

  21. Flying out of New Delphi, India about three years ago they checked your boarding pass and passport several times while they all were carrying automatic weapons. First they check that you have a flight out within 5 hours, before they even let you enter the terminal. After you check in, you go get screened of course and they attach tags to your luggage and initial and write the time you past through the metal detectors and tell you not to remove these tags until you get to your destination. And then when you get to the gate as you’re boarding, security (also carrying a big gun) is there with the gate agent and looks at your boarding pass, passport and the tags on your luggage. Just when you think its over, there’s another security person with an automatic weapon at the bottom of the jetway who also looks at your boarding ticket, passport and tags again. And when they looked at everyones passport picture, they held them right up next to your face . I think they just don’t trust their own people and have to have several layers of security. I did some research and couldn’t find any specific threats that would warrant this tight security or if this was normal procedure for U.S. bound flights. Anyone else have this experience?

  22. Former GSC here. It is both an added security step but also, customer lose their brains and manage to get lost, a bit of extra guidance to their seats won’t harm them.

  23. As a former airline employee with a major international airline, here’s why:

    1) It allows flight attendants to identify by name and location inebriated / intoxicated customers, those with mobility issues, passengers who may be angry, etc. It’s for both safety and for service. Ground staff are not required to make those assessments, but Cabin Crew are.

    2) The number of people who manage to get on the incorrect flight is not insignificant. It is more than “occasionally” that passengers end up on the wrong aircraft.

    3) It actually keeps the aircraft boarding process move slightly faster in widebody aircraft, despite those lines on the jetbridge that you see occasionally. My airline tried both ways, and having cabin crew check on boarding reduced the process by several minutes overall.

  24. “and tell you which side of the plane to proceed down in the case of a widebody. Although it’s common on single aisle aircraft as well.”

    Looks at boarding pass 23A, squints thinks for a bit

    “Yes walk down the center and only aisleway”

  25. @A_B,

    For single-aisle aircraft, they would say something like “23A, window seat on your right-hand side.”

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