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Boarding passes: an air-travel irritant

Posted by Christopher Shea  August 11, 2010 10:39 AM

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They might not be makes-you-want-to-trigger-the-exit-chute annoying, but confusing boarding passes are a persistent irritant during air travel, observes Tyler Thompson--the raison d'etre of his new site, Boarding Pass/FAIL. Here's how Thompson describes the message delivered by a boarding pass that a Delta agent recently handed him:

I am sure you are no doubt trying to figure out what ... to do with the piece of paper you have in your hand right now. You're confused, lost, and just want to get on your flight, it's cool, we don't really care, and we sure as hell don't want to make this process easy and enjoyable for you. Instead, we hired a small, blind, parakeet to layout your boarding pass ...

He concocted some clear, energetic replacements; other design bloggers soon chimed in. Thompson's suggestions involved printing techniques not feasible using airlines' current machines. But other design bloggers, notably Timoni Grone--"Improving the air travel experience is something of a passion of mine"--remedied that oversight, making boarding passes that airlines could adopt at relatively little expense.


The humble boarding pass, before and after a makeover to increase its clarity
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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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