When you get your airline ticket from your travel agent or from the airline, it will look like a booklet with long, narrow leaves printed on heavy stock paper.
Each of these cards is devoted to one flight segment of your trip. The last card is your receipt. The receipt is what you would, typically, give to your employer if you are traveling on an expense account. There might be additional pages devoted to advertising, or legalese fine print.
When you get your ticket, you should check to see there is one card for each flight segment. This card is your boarding pass, which you will need to present to get on the plane. The form of the boarding pass varies from airline to airline, but a common method is to print it on a card perforated about two inches from the end.
As the passengers are standing in line waiting to get on the airplane, there is an airline employee at the gate door who detaches the main part of the boarding pass from each passenger's ticket and keeps it. You will be left with the small stub. Keep it; it's important.
In some cases the ticket will not have the boarding pass, even for domestic flights. If for some reason (a) the system cannot pre-reserve a seat, or (b) exit row seating was requested, or, (c) in the case of tickets bought more than one month prior to the flight, the airline will not issue a boarding pass that far in advance (true with most airlines), the stub that would be the boarding pass will have a notation such as "CHECK IN REQUIRED". The traveler should look for this notation, and if it is found, the traveler should check in at the podium to have a boarding pass issued. If multiple segments have "CHECK IN REQUIRED", all the boarding passes should be able to be issued at the same time at the first check-in point - unless the flight load for one or more segments is particularly heavy and seat assignments are not being given out for them. The traveler is advised to get to the airport at least 45 minutes to an hour prior to departure time to take care of this - not necessarily because it takes that long, but in the event of a heavily booked flight, getting there early increases the chance of being able to get a seat.
Inexperienced travelers should also be made aware that in some cases,the boarding pass is a separate ticket-like item that may be stapled to the actual ticket. This is the case when the boarding pass, for whatever reason, was not or could not be issued when the ticket was printed.
It is always advisable to do so, for two reasons: (a) the gate agent (or ticket counter agent) will enter into the computer that you have showed up for the flight, as opposed to being flagged simply as having a pre-issued boarding pass. This reduces the likelihood of losing your seat, and (b) many airlines can collect the passenger tickets at the podium, in which case the boarding pass is stamped with a validation stamp and returned to the passenger. This decreases the amount of time it takes to board all the passengers for the flight. The more tickets that are taken at the podium, the less the overall slow-down at the boarding point as the boarding agent has to rip off boarding passes of people getting on the aircraft.
First, you will refer to your boarding pass stub to see what seat you are assigned to. There are exceptions, but most of the time you are not permitted to just grab any seat on the airplane. The number of your assigned seat is printed on the boarding pass stub.
Your boarding pass stub is a tracer that shows that you actually did fly on that flight. If you are a member of a frequent flyer program, and you are not credited with miles for that flight on your statement, you would then send a photocopy of your boarding pass stub to the airline so they can correct your account.
One last use: The boarding pass stub is the traditional bookmark for airline passengers everywhere. You'll look like a real frequent flyer if you use the boarding pass stub to mark your place in your book.
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