Find another place to stash your boarding pass; Southwest is eliminating paper ticket jackets

Flying Southwest this summer and like to stash your boarding pass in those colorful paper holders they hand out at the airport?

You’ll have to BYOBP holder beginning June 1.

Ticket jackets, as the document holders are called, are going the way of peanuts on Southwest.

The airline, which doles out about 22 million ticketjackets a year, is eliminating them  to “reduce waste, protect our environment, use less paper and ultimately become a greener company,” spokesman Dan Landson said in a statement.

Southwest Airlines is getting rid of ticket jackets, those handy paper folders for boarding passes. (Photo: Andrea Williamson, Special to USA TODAY)

Southwest is the last major U.S. airline to ditch the ticket jackets, a relic from an era when airlines issued paper tickets.

Most tickets are now electronic, and boarding passes have moved that way, too. Travelers who don’t fly Southwest, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, may not even know they still exist.

United Airlines said it eliminated ticket jackets in the early 2000s. Delta Air Lines did away with them in 2008. Alaska says it did away with them more than a decade ago. The last time American used them was in 2014. Spirit Airlines eliminated them in late 2016 as mobile boarding passes and self-service check-in kiosks grew in popularity.

Travelers will no longer receive paper ticket jackets at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. The airline is eliminating them as more travelers move to mobile boarding passes. (Photo: R.J.HINKLE )

Landson said Southwest has seen an increase in the number of travelers using mobile boarding passes and decided now was the time to eliminate the paper holders.  

“Through this change in behavior, we feel like we’ve reached a good point to transition away from paper ticket jackets,” he said.

The look of Southwest’s ticket jackets, like other airlines’, evolved with the airline’s style and slogans over the years. The ticket jackets included gate information, Southwest reservations information and ads for Southwest products including gift cards. In the past, baggage claim checks were stapled to them.

Southwest Airlines is getting rid of ticket jackets, those paper boarding pass holders. (Photo: Melissa Yeager, USA TODAY)

A decade ago, one Southwest frequent flier got his close-up on Southwest’s ticket jackets. 

Terry Buchen, president of Golf Agronomy International, said he was selected to be on the ticket jacket after he gushed nonstop about Southwest at a party the airline hosted for frequent fliers in Baltimore.

Southwest flew Buchen and his wife to Austin, Texas, for a photo shoot and treated them to a luxury hotel, meals and a new outfit from Nordstrom for the ad. (Yes, he got to keep it.)

Buchen was on the ticket jacket from 2007 to 2009.

He was often recognized at the airport by fellow travelers and Southwest employees, earning the nickname “the ticket jacket guy,” he told the New York Times in 2008. 

“People used to ask me for autographs,” Buchen said in a phone interview with USA TODAY. “It was a lot of fun. I really had fun.”

Buchen, 72, has a framed copy of the ticket jacket at his home outside Boise, Idaho, and saved about 100 of the ticket jackets with his picture on them.

Golf agronomist Terry Buchen, then a Southwest frequent flier, was on the cover of Southwest Airlines' ticket jackets from 2007-2009. He has a framed copy. (Photo: Terry Buchen, Special to USA TODAY)

The last time Buchen used a Southwest ticket jacket was 2016. Not because he’s moved to mobile boarding passes — he has but still prints out a hard copy in case his phone dies or malfunctions — but because he doesn’t fly Southwest following his move from Virginia to Idaho.

Delta has better flight options from Boise, he said. But no ticket jackets.

Buchen said he folds his backup Delta boarding pass in half and sticks it in the back left pocket of his pants.

He said he will always fondly remember ticket jackets.

“It was such a tradition for so many years,” he said. “It just made you feel good, sort of like you were carrying a passport. And you’d open it up like a book and there was a boarding pass and a receipt.”

Travelers nostalgic for ticket jackets, including Southwest’s current version, can find plenty for sale on eBay.

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