Could boarding passes become a thing of the past?

Alaska Airlines is looking end one of the biggest headaches of travel, that frenzied search for the boarding pass.

The airline is trialing a system in which customers can use fingerprints, instead of traditional boarding passes or government-issued IDs, to check bags, speed through security checkpoints and board a flight.

"Our big picture dream is that any time you have to prove who you are during any of the steps of air travel, you could simply use your fingerprint instead," Jerry Tolzman, manager of customer research and development for the airline, said in a blog post. "We want this to be a curb-to-seat experience."

Then airline first introduced its biometric system last fall, for those passengers wanting to gain access to Alaska's Board Room airport lounges. It has since expanded that service.

In April, Alaska Airlines partnered with CLEAR, a biometric secure identity company, and tested the biometric system for boarding passengers at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. Hundreds of people have used the new service, with most saying they were "delighted" with the experience, the airline said.

"Using biometrics as identification has a huge potential to simplify the travel experience and eliminate hassles, while adding to the security of air travel," Tolzman said. "We're very excited to see where we can take this next."

Paul Brady, the consumer news editor at Conde Nast Traveler, told CBS News that he thought the system would be a hit with travelers.

"Very cool, very cool," he said. "Anytime an airline is making the travel process easier, I'm in favor of that."

But Brady said there are still kinks to be worked out, including security concerns that the system could be breached or that fingerprints could be spoofed.

And more prosaically, how do you remember your seat number without a boarding pass?

Then there's the question of the airline's ability to ramp up the service beyond a few hundred passengers.

"With a 200-person trial, it worked without a hitch. Four out of five people loved it," Brady said. "What are you going to do when millions of travelers are trying to use this same system? Is it going to work the same? That is what Alaska is going to have to figure out."

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for