June 4, 2013, 1:21 PM

Passbook integration takes flight with an updated app from Alaska Airlines

Boarding passes will appear on iPhone home screens as travelers arrive at airports.

IPhone owners using the Alaska Airlines mobile app now can count on one less step at the airport. The app now supports Passbook, Apple Inc.’s mobile wallet. That means upon arrival at an airport, Passbook can present a boarding pass automatically on the phone’s home screen. The traveler won’t have to open the app to view the boarding pass or view updates to their gates or departure times.

PassTools, a technology supplied by Urban Airship, a mobile technology vendor that specializes in push messaging and Passbook, enables the Passbook integration.

It works like this. After booking an Alaska Airlines flight, the traveler uses the app to check in. The app provides the option to save the boarding pass to Passbook. Then, upon arrival at the airport, which Passbook senses using the iPhone’s GPS technology, the boarding pass appears on the device’s home screen. Mobile boarding passes are accepted at many U.S. airports.

And because Alaska Airlines uses Urban Airship’s application programming interfaces, or APIs, the traveler’s itinerary is automatically updated with any changes to seat assignments, gates or departure times, which are displayed on the boarding pass within Passbook.

PassTools also offers other alerts, using push messaging technology. It can, for example, display flight alerts on the iPhone’s home screen specifically for the traveler’s itinerary. The flight alert capability also is available in the Android version of the Alaska Airlines app. The Passbook boarding pass only is available for the iPhone.

In May, Urban Airship demonstrated an updated Alaska Airlines app, for use with Google Wallet on Android devices, that could be used to generate a traveler’s Alaska Airlines loyalty card in bar code form, present new offers and announce flight gate changes. Google has not said when this capability will be added to Google Wallet.

Development of the Passbook integration into the Alaska Airlines app took about four months, says Joe Beninato, general manager of digital wallet at Urban Airship.

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