Mobile Boarding Passes - My First Attempt in December 2008

My first attempt at using a mobile boarding pass was back in December 2008 with Continental Airlines. I was flying from Cleveland, OH to San Francisco, CA. I used a PC to log in and opted to use a mobile boarding pass rather than print a boarding pass. I used a URL sent to my Gmail account to open up a web page with the boarding pass on my iPhone.

The boarding pass was easy to get on the cell phone, but hard to use in the airport because the right technology, processes and ground crew education were not in place. A mobile strategy can't stop with the design of the mobile component only - there must also be consideration and design of the processes and education for the folks interacting with the cell phone technology in the physical location.

Here is an account of what happened at the airport:

I walked up to the counter to check first if the mobile boarding pass would work. I didn't have confidence. The agent looked at me and in the most polite, kind manner said, "Honey, you need a printed boarding pass to get on that plane." I smiled as she printed out a boarding pass for me, and I thanked her for her help.

I proceeded to the security line. My phone is timed to turn off every 60 seconds. Each time I it turns off, I need to enter a security code for it to turn on. So, as I moved through the security line juggling my bags, laptop, etc., I kept tapping my phone to keep the screen lit.

Finally, I reach the TSA agent. I extend my phone with its brightly lit screen with a bar code on it to her. She doesn't want to hold the phone. Instead, she asks me to enlarge the bar code and information so that she can see it from a distance. I do so. She nods and hands me a piece of laminated paper. One is supposed to hold her boarding pass while walking through the metal detectors, but a cell phone must go through the scanner. Dilemma. Hence, I am holding a piece of laminated paper. I carry the paper through security and hand it to a TSA agent on the other end.

I repeat much of this process while I am boarding the plane - tapping my phone to ensure that the screen with the boarding pass information stays lit. I have the added stress of hoping the 3G connection persists throughout the airport so that I can show the web page without much difficulty.