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Alaska Airlines drives app engagement with Passbook integration, push messaging

The airline has offered electronic boarding passes through its native apps for some time but this is the first time they will be supported by Apple Passbook. The updated app also now includes push messaging to alert users to gate and seat changes, time changes and other travel updates that can be served in real-time.

“Passbook has really been growing in popularity and Alaska’s customers were asking for this functionality,” said Joe Beninato, general manager of digital wallet for Urban Airship, Portland.

“Their new Passbook boarding passes go beyond the electronic boarding passes Alaska already had in its app to automatically pop-up on home screens as customers arrive at the airport, and also automatically update if something like a flight time or gate change occurs,” he said.

“This effectively streamlines the entire airport travel experience by presenting the information the traveler needs exactly when they need it, which is incredibly helpful especially if you are juggling multiple bags or kids through security lines.”

Alaska Airlines is using Urban Airship’s PassTools solution to create and update Apple Passbook boarding passes.   

Location-based features
Alaska Airlines reports that customers have been requesting the Passbook integration, pointing to how quickly Passbook has caught on with iOS users since it was launched last fall by Apple.

The Passbook app enables users to store all of their digital boarding passes, loyalty cards, retail coupons, movie tickets and offers in one place that also features location-based and time-based features.

Many brands have updated their apps to make them compatible with Passbook, including American Airlines, United and Starbucks.  

“Some of our largest customers are seeing significant consumer adoption of their Passbook integrations, and for many mobile payments providers this type of loyalty and reward solution provides the missing link in getting consumers to change how they pay for things,” Mr. Beninato said. 

Incenting engagement
For Alaska Airlines app users, they can now save their boarding pass to Passbook and have it automatically appear on their iOS device home screens on arrival at the airport.

Any changes to seat assignments, gates and departure times are automatically updated on the displayed pass.

The Alaska Airlines app enables users to book a flight, check-in before they get to the airport, view flight details, change their seat, create flight alerts, track their mileage plan status and balance as well as view wait lists for first class and standby.

“Passbook is quickly becoming a great engagement tool for our customers,” Mr. Beninato said.

“It has never been easier for businesses to have a persistent presence on their customers’ smartphones and Passbook provides a number of ways to incent more engagement from customers,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York