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Southwest Airlines extends mobile boarding pass test to more markets

Southwest Airlines is now accepting mobile boarding passes at 28 total U.S. airport locations, its newest convenience feature that enables fliers to pass security and board an aircraft simply by waving their mobile device.

Following a tiered rollout from last year, the paperless boarding system requires minimal user action. Passengers check in via the Southwest mobile site or branded app and choose to view their boarding pass. The image will open in a new browser and can be saved to a device’s photo gallery upon request.

“Mobile apps are critical touch points in the customer journey,” said Josh Manion, founder and CEO of Ensighten, Cupertino, CA.

“Native and hybrid apps are continuing to dramatically increase the ability to deploy and optimize digital strategy,” he said.

“If you’re customizing the experience on mobile Web only, you’re missing a huge opportunity.”

Mr. Manion commented based on his expertise in app development, and is not affiliated with Southwest airlines.

Southwest airlines did not meet press deadline.

Long awaited arrival
New airline initiatives are offering a level of customer service that has never before been possible, and is transforming the experience of traveling to create a new barometer on which carriers will be judged.

Southwest offers two ways to attain an e-boarding pass: have one sent directly to a mobile device though electronic mail or text message when checking in online, or use the airline’s app to check in and have the pass  appear with the option to save a replica to the photo gallery.

When ready for boarding, passengers present their screen at both security checkpoints and gate entrance to be scanned by staff.

In addition to mobile boarding pass support, the app also now includes upcoming trip cards that display flight information such as boarding position, gate location and access to flight tools such mobile check-in from the home screen.

IT takes flight
An industry wide Airline IT Trends Survey shows that more than 90 percent of airlines are increasing their investment in mobile capabilities to ease the hassles of getting through the airport and improve the in-flight experience. American, Delta, Continental and United are the biggest adopters of e-boarding support, offering the service from at least 75 airports.

Mobile boarding passes are the preferred method for frequent fliers, as business execs and the like are constantly engaged with their handhelds. Paper passes also become more likely to be lost or wrinkled.

Another advantage of the electronic offering is that some travelers may not have access to a printer, and so a mobile boarding pass relieves the frustration of waiting on line at a kiosk.

Of course there are also obvious drawbacks that may hinder the proposed convenience factor, one being that a mobile device may malfunction or run out of battery, resulting in a delayed trip or even a missed flight.

Mobile passes may also present a challenge if multiple people are traveling under one reservation. U.S. Airways and Continental restrict the service to one person per reservation. Other airliners allow each group member to check in line and have a separate pass sent to appropriate phones.

While certain cons defeat the purpose of going mobile for efficiency reasons, the benefits offer peace of mind as airline carriers continue to improve the technology.

“The option helps deliver more personalized and relevant experiences to on-the-go consumers leveraging a unified customer profile to collect, own and act on data not only on mobile apps, but also across  kiosks and other platforms,” Mr. Manion said.

“This approach to mobile apps uniquely sets marketers free in terms of customization and delivery of the experience, and has delivered great results,” he said.

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York