For frequent air travelers, one of the convenient features of Apple's new iOS 6 software for the iPhone is the Passbook.
What is Passbook?
Think of Passbook as an online container for your airline boarding pass (as well as coupons, movie tickets and loyalty cards).
Instead of having to print out your boarding pass at home or stand in a long line at the airport kiosk or the agents counter to obtain a boarding pass, you can do a mobile check-in, get an online boarding pass and store it in your iPhone.
At the departure gate, just swipe the phone to get the boarding pass scanned and enter the plane.
No more worries about remembering to print the boarding pass or keeping it carefully till you board the flight.
Apple describes the Passbook as time and location enabled.
This means that the boarding passes should show up on your iPhone's Lock screen when and where you need them. "Just swipe to get your pass," is how Apple advertises the new feature.
Airlines Embrace Passbook
Several airlines have already embraced Passbook.
American Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Australia and United are already integrated with Passbook via apps that you can download from the Apple AppStore.
Delta has announced plans to hop on the Passbook bandwagon soon.
Expect more airlines to clamber aboard Passbook in the coming months.
Early reviews of United's integration with Passbook have complained about some of its clunky aspects.
But as more travelers start adopting Passbook, we expect the airline will use the feedback and iron out the wrinkles through an update.
Lufthansa plans to enhance its Passbook integration by the end of this year to include the 'update' functionality.
For instance, if the departure gate for a Lufthansa flight changes then the information in boarding passes stored in Passbook is automatically updated and the passenger is notified of the change without requiring any action on his part.
Cool, no last-minute running around from gate to gate to make it to the plane before the door closes.
Passbook is a convenient feature of the new iPhone 5, which comes pre-installed with the iOS 6 software.
If you have an older iPhone, you don't have to worry. Apple has made iOS 6 compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models as well.
If the idea of Passbook catches fire with travelers and if other phone software vendors like Google Android also introduce similar capabilities, it'll be rare to see passengers holding paper boarding passes in a few years.