Why has the iPhone Passbook not taken off with airlines??

When Passbook was announced as part of the new iOS 6 platform I was pretty bullish on the technology. I think that it presents a great opportunity to make travel easier and better for their passengers. I also predicted that adoption would be relatively quick, mostly because it is really, really easy to do. Turns out that wasn’t so much the case. With Qantas announcing support this month the total number of airlines working with Passbook is now just 10. Oh, and the Qantas support, at least for now, doesn’t include the auto-updating features of the Passbook application; the Qantas boarding passes will be static at least through January 2013. Oh, and Delta, a carrier which announced support back when it launched still hasn’t implemented support.

So, why hasn’t Passbook been a bigger hit? Customers who use it love it. Hotels have gotten in on the game, too. And it really is quite easy to implement.

Obviously there is the need to support mobile boarding passes. Not every airline does yet. But even those airlines which do support mobile BPs aren’t rushing to embrace Passbook. I honestly cannot figure it out. Something cheap and easy which betters the passenger experience. Why aren’t the other carriers making that investments?

Any of y’all have any ideas??

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. In my opinion, Passbook simply does so little, that it is very low on an airlines to-do list. Beyond putting the boarding pass in a different, possibly more accessible location, what does it do? Almost all major airline iOS apps support push notifications for flight status, so any added benefit of Passbook would be minimal.
    In my experience with the Starbucks app, Passbook just constantly pinged by GPS location to see if I was close to stores, draining my battery. On the off chance it would prompt me, it just opened my starbucks card barcode. This maybe saves a fraction of a second, as opposed to opening the app manually.
    I just don’t get it, I guess.

  2. All passbook does is take a boarding pass and place it within a different app. Its like reading twitter in facebook…just a different app to read the same data. Until Passbook does something different and beneficial, why use an app that does nothing more than save me 2-3 seconds…..

  3. The airlines rather make money; they already have Android and iPhone Apps to check-in why do more when it works hehe…

    The users just don’t care for it I guess…

  4. I would have to be willing to upgrade to iOS6 first. Until there is a Google Maps app to replace the crap Apple came up with, I’m not upgrading, which means I don’t have access to Passbook. Apple and Google want to wage war, and I’m stuck in the middle.

  5. i also refuse to upgrade to ios 6 until the maps issue is resolved or improved. I’m definitely not updating just so that I can get my boarding pass in another app.

  6. I, too, didn’t upgrade my iPhone 4S to iOS6. Instead I switched to Android 4.2 for the time being. No Passbook for me!

  7. I agree with Seth. Passbook is awesome. To those who believe it is duplicative, it may be, but it saves at least entry, typically two or three and it consolidates vendors in one app.

    IMHO, Hyatt has the richest implementation so far.

    OT, I switched to Waze and haven’t missed either Google’s or Apple’s maps.

  8. I did upgrade to iOS6 and regret it (maps). That said I had issues using passbook with united when I had more than 3 boarding passes on one itinerary. Just couldn’t get the 4th one to show. This was annoying enough to stop using the app. Last week I believe I ha a chance to use it with Lufthansa but don’t bother wanting to hold onto paper boarding passes in case my miles didn’t post correctly to united.

  9. Maps issue aside, passbook is very nice, and the last time I checked into a flight a very large fraction of people were having their iPhones scanned on passbook. As is often the case with Apple innovations, it’s not technically astonishing, but it really is very slick and convenient. I think it’s just a matter of time before other major airlines adopt it.

  10. 10 total airlines isn’t’ so bad right now – remember that we are two months into general release of iOS6 and about 8 months since it was released into the development community. The airlines need to get the Passbook features into their mobile app release cycles, which takes some time. I wouldn’t be surprised if many were holding out to see what the Passbook and iOS6 adoption/use rate looks like. Remember how long it took airlines to implement mobile boarding pass technologies? I do agree, though, it’s a great technology and I think time will show it to be more and more useful and utilized.

  11. iOS is an ancient platform and is being outsold 5 to 1 by android worldwide so maybe the airlines are seeing the writing on the wall? I haven’t touched an iPhone in 3 years and a lot of road warrior power users I know no longer use the iPhone. So why bother spending precious resources on a random minor feature that an ever dwindling user base would possibly want to use when the current mobile boarding pass or gasp a paper ticket works just fine?

  12. I see it as only a temporary solution. Once there’s an actual standard of some type for NFC (and not mobile carriers, banks plus Google working or already live with competing methods) I believe this will have a greater role than barcode scanning for mobile boarding passes.

    Of course Apple would have to put NFC in their phones…

  13. Sorry. I tried it for both airlines and hotels and don’t get it, all info is in one place….but so what?!? Clicking the next app over isn’t arduous. In my case, the United app works great and Passbook does nothing that the UA app doesn’t do……

  14. I used the Passbook a couple of weeks ago with Lufthansa. I quite liked it as I’m not going to go and download a whole bunch of different airlines’ apps – I would never have downloaded the Lufthansa one as it was the first time I’d flown with them. But I don’t have a printer, so this was quite handy when the option came up. Airport staff didn’t really get it, though, at least at Rotterdam Airport. At Munich they were fine.

  15. I’d assume it’s because it’s not available for Android OS, which is what a majority of the phone users worldwide use. Why concentrate on only 30% of the market when the airline apps cater to a majority of the market?

  16. We are just starting to see the usual (Rogers) technology adoption curve so while it may be few today you can expect to see an exponential rise of merchants (and airlines) who issue and accept Boarding Passes in Passbook.

    While creating a static pass is fairly easy (although iterative when not using a WYSIWYG Pass Designer) the web server challenges and traffic profile are much more challenging and beyond the reach of many businesses. Hence why people use our service.

    Additionally airlines need to consider the ‘redemption’ and update process. Will all airport staff recognise a Pass. Do they have the hardware at the airport to scan the Pass etc. It’s only be using our end to end process that can companies really make the Passbook experience ‘flawless’ and ultra convenient.

    The opportunities are endless – but to properly implement is not that easy and does take a bit of thought and use of expertise (knowledge and technology). Of course, here at PassKit we are only too happy to help ANY business that wants to tap into the many benefits of Passbook.

    P.S. Our PassKit Passes also work on Android too! You can try for yourself at http://create.passkit.com

  17. I would have to say that it would be easier for an airline to put out a passbook boarding pass and leave out the app and just do a mobile version of their website. Just saying.

  18. One thing people miss is that one doesn’t have to download an app to use a boarding pass in Passbook. Passbook-eligible boarding passes can be e-mailed, sent by text, or added from an app. So it’s far from duplicative.

    Also, it saves a lot of time. Why? Because once you reach the airport it’s automatically on your home screen. So not only does it avoid going to the app, it also avoids you unlocking your phone, finding the app, then navigating to the pass. All of that is helpful considering you’re juggling luggage and your ID.

    Lastly American Airlines says their implementation has gone very well and customers have responded to it very positively.

    To an earlier commenter who said Apple is doomed. Sorry, but iPhones account for 45-50% of US smartphone sales. So domestic airlines would have to be crazy to ignore them.

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