updated 07:00 pm EDT, Fri September 7, 2012
Other airlines expected on board after official rollout
American Airlines and United, along with Virgin and now Delta, have all confirmed in various press reports that they are either already supporting or preparing to implement support for Apple's Passbook application, a program that is expected to debut with iOS 6 sometime this month. Representatives have anonymously acknowledged to MacNN and other news outlets the upcoming support following reports in Australia of a user running a developer build of iOS 6 discovering the feature already implemented.
The program, a feature in the upcoming iOS 6, acts as a kind of "virtual wallet" and lets users store loyalty cards, boarding passes and other types of electronic documents and passes. When a user arrives at a given location, the appropriate document is automatically loaded to the lock screen, allowing the user to show the pass without having to unlock the iPhone. The program can also update users via push notifications if an event, pass or service should change -- a flight is delayed, a concert is cancelled, et cetera. Users can also use the program to immediately check balances on various gift or reloadable cards.
An Australian man named Shaun Lorrain discovered that Virgin had already activated its support when the Passbook app offered to store his boarding pass when he checked in using his iPhone's web browser. Lorrain was running a developer version of iOS 6 but had not actively set Passbook up. In order to recognize certain kinds of electronic documents, they must be encoded in an Apple-developed special MIME format.
The official release of iOS 6 has not yet been formally announced, though it is expected to accompany the forthcoming iPhone 5 when it ships, sometime later this month. Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 5, a new lineup of iPods and perhaps make other announcements at a press event MacNN will cover live on September 12.