Gavin Lew Interviewed About His Experience with AA's New Mobile Boarding Pass

November 26, 2008

Gavin Lew recently released an article detailing his experience with American Airlines' New Mobile Boarding Pass ( The article gained worldwide attention, including an interview by French journalist, Mathilde Cristiani of L'Atelier. The article she wrote was translated by Leslie McFarlin, User Experience Specialist at User Centric:

The Mobile Boarding Pass: It Could Be Better
By Mathilde Cristiani, L'Atelier, 25/11/2008

Some large airline companies have begun using mobile ticketing. However, technological barriers and administrative processes still make using it too complex.

Airlines are gradually beginning to move tickets to mobile platforms. In mid-November, American Airlines began testing its mobile boarding passes. This new type of boarding pass is a new level of technology, however there are a few issues that might concern the experienced traveler according to Gavin Lew , Director of User Centric. This company, which tried the new system some days ago, discovered several difficulties while using it. First among all of these is that using the mobile boarding pass is not an option available to all travelers. Upon registering at an airlines website, the option to use mobile ticketing requires a traveler to have a mobile phone that can receive emails. And within the emails, one must click a link that will download a barcode via a mobile web browser. This means that travelers must also have a mobile phone that allows them to access the internet.

Adapting to the Situation

Another inconvenience: Before reusing the ticket, the traveler has to complete many steps in a manner that is not at all understandable. The problem is that a persons trip depends upon this pass. It is not simply received. Rather, access to it could eat up substantial time, clarified Gavin Lew . One of the recommendations issued by User Centric: Clearly explain the ramifications of using a mobile boarding pass. Or, simply send  bar code image via an MMS message from the ticketing office. Companies have to understand that a travelers experience is not the same as someone sitting behind a computer, commented User Centrics Director to LAtelier.  This is one final obstacle to the smooth usage of the mobile boarding pass.

Simplify the process and overcome technological barriers

The new boarding pass does not mention a passengers seat, which means personnel at the gate need to rescan the pass. This would not seem so bothersome provided the telephone screen could successfully be scanned. However, multiple unsuccessful scan attempts will force airline personnel to manually retrieve this information from the computers at the gate. Again, there are too many contingencies that an airline company must work around, such as scanners of different power at the same airport, or the possibility that internet reception is weak, continued the tester. He explained to LAtelier that a traveler would feel the need to print out a boarding pass before arriving at the airport to ensure they could board their flight. He also pointed out that using the mobile boarding pass is a mostly positive experience and could support mobile phones as the next platform for issuing boarding passes. One additional note, Continental Airlines is also experimenting with mobile ticketing. They are currently testing in four American airports.

For the complete article in French, visit

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