Update from the field: Mobile boarding passes still don’t work

Gadling Labs is on the road this steamy August weekend, bouncing from O’Hare to Houston to Seattle and to Anchorage. It’s a good day for flying – there are unusually few thunderstorms barreling through the Midwest, our hangovers are light and the red vinaigrette in first class is a bit punchier than normal. Perhaps its the humidity on this Canadian Regional Jet of yore.

Following up on our post last week on the questionable efficacy of mobile boarding passes, we decided to take a pair of American Airlines and Continental Airlines passes out for a spin today.

Passing the TSA officer outside of the K/H wing in O’Hare, we fired up our handy iPhone 3GS and downloaded the boarding pass on the fly. Asked about the failure rate of mobile passes at this station, the friendly officer replied “About one in a thousand here.” That’s a pretty good hit rate, and it’s too bad that we’ve been one of those out of a thousand in the past.

Slipping through security (digression: when timed, we found that the new backscatter scanners process passengers at almost half the rate as the traditional magnetometers) and ambling over to the H5, it was far too early for boarding, so a little bit of browsing on our not-so-reliable Clear hotspot helped us pass a half hour.

And when boarding began? We were the second in line. Problem was, the iPhone tried to reload the Safari webpage when we opened up the browser, and now that our session was stale the boarding pass had disappeared. We were left with the image above, no boarding pass and a line of stuffy passengers starting to grow impatient.

Lesson learned! Always carry a paper boarding pass. And when downloading the mobile pass? Make sure to cache a local copy on your phone for later use – many sites offer the option to “save a copy” when the pass initially opens and this could save a lot of time and effort while in transit.

Next up? Trials with the Continental Airlines boarding passes!