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American Airlines updates mobile app with touchless check-in experience, useful widget

Sept. 23, 2020
4 min read
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American Airlines updates mobile app with touchless check-in experience, useful widget
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American Airlines is doubling down on the mobile app experience.

On Wednesday, the Fort Worth-based carrier announced two traveler-friendly updates to its iOS app. Specifically, all Apple devices updated to the latest iOS 14 software now support a touchless check-in experience. Plus, flyers who've upgraded to the newest American app will have the ability to see important day-of-travel information with a brand-new widget.

As Kevin MacFarland, AA's managing director of digital and merchandising, explained to TPG in an interview, "we want to be on the platform and places that our customers are, and deliver them the right info at the right time." With Wednesday's app release, the carrier is indeed following through on that mission.

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Say you're a first-time AA flyer. (There are many of them, according to a recent interview with Vasu Raja, American's chief revenue officer.)

When you approach a check-in kiosk at American's Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) megahub, there will be a QR code ready for you to scan. If your Apple device is running iOS 14, scanning the code will launch an App Clip — a miniature version of the AA app that will allow you to check-in on your device without touching the kiosk or downloading the full version of the app.

If you happen to already have the AA app installed, then you can complete mobile, touch-free check-in as before.

Checking-in via the App Clip is currently limited to departures from DFW. MacFarland noted that enabling the capability systemwide requires a simple software update on the airport check-in kiosks. Pending positive feedback, the carrier plans to expand the touchless check-in experience systemwide.

(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

The other new app feature — the day-of-departure widget — is an important tool for customers during the end-to-end travel experience. Flyers can place the widget front and center on the home screen, and it will display flight status, connecting gate information, arrival times and more.

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MacFarland explained that "for now, we're focused on seeing how customers use the widget and react to it. We have some ideas around loyalty and engagement [for how we can further build it out]." American is encouraging users to submit their feedback by reviewing the app on the App Store, or by clicking the "contact the developer" button on their devices.

(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

For now, flyers will be able to experience AA's latest innovations on Apple devices only. MacFarland admitted that "the overwhelming majority of our AAdvantage members" use iOS. Nonetheless, he added that "we strive for feature parity between operating systems," so it's likely a matter of time until the updates detailed Wednesday are rolled out to Android. (American does seem to have a great relationship with Apple, though. You can now stream Apple TV+ shows and listen to Apple Music while inflight, for free.)

With the launch of the newest app, American is about to add another anti-coronavirus milestone to its Clean Commitment. "We've made almost all of the travel journey touchless," said MacFarland.

Wednesday's update is the latest in a series the carrier has made to its app and online experience. Earlier in the pandemic, American debuted a chat feature and virtual assistant for those looking for quick, on-device help from customer care.

Related: American Airlines permanently eliminates most change fees

In addition, the airline recently overhauled its upgrade and standby lists. Now, the "waitlist" feature breaks down the upgrade list by cabin and also shows the standby list for your flight. You'll also be able to view the waitlist beginning at eight hours before departure — it was previously just four.

Though American is the first U.S. carrier to take advantage of Apple's iOS 14, several other travel companies have already released updated apps that take advantage of some of the new features.

Hotwire's new widget highlights last-minute weekend hotel deals under $200 a night near your current location. TripIt, an online travel organization platform, launched a new widget that displays the most relevant details for your upcoming trips on the home screen.

When we recover from the pandemic, the future of travel is likely going to continue being as touchless as possible. As such, American's latest app update sets the carrier up for success in a post-pandemic world.