Alaska launching Apple Watch app

The mobile team at Alaska Airlines is all about saving travelers time and hassle.

So when they received the developer kit for Apple’s brand-new Apple Watch – launching tomorrow – back in November, they couldn’t wait to get started.

Four months of planning, customer interviews, field trips to the airport and many, many sticky note sketches later, they are ready to launch a simple, beautiful, wearable companion to Alaska’s award-winning mobile app when the Apple Watch store launches April 24.

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“There are certain features we’ve wanted to add to our smart phone app for some time now, but hesitated because we can’t predict if travelers will have their phone in hand ,” says Kyle Fuhrer, Alaska’s director of mobile products.

For example, when a passenger is walking off the plane, Apple Watch could provide the estimated time to walk to a connecting gate. Something that isn’t ideal on a phone when a traveler is likely juggling bags and other travel gear.

“The Apple Watch is a natural extension of the smart phone, so it provides an opportunity to enhance the traveling experience beyond what we could do in the past,” Fuhrer says.

The team received feedback from Apple while developing the app.

“Wearable technology is really fitting in a travel setting,” says Alaska Airlines developer Alven Mei. “Time is money, and every second we can save our power travelers from looking at their phones proves this is not just a shiny object, but a valuable travel companion.”

The mobile team began by mapping out a typical customer journey around the day of travel, from the alarm clock ringing in the morning to baggage claim at the end of the trip, then slicing it into precise moments when travelers need specific pieces of bite-sized information. Apple Watch is not meant to replace your smartphone, instead it is a companion.

We sliced it up and asked ourselves, ‘What is the most important piece of information for someone to know at this point, at this point, at this point,’” said Frances Brendon, Alaska UI/UX designer.

“In some ways it was almost easier to develop because the purpose of Apple Watch is so clear,” says Nick Wilkinson, another Alaska developer, “But at the same time the real challenge is to figure out exactly what a customer would want to see and precisely when they would need to see it.”

For example – say you’ve made it through security and you’d like to grab a coffee before your flight but the line is long. Imagine you can glance down at your watch and see a countdown timer letting you know exactly how long you have before you need to be at your gate.

Or, perhaps you’ve made it through the airport and you’re on your flight ready to take off. Imagine you can check your watch and see how much longer you have before landing at your destination.

“I can’t wait to fly with Apple Watch because I always set a timer when I travel today,” says Wilkinson. “I want to get where I’m going and I want to know how long until I’ll be there. I can’t wait to see all these new features in the wild.”

Apple Watch launch features:

  1. Check-in now notification
  2. Connecting gate information
  3. Gate change
  4. Count-down to start of boarding
  5. Count-down to landing
  6. Flight delay/cancellation notification

What features would you most like to see in a future version of the app?