Boarding a flight at the flick of your wrist sounds exciting, but there are a few things to know before you go.
When Apple Watch debuted this past April, ten airlines had their watch apps ready to go for tech-savvy travelers. Yet while having your boarding pass on a watch is a Dick Tracy-worthy marvel, using Apple Watch to check in for your flight—and then actually board the plane—is not as easy as it sounds. Here’s what to expect when using Apple’s debut wearable on your next trip.
1. Check-in on your iPhone first. Air France was one of the first airlines to update its app to work with Apple Watch, and indeed, the app works like a dream. You can pull up your boarding pass with seat and gate assignments and the scannable bar code right on your watch. However, you must log into the app on your iPhone first, check in there, and wait for the watch app to be updated with your flight information and boarding pass.
2. Save your boarding pass to Passbook. Once you’ve pulled up your boarding pass on your iPhone, save it to Passbook. This will allow you to access your boarding pass on your watch’s Passbook app.
3. Have a backup pass ready, just in case. Whether it’s on your iPhone or a paper pass, have this backup handy in case you encounter an airport employee who’s not ready to deal with your early tech adopter-ness. This is especially true when going through customs and security. In America, TSA checkpoints should be able to accept your watch scans, even if you have to loosen the Watch to position it beneath the scanner. But when handing over your passport, showing a paper boarding pass is sometimes easier, especially when you don’t speak the local language.
4. Be prepared to remove your watch at security… As with most electronic gadgets, there are some inconsistencies on what to do with them at security checkpoints. At Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, travelers need to remove their Watch before going through security. At Newark Liberty International Airport (and other airports under the rule of the TSA), they don’t. If you’re worried about your watch getting snatched or scratched while going through security, we suggest tucking it into a pocket of your carry-on bag.
5. …and at the gate. Another reason for a backup pass: Many airport gates have scanners that were built for paper or mobile passes, meaning there’s not enough room for you to slide your wrist under the scanner. You may have to remove your watch entirely at the gate to scan the boarding pass. Hopefully, more and more airports will get new tech that can accommodate Apple Watch boarding passes. For now, don’t give up your mobile boarding pass just yet.
6. Put your watch in airplane mode. Even if you put your iPhone in airplane mode during the flight, do the same for your watch to save battery power. You can also put your watch into Power Reserve mode. If you really need to be connected, you can sign on to the Wi-Fi on your phone and answer messages via your watch; and if your seat has a USB port, you can always charge your watch during the flight. Even though the watch won’t work when the iPhone is in airplane mode, the Activity app still regulates your movements, or since you’re on a plane, lack thereof.