An image from Apple's iTravel patent filing.

An image from Apple's iTravel patent filing.

Feel that vibrating in your pocket? No, that's not your phone. It's your wallet trembling because Apple is aiming to displace it. And a newly approved patent for a travel-management system - "iTravel" - brings the company one big step closer to doing it.

What is called iTravel on the patent documents is a near-field communication service, reported initially by Patently Apple, that will make your iPhone a more useful travel companion - and one the airlines don't yet charge to let fly. (Just wait, though.)

The patent filing suggests that, using NFC for check-in, "the handheld device may store and transmit travel reservations and traveler identifications using a travel management application. Various methods may be employed to acquire the reservation and identification information on the handheld device."

Really, that travel-management application sounds just like the Passbook app for storing event tickets, gift cards, loyalty cards and, yes, boarding passes.

Some of the interesting examples listed in the filing include, essentially, making reservations through the app or pulling them up from a website or another NFC-enabled device. It also suggests that your driver's license or maybe passport could be scanned into the app.

A number of the features sound quite a bit like apps such as TripIt, which turns reservation emails into mobile itineraries. 

Although it was just approved, Apple has had iTravel the works for some time. The patent application was filed in 2008, and details had surfaced in 2010 with services related to flight, car rental and cruises.

Among the claims of this patent are that this will be a method for transportation check-in using the Apple device with an NFC reader as well as retrieving and verifying ticketing and traveler identification from the device via the NFC reader.

The methods of traveler identification listed in the patent filing include photo, fingerprint and photo retinal scan comparisons.

While the app may also be designed to keep track of your checked luggage, it's likely no guarantee the airline actually will.

Los Angeles Times