“What if you found yourself stuck alone at a faraway airport — with no money, credit cards or ID? How easily could you fly back home again?” Thom Patterson reports for CNN. “You might survive if you had a smartphone. Emerging “empty pockets” technology is increasingly allowing travelers to use their phones to make purchases, book flights, check in and board planes.”

“Delta, American and United are already big into electronic boarding passes on smartphones, and stragglers like JetBlue are planning e-boarding programs in the near future,” Patterson reports. “Apple — still basking in the afterglow of last week’s iPhone 5 curtain raiser — is also unveiling Passbook, an app which organizes e-boarding passes, flight reservations, coupons and other documents. But Apple has a much more grandiose plan for its empty pocket dreams, according to public U.S. Patent and Trademark Office documents.

Patterson reports, “For example, imagine checking bags with your cell phone — or passing through security by flashing an official driver’s license or U.S. passport displayed on your phone. Outside the airport, envision using just your phone to rent a car or to check into a hotel. How about using your phone as an electronic hotel room key? … The 2008 patent application was approved in July and filed under the working title ‘iTravel.’ AppleInsider‘s Neil Hughes suspects the iTravel concept will be folded into Apple’s Passbook app, which will be available for download on Wednesday.”

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