A four-year-old Apple patent granted today describes a wide-ranging NFC check-in system for airplanes or other methods of transportation. iTravel, as the app was preliminarily called, would let users place their phones (or personal media players, this being 2008) close to a Near Field Communication (NFC) reader to check in at airports, train stations, or ports. The reader could then pull data from the phone (including a photo or fingerprint) and use it to verify identity, confirm the reservation, and possibly even let the passenger go through security and board at the gate.

Apple's NFC plans are a hot topic, with the company allegedly staying away from NFC because of its slow adoption and the need to add an antenna. Passbook, announced last month, covers some of the same territory as iTravel, but it can't act as an identification system. Though this patent obviously doesn't mean Apple is actually developing iTravel, it's a fairly intuitive use of NFC. Unfortunately, the security concerns involved in US air travel mean we doubt it would actually gain a foothold in airports.