Nine Handy Airline Travel Apps for iPhone & iPad

by Reads (11,180)

This week or at some point, maybe you’ll be catching some airline flights. Whenever you do, a smartphone or tablet outfitted with the right apps can be an exceptionally useful tool for a number of purposes, since you’re likely to keep your mobile device by your side wherever you are.

Whether you’re sitting in the airport, a family member’s house, a hotel room, or a taxi cab, you can use your gadget to quickly make reservation changes, find out about flight delays, get a better seat at the last minute, save your boarding pass to your device, and find out what you’ll be allowed to bring onboard, for instance. Here are nine of the coolest iPhone and iPad apps for airplane travel.

Kayak ProKayak Pro
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. (Optimized for iPhone 5.)

Kayak Pro lets you compare flights (as well as hotels and rental cars), manage your itinerary, and look up flight status to see whether or not your plane has been cancelled or delayed.

You can filter results along a variety of lines, including price, departure time, and flight duration time (“leaving soonest,” “leaving latest,” or “arriving soonest”).

Kayak doesn’t book (or re-book) directly. However, you can tap from a desired flight to the airline’s own site.

Another nice feature is a flight tracker which lets you enter one or more flights and see where they are on a map.

Seat AlertsSeat Alerts
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. (Optimized for iPhone 5.)

What if you don’t like the seat that the airline gave you when you made a reservation? Seat Alert can let you check currently available seats for any of 130 airlines and set up email alerts.

Expert Flyer, the app/service provider, claims that, “Seat Alerts finds a window or aisle seat better than 74% of the time.

Seat Alerts has free and paid accounts. With a free account, you can set up one alert at a time. Alerts for “Any seat,” “Any aisle seat,” or “Any window seat” cost you nothing. Alerts for “Any exit row seat,” “Any two seats together,” or “Select specific seats” cost something (currently $0.99).

Expert Flyer also offers paid accounts: Basic ($4.99/month) and Premium ($9.99/month or $99.99/year). These will let you do many more types of queries, along with other stuff.

According to the app listing, “Seat Alerts will monitor the available seats right up until the flight departs.”

However, the app won’t make a seat change for you; you’ll have to do that through the airline or a travel agency site like Expedia.

SeatGuru by TripAdvisor
Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Where the Seat Alerts app lets you look for a better available seat, SeatGuru gives you information about a seat beyond where the row where it’s located.

SeatGuru can show you a seat map for your flight, with information about the seat’s features, negatives, and more. The app gives information about “700 seat maps from over 100 airlines,” with “advice and insights drawn from over 45,000 passenger reviews.”

SeatGuru can display flight status (estimated departure and arrival times), plus departing gate and arrival baggage gate.

You can also set up flight alerts for delays and cancellations.

To facilitate searches, SeatGuru includes a smart, simple flight finder which lets you search by day, route, etc. if you don’t know a flight number.

Boarding PassBoarding Pass
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. (Optimized for iPhone 5.)

As I see it, printing out boarding passes from a home or hotel is one of the best things that the Internet can let you do.

Moreover, increasingly, many airlines are letting you present your boarding pass — these days, with a 2D bar code — directly from your mobile device, saving the need to print it out.

BoardingPass allows you to take either approach. It aggregates the mobile or web check-in sites for numerous domestic and international airlines. The iTunes page says “50+,” but my count on the app is around 85.

All but about two dozen of the airlines listed have mobile-friendly pages; the other two dozen entries bring you to the corresponding part of the airline’s web site.

Once you have checked in and gotten a boarding pass, simply hit the app’s SAVE button; you can then show it as needed, from the app’s Your Boarding Passes section.

If you’re extra cautious, consider taking a iOS screen-shot (by pressing the iPad/iPhone’s HOME and POWER buttons at the same time, in case you’ve forgotten) as well. (Just remember that this screen shot is part of your Camera Roll.)

If you prefer, you can print the boarding pass out instead, just in case you’re concerned that you might misplace your mobile device or the battery will run out.

Airports by TravelNerdAirports by TravelNerd
Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. (Optimized for iPhone 5.)

The Airports app offers premises info for dozens of airports, along with flight status and a lot more.

Generally speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that terminal maps showing gates, facilities, etc. aren’t usually that super useful.

However, Airports does provide a fair amount of other info that can come in really handy if you’re stuck at the airport, like lists of nearby places to eat, shop, or lounge, all sortable either by terminal or by name.

You can also look up “Amenities” info on things like Kid Play Areas, Child Friendly Restaurants, Pet Care, and Airport Parking.

The flight status feature works well, but it only displays for one flight at a time

Flight Board
Compatible with iPad, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. (Optimized for iPhone 5.)

Flight Board has (or gets to) an astonishing amount of information for over 16,000 airports.

You can check the status of specific flights either past, current or future.

You can also watch the Flight Board (arrivals/departures) for an airport being updated in real time.

The app gives you the current weather, plus a one-day forecast

When the app is used on an iPad, terminal maps automatically resize to fit the iPad screen.

MileWise Flight Search
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. (Optimized for iPhone 5.)

These days everyone from airlines, hotels, car rentals and credit cards to movie theaters and pharmacies offer “loyalty programs” involving a membership account and points (or miles, etc).

The MileWise mobile app lets you keep track of your frequent flier and other loyalty program accounts directly from your smartphone or tablet.

You can also search for flights and other stuff based on miles, points or money. If you don’t see a result you like, you can request emailed Price Alerts by tapping on a button (although this button is poorly placed at the bottom of the scrollable display of search results).

ITA Software’s OnTheFly
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later

I’ve been a happy use of ITA Software’s free Matrix flight-finding web site for quite some time. Through the OnTheFly mobile app, Matrix make it easy to look for the best flight times and prices directly from your phone or tablet. (Caveat: Their database doesn’t include SouthWest Airlines and possibly also not some others; you’ll need to check those separately.)

For the mobile app, ITA has sensibly split the results up into appropriate chunks for easy viewing.

Like Kayak Pro, ITA doesn’t do the booking (or re-booking); for that you need to go to the airline or a travel agency app. ITA is now owned by Google, by the way. 

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s free My TSA app provides a wealth of useful airport-related information. Some of this you could get elsewhere, but there’s at least one type of info that MY TSA is probably the only source for: “Security Wait Times” at the various TSA checkpoints.

If you’ve ever been at a busy airport where you had a choice of checkpoints, you’ve probably wondered which one is your best bet. From personal experience, I can tell you that the opinions and suggestions from the airport or airline staff aren’t always even remotely accurate.

MY TSA’s checkpoint wait times are based on data provided by app users. Like any crowd-sourced data, though, it’s not necessarily current enough.

The app includes a searchable “Can I bring?” list of what is allowed and not allowed at checkpoints. Search results bring you to relevant TSA documents, although you might need to read these docs a few times to figure out whether the answer is ‘yes,” “no,” or “depends on quantity.”
My TSA also gives you general information on flight delays at specific airports, such as  “Delays averaging 43 minutes.” If you want to check for delays on specific flights, though, you’ll need a separate app.

Also on the down side, the visual presentation is only a scrollable list, there’s no map-and-times view.

In addition, MY TSA links to the form to file a Civil Rights Complaint to the TSA — but hopefully that’s something you’ll never need!


Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Flying isn’t what it used to be.” But with the right apps installed on your mobile device, airline travel might even turn out to be even better than it used to be.



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