Airport Apps

15 Apps You Need to Download Before Your Next Flight

  by Patricia Rey Mallén3 Comments


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Ask a traveler what they think about flying, and you’ll get wildly different opinions, from the geekily excited to the desperately terrified.

Now, ask a traveler what they think about the logistics of flying, and you’ll get a near-unanimous response: it’s miserable.

Going to the airport, dealing with security, running around trying to get to the gate on time only to then have to sit around for two hours because the flight has been delayed. That’s nobody’s idea of a good time.

Fear not, your smartphone is here to save you. From finding the perfect flight, to alerting you of a seat upgrade, to giving tips for fighting off jet lag in transit, here are 16 apps to help you make the most of your flight – before, during, and after the experience.

Before Flying

Before flight apps

Buying Flights

Kayak

Use Kayak in your web browser already? There’s no need to leave it there. The US-based search engine’s app is one of the best options to find deals and hard-to-organize routes.

Kayak‘s app version comes complete with its own features, including mobile-exclusive deals. It also sends price alerts when your preferred flight matches your ideal rate, and offers a price forecast, which gives an idea on how rates will fluctuate over time so you can decide whether to book or wait.

If you like all your trip information available in one neat folder, Kayak will also remember the details of your accommodation and booking confirmation – even if you made them with other apps and sites.

iOS and Android, free

Hopper

Do you still believe Tuesdays are the best day to book flights? Rather than guessing, just ask Hopper. This app tells you exactly when the best days are to make that booking, months in advance.

The way it works is pretty simple. You enter the details of the flight you’re looking for, and Hopper shows a color-coded calendar with the cheapest and most expensive days to fly that route. Just how accurate the predictions are, you ask? Hopper says that it “consistently performs with 95% accuracy.”

Pick an exact date out of the calendar, and Hopper will tell you if better rates might still be available, in which case it will recommend waiting. If not, it gives the go-ahead and you can book with a couple of taps.

iOS and Android, free


Tracking Flights

FlightView

FlightView is a no-frills tracking system that keeps you updated about whatever’s happening with your flight.

If you’re based in one city, FlightView offers the option to report daily conditions at your local airport. Useful in case of strikes or bad weather conditions — better safe than sorry!

iOS and Android, $0.99


At the Airport

During flight apps

Finding Your Way

iFly

There are many airport information apps on the market, but iFly takes the cake in terms of simplicity and comprehensiveness, at least if you’re US-based.

The app includes detailed maps of over 700 North American airports, giving tips on where to eat and how to get to your gate faster, along with practical info such as your airline’s weight limits and the airport’s ID requirements. It’ll also point you towards the nearest Wi-fi hotspot, and calculate how much time you need for your connection.

iOS and Android, free (basic version), $4.99 (pro version)

GateGuru

A regular in airport app lists, GateGuru is a favorite among frequent flyers. Aside from offering airport info, it also keeps an eye on potential disruptions to your flight, including delays, cancellations and gate changes.

Its features are beautifully organized in “cards.” The Journey Card holds all the information about your flight, including times, layovers and gates, while the Airport Card lists all the amenities in each of your stops, as well as providing weather information and waiting times.

iOS, Android and Windows, free


Going Through Security

MiFlight

Especially in US airports, the only thing you know for certain about the security line is that it’s going to be long and miserable.

How long and miserable, you ask? That’s a good question, and one that can mean the difference between you making your flight, and standing frustratedly at the metal detector as your plane flies overhead.

There’s where MiFlight comes in. This app gives the approximate wait time at any given moment, as experienced by other passengers currently suffering through it. This way, you can check before you even leave home, to see whether you need to allow even longer than usual and know just how much pain you’re going to have to suffer through.

iOS, free


Upgrading Seats

Seat Alerts

As any frequent flier knows, your seat location can make all the difference between a flight to remember, or one you’ll spend your entire vacation trying to forget.

ExpertFlyer’s Seat Alerts is here to help, letting you know when a better seat is available on your flight. Like to be up near the front of the plane? Want an emergency exit row? Prefer to be close to the flight attendants, or desperate for that coveted window seat?

This app lets you set alerts for any of these seats, or several if you upgrade to the Pro version. You can also see specific recommendations for each aircraft, including ratings by other passengers.

Here’s to never having to fly for 12 hours in the middle seat beside the toilets ever again.

iOS and Android, free (basic version), $4.99/month (pro version)


During Layovers

Layover apps

Getting Ready for New Time Zones

Entrain

If you’ve got a lengthy airport wait before or during your journey, take advantage of the downtime to get your body in sync with your final destination.

Entrain is a project from the University of Michigan that monitors your circadian rhythms, checks the daylight hours in your destination, and make recommendations to help you adjust your body clock ahead of time.

The app checks the day/night schedule in your current location, then compares that to the schedule at your destination. Following that, it offers recommendations to help you transition between the two, such as moving to a more dimly-lit part of the airport — since light is the main driver of circadian rhythms, changing your exposure to it fight jetlag ahead of time.

Of course, sometimes these recommendations will be hard to follow — it’s hard to find total darkness in airports, and you’ll likely get in trouble if you’re seen climbing into a cleaning cupboard! However, it is still handy to have, and even a partial adjustment can go a long way to avoid looking like a zombie while roaming the streets of a new city.

iOS and Android, free


Hanging Out in Style

Priority Pass

Nobody likes layovers — but that doesn’t mean you have to add insult to injury by slumping over an uncomfortable plastic chair for hours, staring forlornly out the window and trying to ignore the screaming child beside you.

There’s a better option, and it’s two simple words: lounge access. If you’re not flying business class and don’t have a high status with your airline, check out Priority Pass instead.

Membership of the program provides access to over 900 lounges in 400 cities around the world, and all the comforts they provide: Wi-fi, comfortable chairs, privacy, food and alcohol.

If you’ve got work to do, prefer the free food and drinks to what’s on offer in the terminal, or just want a little piece and quiet, it’s a worthy investment.

The app shows available lounges in any airport you’re visiting, with details and instructions on how to find them. Many lounges accept a digital membership card if you don’t have the physical one with you, and that’s found in the app as well.

iOS, Android and BlackBerry, free (membership costs $99-$399 / year)

Lounge Buddy

On a related note, LoungeBuddy takes your personal information like frequent flyer details, airline status and independent membership programs, and lets you know which lounges you have access to in a given airport.

If you can’t get into any of them for free, the app also lets you purchase day passes for the (relatively small) number of lounges that allow you to do so.

One of the most useful features is independent reviews from other travelers, so you can quickly find out which lounge is best if you’ve got access to more than one in a particular airport.

iOS and Android, free


Finding Friends

Milehi

Already bored at the prospect of spending five hours in an airport by yourself? Milehi is your new airport friend, with plenty of other friends to introduce you to.

This app is a social network for airports, connecting flyers during their layovers or while they are waiting for a delayed flight. You can choose whether you’re there on b business, a family vacation, with a group or solo, then connect with like-minded travelers on your same flight.

Don’t let the name confuse you — this app is not specifically for finding a hookup… although if that’s what you’d like, the next app might be more your style…

iOS and Android, free


Finding Wi-fi

FLIO

An airport navigation app, FLIO offers similar features to other apps we’ve explored before, including access to lounges and airport maps. What makes it stand out, though, is its extreme helpfulness when it comes to helping you get online.

Once you arrive at a new airport, FLIO will automatically find the official free Wi-fi network and connect you to it with a single tap. FLIO does everything behind the scenes, ensuring you’re using the right network and avoiding the need to fill in sign-up forms, and gets you online as fast as possible.

The app has other interesting features worth checking out, such as pointing out the fastest route to get to gates, and deals on food and drinks at each airport.

iOS and Android, free

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Wifi Map

While not airport-specific, Wifi Map will still come to your rescue when you’re stranded in a strange terminal and in serious need of an Internet fix.

This app will point you towards available networks in over 100 countries, and boasts a comprehensive list of 5 million hotspots. It doesn’t just have public networks, either — where a password is needed, you’ll often find it’s been uploaded by the app’s users.

You can also look up where you’re going (country, city or particular location), and prepopulate the information so it’s accessible offline. While the free version limits what you can save for later use, the Pro version lets you cache an entire city if you like. That’s super-useful when you’re out exploring without access to cell data, pointing you towards the nearest hotspot if you need it.

Wifi Map prides itself on having the most active active Wi-fi community, with participants constantly adding new information and networks

iOS and Android, free (basic version), $4.99 (pro version)


After Landing

Arrival apps

Tracking Luggage

Lug Loc

If you’re anything like me, the most terrifying part of flying isn’t takeoff or dealing with a crying infant on the plane, it’s waiting to see if your checked luggage has made it to your destination.

Lug Loc has thought of it, and vows to never let your suitcase get lost in transit again. The app works with an electronic device placed within the bag, and it lets you follow the bag’s journey from the moment you leave it at check-in to when you finally welcome it back in your arms, hopefully at the conveyor belt.

The caveat of Lug Loc is, as you guessed, that the app does not work by itself – it needs the locating device, which retails for around $70. After that, you’ll also need to pay for monthly ($5), six-monthly ($20) or annual  ($30) service.

It’s pricey, yes, but if you fly a lot or with multiple layovers, it might be worth investing in. What price do you put on peace of mind?

iOS, Android and web, free (device and service subscription priced as above)


Finding Ground Transportation

Airport Transit

To round out the list, Airport Transit is a bit different to all the other airport service apps we talked about above. What makes it great for arrivals rather than departures is that it lets you find and book the cheapest land transportation before you leave the terminal.

Available for over 400 airports worldwide, Airport Transit lets you check and compare timetables, prices and length of journey from the airport to your accommodation for all available services. It includes tram, bus, taxi, shuttle, ferries, even helicopters and limos if you woke up in the fancy end of the plane before landing.

iOS and Android, $4.99


What are your favorite apps for dealing with the flying experience? Any we left out?
Images via Anne Worner (man in airport), Jorge Díaz (people waving), Justin Daoust (arrivals sign),Matthew Grapengieser (plane flying), Tabrez Syed (airport board).

About the Author

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City. She only vaguely remembers life before the Internet, but will forever long for the days in which mobile phone batteries lasted for over a week.

Comments

  1. Very nicely done! Comprehensive list of helpful apps, and I especially like the way your formatted the page.

  2. “App in the air” does several of those apps in one. You can track your flights, gates, check in times, security times, airport reviews and flight path and status. Although they do have a very odd upgrade path that I’ve not been convinced by yet.

  3. you forgot one that I think is invaluable called Flightboard. As the name suggests it gives you the airport flight board for arrivals and/or departures right in your hand. Also notifies you of gate changes! Must have app.

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