This is Part 1 of the 2014 edition of my tips on traveling. Part 1 covers apps.
There is a lot more information available than a typical airline employee will share or know. But I like to travel with as much information as is available. The apps I use are all geared toward this. Here are my favorite apps and some tips for traveling in 2014.
Before a trip I always download the app for the airline on which I’m traveling. Yes, most of the apps are terrible but they offer functionality I can’t get with a third party travel app; I can easily change seats, buy upgrades, and get flight updates (but those apps aren’t always the best for flight status—more on that in a minute).
On my last trip, as I was walking through the Atlanta airport to my gate for my flight home, I opened Delta’s iOS app and quickly changed my seat from an exit row aisle seat right side to an exit row aisle seat left side after I noticed that the three exit row seats on the left side were empty. It was more likely that the middle seat would remain empty and I would have even more room than the typical increased leg room (that little hunch was right, by the way).
This was about 90 minutes before my flight left and didn’t require me to stand in line or talk to anyone.
Other Travel Apps
A couple other apps that I find critical to a saner travel experience:
There is a new version of this app in the App Store called FlightTrack 5. Up until writing this article I’ve used the original version of FlightTrack (FlightTrack Pro, no longer available) but the new version is nice and I’ll switch to it. It does not, however, offer TripIt sync like its predecessor.
Before each trip I enter my entire flight itinerary into FlightTrack Pro. The app sends alerts prior to the flight and for any changes like delays or gate changes. FlightTrack Pro gives you a bit more detail, like that your flight will leave the gate 5 minutes late but is still on-time.
It can be angst-inducing at first but once you realize the airlines pad their schedules you’ll be fine. I like the extra information because I like to know as many details about my flights as possible.
FlightTrack Pro and FlightTrack 5 let you easily look up alternative flights based on your itinerary. This is particularly useful when you’re standing in line trying to get rebooked after a cancelled or missed flight.
I used the FlightAware website before I downloaded the app. Its main function is live (with a short delay in the US) flight tracking. FlightAware takes multiple data outlets and combines them. It offers, I think, the best way to track flights. You can also browse flights, see plane tracking photos, and read the latest airline news (aptly called “Squawks & Headlines”).
FlightAware has a great mobile website and a decent iOS app. While traveling I use FlightAware for one purpose: to track the actual status of my outbound flight.
Many delays are caused by inbound aircraft that are coming from another region with their own weather problems or air traffic congestion. The airlines are slow to post a delay for the outbound flight. If I look at the status of the inbound flight (the aircraft that will handle my flight) I can easily tell my chances of facing a delay on my flight. I usually know about a delay well before it is announced or even posted on the airline website.
I do this by first pulling up the flight in FlightAware. Then, I scroll down to the bottom of the page (you can do this in both the app and on the website) and choose “Track Inbound Flights.” You can even track the inbound flight of your inbound flight and trace any delays further back.
This comes in handy if you are running late on a connection and want to see if a inbound flight delay will work in your favor.
More in the next part of Traveling Like it’s 2014 where we’ll talk about luggage, gear, and more.