Five Apps to Help Make Air Travel Easier

These apps may improve your next plane trip.

By Tom Samiljan

Today’s fliers can travel to more places, and at more reasonable prices, than ever before. But all those options also mean that an overpriced ticket or uncomfortable flight with overly long layovers is just one wrong click away. Sometimes travel delays are unavoidable. If you make use of a few handy apps as you plan, book and travel, however, your next flight is more likely to go smoothly.

Book the Least Stressful Itinerary

Hipmunk

(Android, iOS; hipmunk.com; free)

This innovative app uses algorithms to analyze factors such as price, layover duration, legroom and on-time arrival history to assign a flight an “agony” rating. Instead of the typical list format, search results are then shown in the form of color-coded bars, timelines and graphs, which indicate agony factor, travel time, departure time and more. Save itineraries you like and email them to yourself, or book right from the app or website. Also handy: Sign up for alerts to fares for a specific itinerary by clicking just one button. And if you need a hotel, Hipmunk uses the same formula to search for accommodations.

Get a Better Seat

Seat Alerts® by Expert Flyer

(BlackBerry, iOS; expertflyer.com; free)

Stuck in the back row near the WC? You could keep checking the airline’s website to see if a different seat has opened up, or you could simply sign up for this service, which automatically alerts you when better seats become available. You’ll still have to do the manual legwork of changing your assignment online or via the phone, but now you have a chance of actually getting into that emergency exit row with the extra legroom by reserving it before anyone else does. And what constitutes a better seat? Just check one of the more than 700 airline seat maps offered by SeatGuru, which is fully integrated with this app.

Be a Smarter Flier

Flight+

(iOS; flight-plus.com; $3.99)

Yes, it’s a flight tracker, offering real-time updates—gate changes, departure and arrival time changes—for any route you enter, but true to its name, Flight+ offers so much more for everyone, from the average flier to the air-travel nerd. Besides terminal maps and real-time flight boards for hundreds of airports across the globe, the app provides route maps and listings for every flight for every airline. Also, it automatically syncs with your calendars and TripIt accounts so you’re kept up-to-date on changes. Alas, it’s only for iOS, and there’s no exact equivalent on competing operating systems, so if you’re on Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone, try FlightAware for updates for specific flights, Flightboard for real-time flight boards and GateGuru for airport information.

Stay On Top of Your Itinerary

TripIt®

(Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone; tripit.com; free)

Toss out all those printouts of your travel plans, and just send your confirmation emails to TripIt, which keeps track of your flights, hotels, restaurant reservations, car rentals and more in an integrated itinerary, updating automatically if there are changes and alerting you of gate or departure-time changes. Other travel managers, like Worldmate and Tripcase, are excellent too, but TripIt edges out its competition by integrating frequent-flier-point tracking. Just email your monthly statement to TripIt and it’ll keep track of your points, letting you know about expiration dates and upcoming deals to make the best use of them.

Find the Lowest Ticket Price

Yapta®

(iOS; yapta.com; free)

Instead of spending hours searching for the right ticket price, you can use Yapta’s Kayak-powered search engine to find the flights you want, then set up an alert: Yapta will send you an e-mail or text any time the price for a specific itinerary goes up or down. Or you may want to go ahead and buy the ticket; Yapta will help you get a refund from the airline if the fare goes down after you’ve purchased.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2014