From getting to the airport on time to checking-in from your mobile phone or tablet, airline apps are making flying far more efficient and stress free. Forget printing your boarding pass or getting stuck in a jam on the way to the airport car park – there’s an app for that. See what’s on offer for the modern-day traveller as APH takes a look at 10 of the apps offered by some of the top airlines flying from the UK.
Go straight to your airline
Just click below to get details on apps for the following airlines…
Improve your easyJet experience with the budget carrier’s app that lets you search, book and manage flights from the comfort of your smartphone. Starting at the beginning, the booking process is clear and easy to use, with options for adding luggage and sports equipment such as golf clubs and surf boards. You can then select seating with extra legroom and comfort, while the new seat map feature will help ensure you’re seated with companions. Mobile boarding passes can also be downloaded and saved directly to the app – making them instantly accessible throughout your trip (view the list of airports where mobile boarding passes are not supported). There’s a flight tracker, too, giving you the latest information about your journey, flight disruptions and more. Completing the easyJet offering, you can also use the app to book the brand’s hotels and hire cars.
Verdict: A straightforward and easy-to-use app that succeeds in booking tickets and organising your trip. However, it does not offer a wider travel experience to take you through your entire trip – such as travelling tips or games. Also, it’s frustrating you can’t register for an account from within the app – you’re told to go to easyJect.com. Nevertheless, a smart app that does the important bits well.
Or try… iBeacons: EasyJet has become one of the first airlines to trial iBeacon technology, which uses localised transmitters at Luton, Gatwick and Charles de Gaulle airport in France. These are designed to help passengers negotiate their way through the terminal with helpful notifications sent to users’ phones as they approach critical areas of the boarding process. For example, flyers will receive a message prompting them to open their boarding passes and ready passports as they approach relevant areas. The technology will be rolled out across Europe if testing proves successful.
The standard KLM app for smartphones delivers plenty of useful features with users benefiting from services such as being among the first to receive offers and cut-price flights. Booking seats is straightforward, too, with payment accepted from either credit card or Paypal account. Users can also check-in for flights and any connecting services throughout the journey. KLM offers mobile boarding passes downloaded directly to the app – or to Passbook for iOS users. Flyers can also enter the app to amend or cancel their check-in. The My Bookings area is another handy feature where travellers can select seats or arrange extra baggage allocation. Additionally, the KLM app offers a live flight tracker feature to keep tabs on arrival and departure information.
Verdict: Another useful app that offers the essentials on the standard app and some interesting – if not gimmicky – functionality on its iPad version. On the down side, the booking form is cluttered and some users have complained the smartphone app can be unstable or slow. We didn’t experience any issues when testing the KLM app.
Or try… the iPad-only app: Alongside the standard KLM app, the airline offers an iPad-only option with a selection of additional features that offer inspiration for upcoming adventures. These help users filter possible destinations by variables such as budget, temperature, flight time, themes and more. The iPad app also lets flyers select their in-flight meals. The good news for non-Apple users is there’ll be an Android version coming later this year. There’s also a handy feature that offers various methods to contact customer support through channels such as Facebook, Twitter, email and telephone.
With 175,000 downloads of its smartphone app, Monarch has helped confirm the demand from tech-savvy flyers who want fast and efficient access to booking and managing their flights. Monarch’s app won’t disappoint on either count, with its blend of business-end functionality, fun-themed features and upbeat design, this is one of our favourites. The flight search form is simple, clear and accessible for on-the-go bookings. Other features allow users to share search details with up to five friends or family members in a single message – enabling them to access the same search results… perfect for holidays where groups are planning to travel. Alongside tools to store bookings, other features include airport guides, traffic alerts and directions, currency convertor, 10-day weather forecasts and a GPS-powered ‘find-my-car’ service that guides owners to vehicles left in self-park facilities. It’s not all business-end functionality, though, users can employ the app’s ‘send a postcard’ feature to take a snap from their sun lounger and send it back to pals in the UK for a session of thinly disguised gloating.
Verdict: A Feature-packed app that’s full of useful functionality and a liberal dosing of fun, too. All the elements work well, but it’s disappointing there’s no option for downloading boarding passes – with passengers who check-in online needing to print the documents. It’s a pity the app misses out on this important feature, because in various aspects it’s one of the best we tried.
Or try… Monarch MPlayer: Alongside the smartphone app, the new Monarch MPlayer system allows passengers to connect their iOS or Android device to the plane’s on-board wireless network and access a range of free and paid in-flight entertainment. Users have to download the MPlayer app, then buy a media bundle for £3.99 per flight, giving access to five Hollywood movies, over 50 episodes of the best BBC Worldwide programmes and a music library of more than 50 albums from the summer’s biggest hits through to must-have collections. Get the Monarch MPlayer app here
Designed to make booking, boarding and accessing flight details easy for on-the-go travellers, the BA app has a flight booking engine, flight status details and information on departure times and reference numbers. There’s also the opportunity to create an account where users access information on their flights and check-in up to 24 hours before the service departs (see verdict). Passengers can also personalise the app’s home screen, leaving it themed around their next destination and offering easy access to important information such as a mobile boarding pass. Users also get fast access to flights they track and info on BA’s best return fares to its most popular destinations. Moving to the business end of the app, booking flights is through a clutter-free form with a clear results page displaying the options – or alternatives if the chosen route isn’t available. Users can also reserve their seat from within the app’s booking system. Closer to departure, flyers can access live arrival and departure times. Additionally, BA fans – or otherwise – can use the app to gain instant access to the airline’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. UPDATE: BA’s app will now include push notifications sent to passengers in the airport terminal as they wait to travel.The new feature will initially be available on iPhones using iOS 8 at Heathrow Terminals 3 and 5. Notifications will let flyers know when the gate opens and if it’s time to board.
Verdict: The BA app is relatively slick and efficient to use, but it’s a shame the form used to register an account takes users out of the app and to a web page that’s not optimised for mobile devices – making it tricky to enter details on a small screen. British Airways should address this.
Or try… British Airways Business Life: Dedicated to the way you think about business, this monthly in-flight magazine can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet. Each issue is dedicated to new trends, innovative ideas and interviews with big-hitters from the business world. Regular columns include Tim Harford’s off-beat take on economics, Gavin Green on the latest trends in the car industry and Jonathan Margolis on new gadgets. It’s free and you can download the current issue, subscribe for automatic updates, or browse the archive. It’s readable on smaller screens, but is best-suited to tablets. Download British Airways Business Life here.
Ryanair – our favourite app for making life easy
A simple, straightforward no-frills app that’s a perfect fit for the ultimate no-frills airline. However, this is no bad thing, the streamlined content of the app makes a refreshing change from other applications stuffed full with features that only succeed in distracting you from the job in hand.. The Ryanair app will certainly impress first-time users with its booking process that’s extremely intuitive and easy to follow. The online check-in and boarding pass functions are particularly fast and efficient, while the seat-chooser map was a pleasant surprise, too, with its clearly defined options and pricing.
Verdict: Ryanair does not offer a responsive or dedicated mobile site, so accessing it from your smartphone is not a viable option. This makes the app extremely important for Ryanair – and fortunately, it’s one of the best we’ve tested for straight forward usability and doing what you want. Some people have complained about issues with it, but we certainly couldn’t replicate them on the iPhone version of the app. Frustratingly, though, there isn’t any (obvious) way to register a MyRyanair account through the app – this needs to be completed on the non-mobile-friendly desktop site. Overall, Ryanair has done a great job with an app that seems to understand the needs of modern-day digitally-connected travellers.
Boarding pass problems… Some passengers have hit Twitter to highlight problems retrieving their boarding pass on some versions of the Ryanair app. The airline says that while 10,000 ‘app check-ins’ are being completed every day, it will print out replacement boarding passes for app users who encounter a problem – the usual price it €15.00.
The American Airlines app offers a variety of tools designed to help manage and plan your trip, with at-a-glance flight details such as gate, seat and status. You can also check-in and download your boarding pass. The boarding pass will then push real-time updates to the user, with information on gate, time, seat changes and any cancellations. Users can also log in and change their seat. However, we can’t tell you much more than this official blurb from the iTunes page, because the AA app requires iOS 8 or later – and like many iPhone users, we haven’t got the 4.6GB of space that Apple requires for the update. This will be extremely frustrating for passengers who book with AA and find they can’t use a mobile app to check-in and download a boarding pass.
Verdict: American Airlines needs to make its app available to users who haven’t got the whopping 4.9GB of space demanded by the iOS it requires. It’s a shame we couldn’t test it because Android users seem to like the app – giving it a ⅘ rating on the download site.
See app in action… While we weren’t able to check the AA app on iPhone, you can watch the video below to see how it shapes up on Android-based devices.
Surprisingly, Emirates does not have a mobile app for iPhone or Android smartphones users – just one for the iPad. It says an app for the iPhone is ‘landing soon’, but there’s no word on what to expect for Android users. All is not lost for the digital nomad, though, Emirates operates a decent mobile site that allows you to book seats, check-in and download mobile boarding passes with ease.
Verdict: We’re not convinced about the wisdom of offering an app solely for iPad users. Fiercely loyal smartphone users might see this as snub – and pandering to tablet snobbery. However, until the smartphone apps arrive, the airline’s mobile site is certainly a capable substitute.
Or try this… the iPad version: Using the iPad app, travellers can book trips and manage all aspects of their journey from seat selection and dietary requirements. Users can also check-in and download their boarding pass directly to the device, send it by SMS or email to a smartphone. Travellers can also use the app to explore more than 140 destinations with quick and easy-to-read travel guides. Tracking the plane’s progress on a live, interactive map offers some fun to help while away the journey.
Virgin Atlantic – our favourite app for fun and functionality
Download this app for the ‘home screen’ alone… this shows a globe that you spin with your finger to reveal where all of Virgin Atlantic’s airborne fleet are currently located. You can then zoom in, tap planes and locations to access a screen with links to videos and schedules covering the destination. However, one spinning globe an app does not make… so does the rest of Virgin’s offering match their opening screen? In a word, yes! The friendly, fun-loving persona of the company certainly permeates this mobile app with features such as the addictive flight tracker section… This provides details on all airborne craft, including a photo of the plane, its name, make, model, current speed and altitude along with its estimated time of arrival time – it’s a plane spotter’s utopia. Arrivals, departures and schedules are all included in easy-to-read sections, while the equally impressive ‘Check-in’ area lets users register for flights and download a boarding pass straight to their phone… now, back to that spinning globe….
Verdict: Our favourite app for fun and functionality. In fact, we’ll be keeping this on our phone just for its entertainment and geek value of naming the Virgin planes that fly over us on their approach to Gatwick. However, Android users will wonder why there’s not a version for their handsets, though. Come on Virgin – get your developers working on it.
Or try… Trip Journal: Another typically funky app, the Virgin Atlantic Trip Journal lets you record and share your experiences as you explore the world. Easily document your travels with words, photos and maps live from your destination and share them within the app’s attractive design. There are plenty of other fun features such as trip statistics, which covers average speed, distance covered and altitude. A multi-featured app that’s simple to use, but creates impressive results. Get the Virgin Atlantic Trip Journal here
Heading to the other side of the world? Let Qantas make the trip a little easier with its smartphone app. Browse your upcoming trips and view a personalised timeline for each, along with reminders letting you know when check-in opens – allowing you to download your boarding pass in just a couple of taps. Another feature – that’ll be particularly useful in foreign lands – lets you know when it’s time to leave for the airport and finds the fastest route to get you there. Once at the airport, the application will keep you abreast of alerts covering departure gate, boarding time and baggage carousel location. You can also create ‘fare’ alerts that push notifications of special deals when prices drop below your preferred price. The app will also put you in touch with other travel-related products such as hotels, hire cars and activities.
Verdict: An informative app that could prove especially useful for the long-haul journey ahead. The personalised timeline will help to keep you sane as you hop time zones and slip into the grip of jetlag. Don’t head down-under without it.
Or try… Google cards: Get info on your trip before you leave with Google Now flight cards. Info such as flight changes, directions to the airport and reminders of when to leave for the airport will be sent to your phone. You’ll need a Gmail account, a smartphone, the Google Search app, an e-ticket and a Qantas booking. The ‘card’ will show up 24 hours before your first flight, with any changes also added.
The Lufthansa app lets you book flights to destinations across the globe directly from your smartphone, along with myriad information surrounding the trip that will ensure you’re left in complete control and up to date at all time. Heading to the airport you’ll be able to find the current status of your flight – revealing any delays, cancellations or changes. Users can also check-in and download a mobile boarding pass, which is then stored locally on the phone for presentation without the need for an internet connection. Push messages are also available, covering the latest flight information, along with special offers. Additionally, the app will store user information, such as passport numbers, to help make check-in procedures easier when travelling to countries such as the US. Other options include a social page with connections to Twitter and Facebook, along with a downloads area, which we are informed has ‘fascinating images of aircraft and more’. Additionally, a useful info and service section includes plenty of advice and contacts for all aspects of your journey.
Verdict: Yep – you’ve guessed it… a classic case of understated German efficiency. The Volkswagen of airline apps, it does exactly what you want it to – without making a fuss.
Or try… Lufthansa Wishing Stars: We aren’t overly sure about this app… but download it and you can take photos of the sky and then add a shooting star to it – and make a wish. You can even send it to a friend so they can make a wish. Okay, we’ll stop there, it’s too weird. Get Lufthansa Wishing Stars app here if you dare
Now that your favourite app has got you to the airport and on the plane, it’s time to go through the pre-flight ritual of stern-looking flight crew pointing out emergency doors and pulling on life jackets… However, we reckon the old safety routine needs updating and Virgin America agrees….