Kayak has a new iPhone application that gives mobile users the same travel search tools found on its Web site. The company is pitching it as a way for passengers who have been stranded at an airport to quickly find and book another flight. I look at it as a better way to navigate travel sites that do not play well with the iPhone's sometimes finicky browser, which is nice since Kayak simply pulls all the results together in one place.
At first blush, power users of the site may find the application a bit lacking, but the advanced features lay hidden. For instance, it does not let you filter how many travelers are in your party, or what airlines you'd like to search from. You can, however set these options after the initial search has been done. The same can be done when searching for hotels to narrow down the results by the hotel's star rating. Ideally it would be nice to set these filters ahead of the search, as it could speed things up if you're on a spotty data connection.
Once you've found a ticket you want to buy there are only two ways to do it: either calling up the airline, or buying it through Kayak.com in Safari. This second option is where things really break down since you have to deal with the carrier's interface, which is neither iPhone-friendly, nor a part of the Kayak application. This is too bad since the application could do some handy things like save your credit card information, and turn your newly purchased flight into a calendar event to stick into your phone's calendar.
On the flip-side of that, the app includes one of Kayak's most useful features--its trends reporting. Here, you can tell it what travel route you're contemplating and it shows you what pricing has been like over the past month, and what it predicts it will be in the next two weeks. In my case this got me waiting a week to buy a ticket for an upcoming trip.
There's also a handy listing of each carrier's telephone number in case you need to speak to a human. This is great if you don't feel like looking it up. Included is how many people had searched for flights through that carrier during the past week, which is cute but somewhat useless.
One thing that's sorely missing, and what I hope will be included in a future version is a built-in calendar. For now you have to pick dates from a simple drop-down menu, which is great if you know exactly when you're traveling, but when brainstorming a potential trip it's nice to see the days of the week. Luckily, at the time I was near my desktop computer to give Outlook a quick check, but you're clearly not going to have that when out and about.