USA Today releases...an iPhone travel app?

It's not the first thing you'd expect from "the nation's newspaper," but AutoPilot is a surprisingly good travel companion--especially for TripIt users. And it's free!

USA Today's free AutoPilot app offers flight status, weather, travel blogs, and more.

The App Store is already replete with travel apps, so what's the big deal about USA Today AutoPilot?

For one thing, it's free--despite offering such advanced features as TripIt integration, real-time flight status, and quick access to travel blogs.

Then there's the branding: Last I checked, USA Today was a newspaper (with its own news app). So what's with the travel software?

"USA TODAY is synonymous with travel. Travelers love us and we love being everywhere they need us with innovative new products," said Matt Jones, vice president of mobile strategy and operations for Gannett Digital.

Ooooo-kay. What's next: Dunkin' Donuts Guitar Tuner? Anyway, AutoPilot offers some impressive features for a freebie, including the aforementioned TripIt support (which, to my knowledge, isn't available on any other free travel app except TripIt's own).

In other words, if you use the popular travel-management service, you can access your account (and trip details) within AutoPilot. Of course, you can manually enter trip info for AutoPilot to track as well.

The app provides real-time flight status, allowing you to search by flight number, airport, and route. There's also a flight-delay map that instantly shows you U.S. trouble spots, with specific details available when you tap through.

Other features include a handy directory of airlines, hotels, and car-rental companies; weather reports and radar; city-specific Flickr photo galleries; and an Articles & Experts section that links you to various features and blogs (such as USA Today's Destinations and 10 Great Places). Lots of good travel-related reading material.

In short, it's an impressive travel app, though for the moment it tracks only flights, not hotel or car reservations. But the price is right, so you've got nothing to lose by giving it a try.

In the meantime, check out a related post: Five must-have iPhone apps for your next trip .

 

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