10 iPhone apps for frequent fliers (photos)

These iPhone apps can be very useful for frequent fliers.

Kent German
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
1 of 10 Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

Airport Guide by iFly ($3.99)

Though frequent fliers may know their home airports like the back of their hands, they may occasionally land at an unfamiliar terminal. iFly can help in those situations. Its Airport Guide has detailed maps for airports around the world. You can view terminal diagrams for the locations of businesses and airline gates, research parking and ground transportation options, get recreation ideas for long layovers, and find related traveler services. It even offers a general history of the airport (perfect for real aviation geeks) and updates delay statuses.

iFly's Airport & Flight Guide ($6.99) offers all of the above plus real-time departure/arrival and flight tracking. And in a release due at the end of this month, iFly will add a feature that will let users navigate through terminals using diagrams that are overlaid on Google maps.

For other options, My Gate Maps ($2.99) uses the actual maps from airport Web sites. It's well designed and I like how if you're connecting through an airport you can plot your arrival and departure gates on the map. Airport Maps ($2.99) uses generic graphics, but it conveniently shows the location of not only shopping and dining options, but also airline lounges (iFly doesn't show the lounge locations). Common businesses like Starbucks and McDonald's are indicated by their logo. Airport Gates (99 cents) is another option, but I wasn't impressed.

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Tripcase (free)

Tripcase acts as a diary for your various trips. You can store your flights, hotel name, and car reservation all in one place. As your departure time nears, the app will display your airport gate and you'll receive push and e-mail notifications in case of a delay. I used Tripcase last month when I went to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. I was very grateful to receive an alert that my outbound Lufthansa flight was delayed two and a half hours. As a result, I got some extra time at home instead of waiting at the airport.

If you enter your hotel, you'll see the address, check-in time, phone number and a general description of the facility. Other features include weather at your departure city and destination, the phone number for your airline, a list of alternate flights and an option to notify friends of your status. Another app in the iTunes Store called Trip Tracker (also free) offers similar features, though I haven't used it.

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Flightcaster ($1.99)

A related app called Flightcaster offers far fewer features and only tracks the status of domestic U.S. flights. Yet, it offers one very useful piece of information. If you're delayed, knowing the status of the inbound aircraft that will serve as your plane is very important. Flightcaster can tell you if it's delayed and for how long. Once you know that, you can make an educated guess as to just how long your delay will last.

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Airline Seat Guide ($1.99)

Airline Seat Guide displays full seating guides for aircraft from most major airlines. Seats are rated by a color--green is good, yellow is average, red is bad--and you see the location of the galleys, closets, and lavatories. Use it to select the best seat on a flight since it shows the leg room (aka pitch) and width of each seat. It even displays which rows are missing a window (a particular pet peeve of mine).

Unfortunately, Airline Seat Guide doesn't tell you why a particular seat is bad; you just know that it is. The range of covered aircraft is pretty extensive and I like that the data for the most popular aircraft and airlines is stored directly on the phone. For the less common entries, however, you'll need an Internet connection. I've also used Flight Seat Guide (99 cents), but I don't like it quite as much.

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Aircraft recognition guide ($1.99)

Once you've picked your seat, you might want to know more about your aircraft. Aircraft Recognition Guide displays images and statistics on a wide variety of commercial aircraft. You can familiarize yourself with the top speed, cruising altitude, fuel capacity, range, and passenger load. And for the really curious, you even get a nifty graphic of the aircraft's speed and altitude as it climbs, cruises, and descends through a typical flight.

You also can search for aircraft by airlines to view the company's entire fleet. Boeing and Airbus dominate the list, of course, but the app includes commuter aircraft, regional jets and retired aircraft like the Concorde and former Soviet models like the Tupolev Tu-134.

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FlightTrack ($4.99)

A Flight Tracking app is a must for any frequent flier. I've used a few, but I've recently settled on FlightTrack. It shows basic flight information, like the departure and arrival time and gate, but its real attraction is the map displaying the plane's position in the air. So if Mom is flying in to LAX on a visit from Chicago, you can see right when she's over Colorado. And unlike many flight trackers available, the app will work on international flights.

The developer, Ben Kazez, also sells a Pro version for $9.99 that adds push flight alerts, weather forecasts and synced TripIt flight itineraries. Alternatively, I've also used Flightwise Flight Tracker Lite. The interface isn't nearly as slick, but it has a cool feature for locating all flights in the air near your location.

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Airport Status (free)

This app won't show delays for specific flights, but it will show general delays affecting U.S. airports. This is especially useful when your home airport is San Francisco International--due to low clouds, it often suffers from "ground stops" where flights are held at their departure airport until the weather improves. In the user comments for the app, some users were frustrated that Airport Status doesn't give them specific information for their flight. But that's not the point of this app. Rather, it shows the type of delay affecting an airport and how long it will last.

CXI Gaming makes a similar app with the same name (also 99 cents). It brings a bit more information and includes a U.S. weather map. FAA Wait (99 cents) also offers a few more features, but I prefer the simplicity of the free title. Air Travel and TSAWait (both 99 cents) originally displayed wait times at security checkpoints, but the Transportation Security Administration is no longer updating its Web site with that information. As such, they can offer only general delay data.

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Airport Codes (99 cents)

No, this one isn't exciting, but knowing your airport code can save time when booking a flight and you'll be able to read your itinerary, boarding pass, claim ticket, and baggage tag. The app also has a reverse search for finding an airport with its code.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) designates airports around the world with a three-digit code (such as SFO for San Francisco). A similar app called Airline Codes (also 99 cents) lets you research the IATA codes for your airline. For example, UA is United Airlines.

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MileBlaster ($5.99)

No doubt that Frequent fliers carefully track their airline miles. With MileBlaster, you can obsessively keep tabs on your total number of earned miles and calculate how many miles you need for elite status. You can also receive alerts when your miles are due to expire and calculate how many miles you'll earn for a trip. MileBlaster is expensive, but it works with a wide range of airlines.

MileBlaster also offers a Web site where you can track the same information. There's a $6.99 per-year fee to use the site, but you can use the app independently.

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Live ATC ($2.99)

One reason I love flying United Airlines is that you can listen to the air traffic control frequency while you're on the ground and cruising through the sky. Though you can't use Live ATC in the air (it requires an Internet connection) you can listen in while still in the airport. As such, you can hear when an inbound flight is on final approach and when your flight is ready for take-off (if there's a delay, you'll hear about it here, before they announce it in the cabin). Yes, I know it's really geeky, but it can be fun for the enthusiast.

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