iPhone Traveler Pt. 6 – Apps and tips from an international airline pilot

erinflightdeckI’ll admit, I’m pretty excited about this. My sister Erin is a pilot with United Airlines. She’s been flying internationally for about 10 years, always with an iPod touch or iPad in tow. I asked her to share some apps and tips with you all, and she was happy to oblige. Here’s her post: iPhone travel apps and tips from an international airline pilot. Enjoy.


Don’t the the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles happen to you.

A bad day of travel cannot be completely avoided, but the misery can be minimized when the traveler is prepared for the worst and has backup plans. A great tool is at our fingertips in the iPhone (or in my case, an iPod touch and an iPad mini). We have come a long way from Del (John Candy) and Neil (Steve Martin) in arguably the best Thanksgiving travel movie.

There are two app lists below. The first is a list of the apps I use while at work.

The second is a collection of apps that passengers should consider. Remember, pilots travel as working crew members and as passengers. The second list includes apps that airline pilots use when traveling as a passenger. Each can provide tips on making things flow better for you and those around you.

My Apps

  1. Weather + ($0.99, universal) It’s ideal for multiple destinations and go-to app for determining what to pack.
  2. MyRadar Weather Radar (Free, universal). I use My Radar to see what my driving conditions will be while traveling to and/or from the airport.
  3. I–95 Exit Guide (On sale for $0.99 as of this writing) My real go-to is Traffic.com to prepare for time to leave for the airport. [Note: Erin’s home airport is Newark, NJ. Hence the route-specific app. Use traffic.com for information outside that area. -Dave]
  4. Path: An easy, additional way to communicate your whereabouts and availability. The “awake” and “sleep” modes are especially helpful for you loved ones back at home in other time zones.
  5. Alarm Clock Pro ($0.99): An alarm clock app is a good back-up to wake up calls from the hotel. I also use the timer feature a lot. Instead of adjusting time zones, I note the local time and set the timer for however long I want to sleep.
  6. Trip Adviser app (Free, universal) I’ve never had a bad meal or city tour when following the recommendations in Trip Advisor.
  7. Free WiFi Finder (Free, universal) I like to use this internationally with my iPod touch.
  8. Live ACT Air Radio ($2.99) Select an airport and phase of flight (Departure – initial climb out from airport, Center-cruise, Approach – initial descent to airport, Final Approach, Tower – immediate takeoff and landing, Ground Control – taxing on the ground, either to/from the runway or from the gate). I use this simply for my own entertainment. It can be streamed in the background while other programs are used. Be sure to log out when done or it will drain your battery quickly.
  9. Skype (Free): Good alternative to FaceTime.

Recommendations for travelers


Now for the apps that I and many of my colleagues recommend for travelers. I tried to cover everything from planning to packing to arrival.

  • The United app (Free) It offers alerts that will alert you and/or others when a flight has pushed from your departure gate and when it arrives at the destination gate. It is handy when you don’t have time between connections to call a loved one, or when your hands are full of bags.
  • FlightTrack Pro ($9,99, universal) This is a great way to follow a loved one’s flight with the flight number. The flight could divert to another airport for numerous reasons (add fuel, sick passenger, inclement weather, maintenance). Those on the ground awaiting your arrival can stay informed, so that the infamous scene in Trains, Planes & Automobiles — when Neal calls home to say he is in Wichita, Kansas instead of Chicago, baffling his wife — doesn’t get played out in real life.
  • MyRadar Weather Radar (Free, universal) This app is great because, instead of relying on a distant relative on the end of the phone telling you the weather, you can see for yourself. It aids from what to pack, drive time to the airport and expectant delays for the drive and/or departure from the airport. Depending on your booking schedule, you may reschedule your trip. Neil may have done this if he knew the magnitude of the snow storm in Chicago before he left NYC, ending up in Wichita.
  • Traffic reports in any form are great. Use apps that benefit your location. Check before you head out and have a backup route in place before you leave, avoiding stress on the already challenging ride. Taking a photo of the page in unfamiliar areas helps.
  • Airline-specific apps and websites have great reminder, update, and status alerts to take advantage off. Look for “flight status” or some variation of that language on the home page. You can get info about where an aircraft is coming from, etc. Flight number or departure & destination information can be used. Copy the the booking page from the airline site or app by photo capture. Or, select and paste information into your favorite travel list app. That info could be helpful if you need to be rebooked on a flight and need to know your schedule without needing to get on the website again. This frees you slightly from feeling powerless in the hands of the ticket or gate agent.

General “airline pilot tips and tricks.”

1. Pack light. Take advantage of laundry service or a washer and dryer.

2. ANYTHING BROUGHT CAN BE LOST OR FORGOTTEN. “Do I really need it with me?” should be your mantra.

3. Keep certain items always packed, meaning it never leaves the bag once you’re back at home:

  • Umbrella.
  • Hat.
  • Charging cords and international charger converters.
  • Portable iPad/iPod/iPhone speakers.
  • Paper copies of your birth certificate, passport, license in your CARRY-ON LUGGAGE ONLY.
  • Toiletry kit. Get doubles of what you have at home, and you will essentially always be packed.
  • Extra zip-lock bags for liquids in the event yours is damaged or lost.

Considerations for getting through security:

  • Slip-on shoes.
  • No belt.
  • No large jewelry.

That’s it from me. Happy traveling!

This article is part of a series on traveling with your iPhone. You’ll find the other articles here.