Android and iPad - Mobile Booking Apps Are Only Just Starting to Deliver

IT’S happened to all of us: after a mad rush to the airport, you arrive to discover that your flight has been canceled. You run to the ticket counter to book a new one, only to wait alongside other travelers competing to get on the next plane out.
May 5, 2011 - PRLog -- IT’S happened to all of us: after a mad rush to the airport, you arrive to discover that your flight has been canceled. You run to the ticket counter to book a new one, only to wait alongside other travelers competing to get on the next plane out.

Imagine receiving instead a message on your smartphone or iPad, with a list of flight options or nearby hotels that you can book directly from an app on your device. What’s more, you also receive suggestions for local activities or things to do at the airport — just in case you’re stranded.

That’s how airlines and online booking sites envision the future of travel. Travelers will also see the integration of loyalty programs for airlines, hotels or rental car agencies, and the ability to book and manage itineraries across platforms and devices.

“Travelers have growing expectations that their smartphones can do anything that their PCs can do,” said Will Pinnell, director of mobile strategy for the travel reservations company Sabre Holdings, in an e-mail. Sabre owns travel Web sites like Travelocity as well as GetThere, an online booking tool for ground transportation for business travelers. “In five years, we expect mobile will account for the bulk of travel changes and in some cases travel bookings too.”

In the meantime, however, travelers are stuck in a travel-booking purgatory of sorts. Airlines, rental car agencies and hotels offer mobile versions of their Web sites, but they can be slow and clunky. And there are a variety of mobile apps that let users aggregate reservations and do things like change seats, check the status of a flight or see the wait time for a security line. A handful of apps also let you book flights, hotel rooms or rental cars directly from the app, while others let you search for those options, then send you to a Web site to complete the transaction. Those that do it well, and make best use of your time, are few and far between.

To help travelers get the most out of their Apple devices, Apple stores across the United States this month have started offering a travel workshop. Apple will show users how they can stretch the battery life on their iPhone or iPad, as well as learn about new travel apps. While we wait for a seamless booking experience, here are apps that make the cut:

Hotel Rooms

Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline and allow users to book rooms from their apps. A new competitor in this field is Expedia Hotels, which was introduced in April for the iPhone. The free app allows travelers to reserve rooms in 130,000 hotels in more than 200 countries. Using the device’s location-based service, the app can find hotels based on your current location.

Results are displayed on an interactive map, or in list form. Each hotel listing includes a slide show tour. Once the hotel is booked, the details can be shared via e-mail or text, and added to the device’s calendar.

Expedia will offer versions of the app for Android devices this month, and for the iPad later this year.


Several airlines have introduced apps for mobile devices, but most are limited to checking a flight status, changing seats and getting flight notifications. Continental Airlines’ app for the iPhone goes one step further by offering the ability to search for and book flights. It also includes airport maps, the option to check in for a flight and mobile boarding passes. The app is free for the iPhone and iPad. TripAdvisor and Travelocity also let users make flight reservations. Travelocity, available now for the iPhone, will be available later this year for Android devices and the iPad. TripAdvisor is available for the iPhone, Android devices and the iPad. Expedia, meanwhile, plans to expand its mobile offerings to include flight bookings.

Rental Cars

Avis and Hertz both have apps for the iPhone, but Priceline’s Negotiator app (for rental cars and hotels) makes the list because it is much simpler to use and more intuitive than the offerings by the rental agencies. Priceline lets drivers add insurance or rental equipment, like a navigational system, so you don’t waste time at the checkout counter.

The future is also bright for business travelers who must book through corporate travel agencies. Egencia, the corporate travel arm of Expedia, plans to release its first mobile app for the iPhone and a version for Web-enabled devices in the second quarter. The first version of the app will include flight schedules and the ability to check in for a flight, as well as interactive maps, travel alerts and the option to call a travel agent. Future releases will include the ability to book directly from the app. Plans for Android and iPad versions are also in the works.

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