Flight delays are impossible to avoid and even more frustrating to deal with. But there are a few smartphone apps that will make your next delay less of a headache. Whether you want to find the nearest airport lounge or yoga room, or just need help getting rebooked, you'll find your next layover more bearable with these apps at your fingertips.
No one wants to learn -- by text message or via the PA system -- that his or her flight has been delayed. Or worse, canceled. Then it's off to call the airline or wait in line to see whether the next flight out is even an option. Fortunately, a free app called AirHelp does a bit of the legwork for you. Input your trip details into the app, including whether your flight was delayed or canceled, the reasons provided by the carrier (mechanical or weather-related) and a booking reference number. AirHelp will then take up your case directly with the airline to get you cash for your troubles, up to $800 -- not just meal vouchers and drink tickets. Though the app is free to download and use, AirHelp takes a 25 percent cut of your claim if you're eligible for compensation.
If you want to freshen up, get some work done or grab some shut-eye during a layover, look to LoungeBuddy. Now that most airport lounges are no longer exclusive to fliers with elite status, this app is an essential tool if you want to quickly pull up lounge locations, lounge access fees and available amenities like Wi-Fi, food, showers and even children's play areas. The free app also offers information on hours, photos and ratings from fellow fliers. To get started, enter some basic information about your trip and let the app find the nearest lounge. LoungeBuddy can even alert you of available lounges upon landing at a connecting airport.
For those who already know they'll be spending a few hours in the airport and want to do more than stare at flight monitors, you may want to download the free AirZolo app. While the app is still growing in popularity (it launched in October 2014), AirZolo's goal is to connect travelers on the same flight or in the same terminal. After inputting your flight information into the AirZolo app, you'll be able to see whether any other AirZolo users will be on your flight. Friend other users or chat from within the app to set up a time to meet for a quick bite on your layover (users are anonymous until both parties want to connect). The app also lets travelers create bucket lists to share with friends and provides information on popular festivals and events around the world.
No one looks forward to waiting in line at customs to show their passport and officially re-enter the country after a long international flight. For a one-time $100 fee, travelers can sign up for Global Entry for expedited clearance. If accepted into the program, membership is valid for five years. Or, for those flying back into the United States through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the free Mobile Passport app (only available for iPhone at this time) allows you to skip the line and use the express lane for Mobile Passport Control. Enter your passport details into the app (you can also do so for traveling family members), respond to a few customs questions and receive a receipt to show at Mobile Passport Control and you'll quickly be on your way. The app, developed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is only available in Atlanta right now, but the agency hopes to expand to other major airports around the U.S. and to Android users.
In addition to the apps listed above, a few more are available in beta testing and are expected to launch later this year. For those in search of the airport's nearest smoothie bar, healthy eatery or yoga room, look to VANE. Ahead of the app launch, the VANE Twitter feed is a great resource for health-focused outposts in airports. Flystay and tripchi are also hoping to improve the travel experience by making it easier to find charging stations, lounges and smoking rooms. Look for coupons to use at airport restaurants and shops too.
For parents, Flying with Kids may save the day while waiting for a connecting flight. Along with pre-flight tips and advice, the app is also expected to have a "Distract" feature with musical animations for little ones, as well as a "Sleep" feature with lullabies to help babies relax. Brilliant.
See: How to Fly with Kids
About the author: Erin Gifford is a Washington, D.C.-based travel writer and founder of Kidventurous, an award-winning family travel resource. You can follow her on Twitter at @Kidventurous, connect with her on Facebook or get the latest tips and tricks for traveling families at http://kidventurous.com.