App Review: The iFly Pro App

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Logo of the iFly Pro app to help research and navigate airports when traveling

The iFly Pro app is impressive and contains a plethora of features. At $6.95, it is a fairly expensive iPhone app, and while it shows a lot of promise, it isn’t perfect and it’s not for everybody.

The app seems to be a mobile version of the iFly.com website, which I had not heard of until I got this app. It looks like a good site, though.

When you install the app, it will want to download quite a bit of reference information. You’ll want to be in range of wi-fi when this happens. It can take up to 15 minutes, running in the background. It seems to be installing information about the airports it supports – I don’t know yet how often or how this information is kept current, but it sure seems to be pretty current.

I test-drove this app over the Memorial Day (2012) weekend, on a trip from San Diego to Dallas/Ft. Worth, via Phoenix, on USAirways.  The first thing I did was to set up my flights in the app. I am familiar with a couple of other travel apps that obtain your flight information from Tripit.com, provided you have updated it there. All you have to do is forward your confirmation email to an address at Tripit, and the iPhone apps will pick it up for you. I could not find a way to have iFly Pro pick up my flight information; instead, I had to enter it manually, which I did for the purpose of this review, but would never do otherwise.  Once entered, the app didn’t allow me any options as to what I could do to use my flight information – I guess it’s just a place to record it.

The main menu has two sections: 1.  Airport Guide,  2. Flight and Airline Info

Under Airport Guide there are two clickable tabs – Airport Guide and Airport Status.

Airport Guide, when clicked, asks you to select an airport, either entering the airport name, the 3 character code, or by scrolling through a really long list.  Once you do that, it takes a little while to load and gives you a list of options such as Airport Status,  Flight Status, Terminal Map, Airlines, Food/Bar/Shops, Amenities and Services, Parking Info, Ground Transportation, Layover Ideas, and Overview & History. Wow, a lot of stuff!

Airport status (also clickable from the main menu) just generally tells you if there’s something going wrong at that airport. To test it I went into the FAA wait iPhone app and saw there were significant delays in San Francisco. I went to iFly Pro and looked up SFO, and immediately saw the Airport Status tab in red. Clicking it showed me the exact same info that FAA wait showed – 57 minutes ground delays due to low ceilings.  Note that Airport Status seems to be tapping the US FAA database and does not support anything outside the US.

Flight Status enables you to track all the flights arriving or departing from your specified airport (in a three hour window), or on your specified route of flight (departure airport and arrival airport), or by airline and flight number.  If you select all flights from a busy airport, and you are not in range of wi-fi, it will take a long time and you may end up giving up.  Once you have the list of flights, you can click for more detailed information, including what kind of plane, when it landed or is expected to land, what terminal and gate, etc. Very useful. But – I found a flaw, which could cause problems for users. The flaw that I noted is on US Airways, but could be on any carrier that contracts out regional flights to another carrier. The US display only includes mainline US flights – not Republic (RW) which I flew dozens of times last year to/from Burlington VT and Washington DC and Dallas/Ft. Worth, and the flights were US Airways Express. And I could not find RW flights using airline RW and the US flight number.

The regional flights appear on the list by airport, under the contracted airline name (Republic, Air Wisconsin, etc.) and on the list by route of flight, but I could not pull them up by airline and flight number.

Terminal Map opens with a typical map of the airport, but allows you to select Food & Shops, Airlines, or Services, and also a ‘report error’ tab.  Selecting one of the options enables you to drill down to a specific terminal when you have an airport that has multiple terminals.  One thing I really like about this is it shows you where the ATM’s are in the airport!

Under Airlines, you are presented with a list of airlines serving that airport, and clicking through shows you tabs for their reservations number, home page, route map, baggage policies, etc.

I used the Food/Bar/Apps tab at Phoenix, which is not at all a familiar airport for me, to try to find someplace to grab a quick lunch between flights, but the app failed miserably. It did not identify any eating places in the area where we were, and we ate at Desert Springs Brewing Company which was not identified in the app. But, to be fair, I checked it against other airports (DFW, DCA, PHL, SAN) that I am familiar with and the restaurants were identified correctly.  So I don’t know what’s going on with PHX, maybe it’s more volatile with food establishments than other airports, or maybe there aren’t enough iFly customers using this airport and providing updates back to the vendor.

Under Amenities and Services you find miscellaneous tabs for such things as where the currency exchanges are, where there is emergency medical care, lost & found, religious facilities, smoking policy and so forth.

Parking info describes the parking available and transportation to/from parking, but not prices.

Ground transportation lists buses & trains, hotel shuttles, rental car information, and taxis and limos.  Included are clickable phone numbers for cab companies. I checked this in detail for CDG (Paris) and the info was quite accurate.

Layover Ideas lists tourist attractions in the area, and weekend getaways and excursions. It’s very thorough! I would think this is user-supplied information.

Overview and history contains the history of the airport and an overview of what is going on there. Based on my experience, the information about my home airport is right on target, voluminous, and very current. I have to think this is crowd-sourced information.

Under Flight & Airline Info, on the main menu, there are tables for Flight Status & Tracking (same as described earlier), Airline Info (also same as described earlier), and Traveler Help.  Traveler Help is a mini-encyclopedia of basic travel information, including ID you need at the airport, details of how security works (very US oriented), carry-on rules with tabs for each airline, checked baggage rules, with tabs for each airline, children flying alone, customs info (US), frequent flyer programs (overview), international travel (overview), travel insurance, travel with kids, travel with pets, visa & immunization info (high level), getting bumped, and EU travel rules (very detailed).

Why you might buy this app:

-You are a frequent traveler

-You don’t go to the same places all the time

-You are going somewhere you haven’t been

-You enjoy researching airport and travel information at your own pace, rather than having it pushed at you by an app

-You are curious about other places and how traveling there might be.

 

Why you might not buy this app:

-Your travel is routine – same route, same destinations, and you already know where the coffee shops, bars, and restaurants are

-You need current flight information about your flight pushed to you in real time

-You want the app to grab and track your travel information automatically

-Details about other places that you will probably never go are not worth the price to you.

My overall feeling is that this is a terrific app for someone like me, who travels not all that frequently, but often to different places. The ability to research destinations appeals to me, and the way the app captures information about so many different airports is impressive (although impossible to keep 100% accurate). I can sit and play with it for hours. The downside for me was that when I was trying to use it in an airport with spotty wi-fi it did not perform that well, and when I turned off the wi-fi and used 3G it only got a little bit better. I wonder if this app needs wi-fi to really shine.

Disclosure: A free copy of this appas provided with the expectation that the reader would provide an honest review.

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by Jim McDonough

Jim is a life insurance software guru and sometime world traveler, although the world seems mostly to be Europe. He lives in Texas with his wife and two felines.

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