As a frequent traveler for business and fun, I’m always on the hunt for apps that can cut out as much of the chaos and confusion as possible. While I prefer apps like Tripit that can capture all of my upcoming travel plans, it’s great to see airlines staking their own claim to the app arena just as well. American Airlines has entered that arena. While it may not be my top choice, particularly when there are alternatives from the likes of JetBlue and Virgin America, I fly on the country’s second-largest airline often. I also earn a steady flow of AAdvantage miles through the use of credit cards, dining, hotels and countless promotions. I probably check my account at AA.com on a weekly basis.
The American Airlines app is simple enough. Users can view reservations, check in, check flight schedules, check flight status, book flights and play a game of AA-branded Sodoku. The app also tracks your mileage balance on the home screen, but I can’t seem to find a detailed record of my transactions. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the app seems to have been carried over into the development of the app. Indeed, I doubt many users find themselves returning to this app often because it’s so rudimentary and boring. A home screen of five menu items is essentially repeated horizontally across the bottom, so there is no flow between screens. But its core functions work well and quickly will do the job for any traveler that happens to be flying on this airline. Perhaps the greatest feature of the American Airlines app is the ability to check in and pull up your boarding pass right on the phone. I’ve been using the app for a couple months now, but I finally had the opportunity to put it to the full test in this regard last week. Almost everything works as it should. Check-in was a breeze and my boarding pass was right on my phone within seconds with a mobile barcode to be scanned at the gate. Unfortunately though, just as I was walking up to my departure gate, the page with my boarding pass went away and I wasn’t able to maneuver back to the correct screen. At that point, I had to get a hard copy of my boarding pass printed, which rendered the AA app worthless from a convenience and environmental perspective. I’m confident that mobile check-in will be a prevalent option available to travelers someday, but my experience with this app doesn’t give me much hope in the short term. For now, as much as it pains me, I’ll be sticking with paper-based boarding passes.