With the long-weekend kicking-off and many of you about to travel, I decided to review a few airline mobileSites and provide you with mobile resources I typically use when I fly.  This summer I spent a lot time on planes traveling to conferences, meeting customers and attending weddings.  Needless to say, I had a busy few months.

To start off, I want to share my favorite air travel resource with you: http://flightstats.com.  I highly recommend bookmarking, memorizing and telling everyone about it.  I discovered this site when I used to travel every other week for my last job and had status on all the airlines (it sounds better than it really was).  FlightStats provides real-time information on flights and airports. And when I say real-time information, I mean real-time… typically if there was a flight delay, cancellation or gate-change, FlightStats showed the info approximately 5-20 minutes before the gate agent, airport screens or airline mobileSite showed any info.  It’s saved me a bunch of time and frustration while traveling.  Best of all, it works on any data-enabled phone without needing to download an app.

This summer I discovered one of my new favorite airline services – mobile boarding passes.  I heard and read about them a lot online but never tried it until this summer.  I am thoroughly impressed!  The process to get a mobile boarding pass is simple; check-in online and instead of printing your boarding pass, you can simply select to have it sent to your mobile device.  Instantly you receive an email or SMS from the airline with a web link that opens a page with a 2-D bar code (called a QR code).  Once at the airport, I simply put my phone with the QR code loaded on a scanner at the security check-point and at the gate.  It’s that simple.  Mobile boarding passes are not accepted at every airport but service is expanding.  So if you have the opportunity to use mobile boarding passes, I highly recommend it.

Finally, the last resources I want to share with you are the airline websites.  Most of the airlines now have mobileSites to give quick info on-the-go, so I did a quick review of the ones I traveled on this summer which consist of American, Continental, Delta, Southwest, United, and USAir.  I categorized each airline mobileSite as GOOD, AVERAGE, or FAIL:

GOOD airline mobileSites: These sites support automatic detection of mobile requests, mobile optimization based on handset, a non-cluttered home screen with quick links for critical mobile services such as check-in, flight status and reservation changes.  Delta and Southwest fit this category.

AVERAGE airline mobileSites: These sites support automatic detection of mobile requests, mobile optimization based on handset, but have a cluttered home screen with too many options that can slow down mobile users.  American fits this category.

FAIL airline mobileSites: These sites either do not support automatic detection of mobile requests or do not optimize based on handset.  Continental, United and USAir fit this category.  Continental’s mobileSite looked AVERAGE on my iPhone but when I loaded it on my BlackBerry it was unreadable.  United and USAir both loaded nicely on my BlackBerry and were GOOD but the site did not optimize for the iPhone and loaded the main website (way too busy for the iPhone’s small screen).

Airline travel these days leaves a lot to be desired with poor customer service, inflexible rules, flight delays and pricing.  I think airline mobileSites are making progress but also leave a lot to be desired.  I hope the airlines continue to invest in mobile technologies and find ways to use mobile to really engage their customers.

I hope this post helps you in your travels.  If you have other travel tips, secrets, sites or airlines to share with our readers, please leave a comment below.  Have a great long weekend!