Most airlines have mobile apps that let you book flights, check your flight status and track frequent-flier miles, but Delta's new iPad app does this and more.
Delta introduced its first iPad app, Fly Delta for iPad, a few weeks ago. It also offers novel ways to search for flights, download entertainment and view destination guides that other airlines' apps don't.
Delta's free iPad app features a Glass Bottom Jet that lets you gather information about the landmarks you may view outside your window seat.
In these ways, the Fly Delta app for iPad surpasses American Airlines' dual-purpose iPhone and iPad apps, which don't have much destination information and merely offer Sudoku to while away the hours.
United Airlines has an iPhone app, but none for the iPad. In the United iPhone app, you can't find any information about things to do in a vacation spot or business destination. While the iPhone app can track your flight's progress on a map, it's similar to the bare-bones view you get from a plane seat back.
On the Fly Delta app for iPad, you view a stunning globe, with red pins as indicators for fare specials. You can spin the globe and tap on the pins to view the specials; you can also search for flights by destinations from romantic getaways to family favorites and top beaches.
If you search for top beaches and select Panama City Beach, Fla., for example, then decide to view destination guides, you'll see basic information about the local airports, population and weather. You also can read articles about the city's beaches, dining and must-see attractions.
Then there's the entertainment: You can download, for a fee, top movies and music from iTunes, and top books and articles from iBookstore. It works at home, too, not just in the air or at the airport.
You can view trailers from the movies as you decide whether you want to download them.
You do need to be in the air for the iPad app's Glass Bottom Jet, which can only be viewed if you're aboard a Delta flight at 10,000 feet or above.
When your iPad is connected to Wi-Fi on a Delta flight, the Glass Bottom Jet gives information about the landmarks outside your aircraft's windows.
If you select flight status as you're flying over Lexington, Ky., for example, you can tap on the map and read a Wikipedia article about Darby Dan Farm, view Panoramio photos of other area attractions, see information about Facebook friends in the area, and post updates to their Facebook timelines.
Wikipedia articles about a destination can be very informational but a bit dull. Perhaps Delta will broaden information sources for Glass Bottom Jet in the future to liven it up a bit.
Another positive feature of Delta's iPad app is the unobtrusive helpful tips it provides along the way. One hint, for example, suggests: "See where you are going: Interact with the map to find current weather and airport info for your upcoming trips."
Delta also has updated its iPhone app to include support for mobile boarding passes through Apple Passbook, and the ability to purchase Economy Comfort seats, Wi-Fi and priority boarding.
But Delta's iPhone app is missing all the destination information, entertainment options, and the Glass Bottom Jet that you'll find in the iPad app.
On the Android front, Delta says it will update that app early this year.
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