SEATTLE - If I had to compare Continental Airlines' new app to air travel, I'd say it rates a business-class seat. It's better than economy, but not snazzy enough to merit first class.
The free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch does the basics just fine. It easily lets you book a flight, get flight status updates, view your account, check in and get your boarding pass.
The app allows users to manage their frequent flier accounts, check the hours of the Presidents Club, play sudoku and even follow Continental's Tweets. It also provides DirecTV listings, a currency converter and airport maps.
But of all the features, the only one that functions without the Internet - or in other words, the only one that will work during the flight, as Continental does not yet offer in-flight wireless service - is the sudoku. That means a traveler can't check the TV listings while actually watching the TV, nor can they plan ahead for a tight connection because the airport map isn't accessible when the device is in airplane mode.
In addition, the airport maps aren't searchable. If you double-click an image, it zooms in to show the shops, restaurants, gates, airlines and lounges - but not restrooms - and you do the scrolling.
In contrast, Point Inside, which provides the maps for Continental, makes a free app that is truly searchable. The "Point Inside Maps for Airports and Malls" includes all the information provided by the Continental maps in an interactive format. In addition, it provides a single button for locating the nearest ATMs, restrooms and restaurants. And, these maps download into the iPhone, so they can be used during a flight.
"Our app was designed to give Continental customers easy access to their Continental travel information," said Jared Miller, Continental's managing director of self-service and emerging technology.
He said the other features were included as a "convenience," adding, "The current maps provide utility in helping travelers navigate the airport."
The app, like the business-class section of the plane, will still get me to my destination in relative comfort, but it left me wishing for a little more.