Don’t travel anywhere without these 10 apps

July 22, 2015, 2:38 PM UTC
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Photograph by Getty Images

What do US Airways, Hertz and Southwest have in common? They have the worst smartphone apps for travelers, according to a new study.

US Airways scored the lowest of any company, with an aggregate score of 5 out of 100, according to Applause, a service that rates smartphone applications. It was closely followed by Hertz (9) and Southwest (18).

The average travel app received a score of just 40.

“Consumers love apps that deliver clear value, optimize efficiency and simplify presentation,” says Ben Gray, the report’s author and a digital experience analyst for Applause. “Unfortunately, delivering consistently great experiences across both iOS and Android platforms is rare in today’s burgeoning apps economy.”

Here are the worst-rated apps.

1. US Airways (5, iOS) – The lowest-rated travel app the report profiled. US Airways customers are likely looking forward to its end of life as the merger with American Airlines progresses, according to Applause.

2. Hertz (9, Android) – This “improving” app still continues to fall far short of customer expectations, particularly when it comes to elegance and interoperability.

3. Southwest (18, iOS) – Travelers are often unable to change their existing reservations and their reservations are frequently lost, resulting in a manual re-entry of their confirmation code.

4. Marriott (20, iOS) – Members struggle to login and remain signed in. This “quickly frustrates” users.

5. American Airlines (22, iOS) – Reviewers complain frequently about new builds that don’t open on their iPhones. When the app loads, many suggest that it too frequently pushes travelers to its mobile website for core functions.

6. Hertz (29, iOS) – It’s never a good sign when app store reviews warn customers to avoid the app and use the website instead.

7. CouchSurfing (31, Android) – Broken notifications, frequent sign-outs and app crashes frustrate users who expect a digital-first startup to get better than its traditional hotel competitors that are slow to evolve from web to mobile.

8. Delta Air Lines (33, iOS) – Frequent app crashes and freezes suggest the app can improve with real world functional and performance/load testing.

9. Southwest (33, Android) – Lots of app crashes, errors and timeouts all too frequently disrupt the travel journey.

10. JetBlue (34, iOS) – Inconsistent app that users love only when it works. New builds break existing features, suggesting the need for beta testing prior to launch.

If this laundry list of complaints sounds demanding, it’s because, well, it is. “Consumers have incredibly lofty expectations of their mobile app experiences,” notes Gray. And with good reason. Consider how they use these apps. They check availability, compare prices, book tickets, check their status, and select seats.

“These transactions need to work the first time and every time,” he adds. “Because if they don’t, consumers will find a competitor’s app that’s able to serve their mobile needs.”

So who won?

1. Alaska Airlines (87, Android) – Newly redesigned Android app that simplifies the traveler’s experience at every physical and digital touchpoint along their journey.

2. (86, iOS) – Cares so much about its customers that it extends testing into the real world.

3. (85, Android) – Continuously tests for functional defects as well as localization issues using real world devices and professional testers around the globe.

4. (79, Android) – Impressive hotel selection backed by reviews, all accessible from your pocket.

5. Kayak (79, iOS) – Dynamic search engine with a touch-friendly interface.

6. TripAdvisor (78, iOS) – Friendly travel exploration app that’s backed by reviews and opinions.

7. TripIt (76, iOS) – Organizer that saves customers from the complexities normally associated with travel.

8. Kayak (75, Android) – Powerful desktop search engine that’s been conveniently scaled down for your phone and tablet.

9. TripAdvisor (75, Android) – The most reviewed app that’s established itself as a must-have tool for Android travelers.

10. Alaska Airlines (75, iOS) – The highest-rated airlines app on iOS by a mile, more than doubling up its closest competition.

Overall, the report isn’t good news for the travel industry. The four largest airlines and two of the three most popular hotel chains offer the poorest rated apps, according to Applause. And the lowest-rated industry in travel was airlines, unsurprisingly, with an average score of 33 out of 100. That suggests airlines as a group are totally oblivious to the mobile revolution.

At some level, though, it’s also a sad commentary on the state of customer service in the travel industry. When the top brands ignore the needs of their mobile customers, it makes you wonder what else they don’t care about.

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