By Gadget Guru Martin Bailey, author of The Useful Book of Gadgets, Gizmos & Apps
If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to suffer a significant delay on a flight then you’ll relate fully to the various 21st century problems that it causes. A lack of information, crowds, security, boredom and an inability to stay connected can all take their toll. But fear not – technology can make the difference between the journey from hell and a bearable but productive delay.
Problem 1: Noise
Over a prolonged period noise can grind you down. If you are holed up in a packed terminal with the obligatory screaming baby, cackling hen party and overly-loud announcements then the Bose QC35 headset will do a great job of taking the edge off the hubbub. The latest over-ear models are both wired and wireless and provide at least 20 hours of fidelity. The noise cancelling is also second to none, and I speak from personal experience in saying that even if you generally cannot sleep in a noisy environment you’ll stand a much better chance with these babies caressing your ears.
Problem 2: Information
You can’t necessarily rely on the airport information boards. I’ve often been notified by the airline app or even by SMS before the overhead boards are updated, so it’s better to get information from a variety of sources than relying on just one. There are many apps that provide flight information, with Kayak being one of the leaders. Available for iOS and Android it’ll allow you to enter either flight details or the airline and airport to show the flight status of all relevant flights, quickly displaying live status information. You can also book flights, cars or hotels through the app. I’d recommend installing the official app for the airline that you’re travelling with, as they will also often supply live updates.
You cannot beat Twitter for its immediacy, so either check the airline’s official Twitter profile for any updates or search for tweets on the flight number itself. It’s also a great vehicle for you to vent your frustration when the airline is not forthcoming with updates. Don’t forget to reference the flight number, and get any other like-minded passengers to re-tweet your rantings for added satisfaction!
Problem 3: Connectivity
Older airports often suffer a lack of power options, with Internet connectivity also proving problematic. You’ll often see the ‘wall huggers’ hunting for the rarity that is a free power socket. If you get stuck outside of your home country you also have potentially steep roaming charges to contend with as well. Tackling the power problem first, always travel with a sizeable battery pack – 20,000mAh or greater should keep both a phone and a tablet topped up for a couple of full charges at least, and these are available for around £25 from all major electrical outlets. To get online, first check whether your airport has free or paid-for Wi-Fi at a reasonable cost. If not, consider installing the Skype Wi-Fi app, which will charge you based on time online but will generally work out cheaper than roaming. Alternatively you can create a Wi-Fi hotspot using a product such as the MiFi (available from most telecom providers) and then purchase a local SIM card to provide the data for it.
Problem 4: Security
If you’re airside then you’ll only have hand luggage to consider but if a delay is more than a couple of hours then you may not even be able to check in yet, leaving you traipsing around a packed check-in area with your suitcase. Make sure it stays close to you by investing in the Bluetooth enabled Airbolt. In addition to being a very secure padlock it allows you to unlock it via your phone and will also alert you if it goes outside of range. Should the worst happen and it goes missing then you can harness the power of the crowd to find it. Report the bag as lost via the app and anyone else with an Airbolt or partnering device (such as the Tile tag) will automatically and anonymously report the bag’s location if it passes them!
Actually passing through the security gates presents its own issues. Your increasing array of tech (which for me consists of a tablet, laptop, phone and smart watch, not to mention other smaller gadgets) all have to be extracted, laid bare and returned to safety in quick succession. Invest in good luggage to make this process as painless as possible, ensuring you have both a protected laptop and tablet sleeve for easy access rather than having to re-enact the bag scene from Mary Poppins either side of the x-ray machine. Ensuring that your bag has a few exterior pockets that you can sling a wallet, keys and coins into quickly will save you having to spend extra time collecting them after putting on the various items of clothing that Security have also asked you to remove. An RFID shielded pocket is worthwhile for your wallet, to protect against ‘card skimming’. There are plenty of bags to choose from but you could do worse than check out the Tylt range, which also have the option of cable management, batteries and even solar panels built in.
Problem 5: Boredom
Your solution to this problem will depend very much on your age. If you’ve solved your wifi and power issues then the younger generation are most likely to be found hunting Pokémon via Pokémon Go. For those with more greying follicles and shorter attention spans why not swap a book for a magazine? The Zinio app has most of the magazines you’ll find in the airport newsagents without taking up extra space in your hand luggage, and is available for desktop, tablet or mobile devices. It’s a good idea to download this before you leave and pre-load it with your chosen guilty pleasure. Alternatively, Google Play Newsstand allows you to curate your own newsfeed from a variety of sources and download it for offline reading once you finally take off. Failing that you can always return to the classics of Solitaire or Candy Crush. Remember that when playing games on a smartphone or tablet the more graphical the game, the quicker your battery percentage will drop. To eke out a bit more battery life you can also drop the brightness level a little.
Armed with the right tech you can not only overcome these challenges but also make your time much more productive. Indeed, the idea for this article was borne from a 27 hour delay in which I utilised most of the above to maintain the sanity of both me and my family. And I was travelling with teenagers!
Written at 30,000 feet by Martin Bailey.
The Useful Book of Gadgets, Gizmos & Apps will be published 04 October 2016