How many collective working days have been wasted at airports over the last few years? Figures show that almost 3 billion people fly every year, with 5.7 million hours spent in airports. Professor Jordan Ellenberg of the University of Wisconsin calls these hours “negative units” in his book How Not to Be Wrong — The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life. He believes it’s best to arrive as late as reasonably possible to the airport and enjoy a more relaxing time at home or productivity at the office. He even suggests that missing a flight or two over the course of your travel life is a good thing as it means you’ve played close to the edge and not let useful time turn into negative units waiting to board a plane. But for all the time you might gain with this practice, nothing can restore the late arrivals to conferences, missed client meetings and poor impressions made in not showing up to critical businesses appointments.[Tweet “5.7 million hours are spent each year in airports #Airports #SmallBusinessApps #TravelApps”]

But thanks to the wonderful world of apps, there’s a rather badly kept secret doing the rounds: You can have it both ways. That’s right – with these 7 apps, some of them we’ve mentioned before, but they are that good! – you can get to the airport in good time and make the best use of the extra hour or two before take-off. You don’t even have to resist the allure of the lifeless sandwiches and overpriced luxury goods vying for your attention in the lounge.

Here’s how:

1. Locating the internet: Wi-Fi Finder

Having access to Wi-Fi is really Step 1 in Getting Work Done Out of the Office. Crack this mystery and you’ll be able to accomplish a number of tasks. But have you thought about how you’ll find Wi-Fi at your destination? Especially if you’re travelling to a foreign country, easy local access may not be a done deal. With this app for iOS and Android, you’ll see the free and paid-access Wi-Fi hotspots (with directions to them), where you are at the moment, and with the Honeycomb version you can pick out those at your destination – with 550,000 locations listed in 144 countries.

From the airport café to a Pennsylvania bus stop, you can use every spare minute to keep tabs on important office updates – and contribute to them, too – or join in Skype meetings wherever you are.[Tweet “There are 550,000 Wi-Fi hotspots located in 144 countries #WiFi #MobileApps #Business”]

Cost: Free for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

2. Speedy taxi travel: Curb (for US destinations) and Uber (for international destinations)

Another way to save time is to plan your travel arrangements well ahead of schedule. Don’t arrive tired from a flight and then have to search for a taxi with a hundred other people. Curb (formerly Taxi Magic) will connect your iPhone’s GPS to a local company and dispatch a cab straight to you once you hit its truly magical button.

Uber, as we’ve seen in London, will provide taxis in 100 international cities, with the option of cashless payments and split fares for multiple passengers. You can even watch the taxi’s progress to you. Use it at your hotel, business lunch, conference centre and manufacturing plant once everything is checked and stamped with your seal of approval.[Tweet “Uber will provide taxis in 100 international cities #Uber #Taxi”]

Curb cost: Free for Android and iPhone.

Uber cost: Free for Android, Blackberry and iPhone.

3. Staying a part of the team: Asana

“When the cat’s away the mice will play”. Don’t let being away from your desk keep you out of the loop. This clever app is all about project management. Its shared task list lets team members see what has been assigned to them while a manager is out of office. You’ll be able to keep an eye on productivity and send files through Dropbox because the app syncs in real time with the web-based version.

Asana prides itself on facilitating “teamwork without email”, and you’ll likely be surprised at how much time can be gained when work is separated from checking and responding to emails. You can also connect Asana to HipChat, Slack channels, Chrome, Google Drive and many more to optimise its potential.

Cost: Free for a team of up to 15 people with iOS, Android and on the web.

4.Travel organisation: TripIt

Time is money and both can be lost very quickly if something goes wrong with your travel organization. Maybe the itinerary is on your desk at work. Maybe you’ve forgotten the name of the car hire company. Maybe the colleagues you’re supposed to be travelling with are conspicuously absent from the check-in desk. With the TripIt app you can have all your travel details together in one place, and they can be viewed by all the people who need access to them.

Everything, from booking confirmation emails to e-tickets and other critical items, is forwarded to the app and presented through e-mail, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Smartphones, tablets, PCs and wearables all have access to the app, including the Apple Watch and Android Glass, and anyone can look at itineraries offline to avoid roaming charges or get around device restrictions during the flight.

Cost: Free.

5. Meetings en route: Skype

No stranger to the business world, Skype offers video and phone services on every platform (including some TVs) and in HD-quality. You’ll never have to miss another business meeting because of travel and have to sort over the badly taken notes when you get back.

With this app you can join in anywhere and keep up your most professional appearance, even if you have to hide the coffee cup and find a quiet corner at a Beijing train station or a café in Madrid or… the list is almost endless.

Just make sure you’re presentable from the waist up if you’re captured on screen. Jeans, flip flops or Bermuda shorts won’t get noticed unless you’re making a presentation at the airport Weatherspoon’s. Maybe that’s one meeting to miss.

Cost: Free on all platforms including PCs.

6. Filing travel expenses: Expensify

Imagine arriving home after a business trip to discover your travel expenses had already been itemised and submitted in the time you spent in the airport? Capture receipts, log time and keep track of mileage easily. Take a photo of a receipt then select which report the expense should go on – and that’s all there is to it.

SmartScan technology does the work for you, and if you lose a receipt you can import card transactions and create an e-receipt. This app takes the pain out of doing your expenses.

Cost: Free for individuals on Android, iOS and Blackberry.

7. Communicate internationally: Duolingo

Apart from being on time and looking smart, nothing impresses a client more than a little knowledge of the local language.

You’ve clearly made the effort and have invested some time in getting to know a few phrases and become invested in the experience. But who has the time to pick up a few courtesies in Finnish or Bantu? Turns out, you do.

With Duolingo you can have some fun with those “negative units” of airport time. Practice “This is my treat” or “Thanks for a wonderful meal” or even “That was one celebratory drink too many – it’s time to get back to my hotel” with this fun app with no cost to the company.

Cost: Free for iOS and Android.


Next time a business trip looms on the horizon, don’t dread how much time you’ll spend at the airport.

Think of how much you’ll get done and that whatever apps you use to make the most of those precious hours, you’ll arrive back at work refreshed and ready for the next challenge, not sorting through meeting minutes, unread emails and a stale slice of cake left on your desk from Bob’s birthday celebration.

Well, you might not be able to do anything about that cake while you’re away, but you can make great use of any spare time at the airport.