The Best App & Website For Tracking Flight Status

As I’ve explained many times before, while I work primarily online, I’m pretty bad when it comes to technology. You’d probably be surprised to see how few apps I have on my phone.

A while back I wrote about Flightradar24, which is a fun app for tracking planes nearby. I use the app more for amusement than anything else, as you can see exactly where every plane is. So when I see a plane overhead I’ll open the app and see what kind of a plane it is, where it’s going, etc.

However, by far the most useful app (and website) for tracking the status of flights is FlightStats. It’s an app I use every time I fly, though it just occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever written about it.

Why is FlightStats more useful than using an airline’s website directly?

  • It doesn’t just show you flight status for your flight, but also shows overall delay patterns at an airport, which can help you predict if your flight will be delayed
  • It doesn’t just show you arrival and departure times, but actually shows you detailed flight information the airline directly won’t show you, like the time you’re expected to take off from the runway, etc.

A couple of nights ago I had a delayed flight, and it reminded me of how great this app is.

FlightStats is easy to use, and on the main page you can select either “Flights” or “Airports,” depending on whether you want the status of your flight, or just want overall information about delays at an airport, etc.

FlightStats-App-1

When you select “Airports” you can enter the airport you want to see the status for. Using LAX as an example, the weather is quite nice at the moment, as you can see. The delay status is low, though the trend is increasing (that doesn’t mean a whole lot when the delay index is so low, though).

FlightStats-App-2

Just to give an example, the other night when I flew San Francisco to Los Angeles, I was really surprised when my flight was delayed due to weather at LAX. By pulling up FlightStats, the app indicated that the airport was experiencing average delays of two hours due to low cloud coverage.

When there are delays, the app gives you the details, which helps give you a better idea of just how bad things will get.

Checking flight status through FlightStats is also significantly more helpful than going through the airline’s flight status page directly. For example, take the below flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which is scheduled to operate on time.

FlightStats-App-3

FlightStats-App-5

When you click on the detailed flight status you’ll not only see when your flight is scheduled to depart from the gate, but also when it’s scheduled to take off from the runway. This is especially useful when there’s flow control into and out of an airport during weather. Below you can see that the plane is scheduled to leave the gate at 11:10AM, and is scheduled to take off 23 minutes after that, at 11:33AM.

FlightStats-App-6

The best part is that you can find out further information about the timeline of a flight, as it shows you all the changes that have been made to the flight on the back end, including gate assignment, a change in expected runway departure time, etc.

FlightStats-App-7

A couple of nights ago I was on the 7:43PM American flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and shortly before boarding was scheduled to commence, the flight was delayed until 8PM.

I found that a bit odd. In the Admirals Club they informed me it was due to weather at LAX, though they didn’t have any further information. By opening FlightStats, I was able to find out more about the delay trends at LAX, and also found out that our scheduled “wheels up” time was 8:30PM, which would explain the delay.

Bottom line

I’m sure there are more tech savvy resources people can use, but if you’re like me and want accurate and quick info, FlightStats is an excellent site and app to use (and it’s free). I love it because:

  • You can see the scheduled takeoff and touchdown time for a flight, and not just the scheduled departure and arrival time (which can often be two very different things)
  • You can see the timeline of events for a flight, so over time you can see how they’re changing gates, changing the scheduled runway departure time, changing the aircraft, etc.
  • You can find out detailed information about specific airports, including average delays, whether delay times are increasing or decreasing, weather conditions, etc.

Anyone else love FlightStats as much as I do?

Comments

  1. Good app! It’s tough to find one app that does everything, right? I love the old FlightTrack for its ease of use and simplicity. The new FlightTrack, despite otherwise being pretty, is tough to use, but it serves one purpose very well that I can’t find elsewhere: Showing me the registration number of a plane once the airline decides which plane it’ll use (often the day before). As far as I can tell, FlightRadar24 will only show it to you once the flight has departed, or as a historical matter for the past few months.

    Is there any other app that can show the registration number in advance, without paying a hefty fee for a subscription?

  2. If you google results for your flight the first results that always come up are those of FlightStatus. Btw, what are your views/thoughts on Google’s new trip app, have you tried it out yet?

  3. @Chandan bhat I’d love to hear Lucky’s thoughts, but I downloaded Google Trips yesterday, and it was so buggy and kept crashing (especially while I downloaded trip reports). I ultimately just deleted the app.

  4. I often find that FlightStats doesn’t have up-to-date info for routes wholly outside the US and those operated by non-US carriers. Thanks for mentioning the timeline feature though – wasn’t aware of it.

  5. I like the app that shows you where the plane is before your flight
    i forgot which app does that
    but useful to see they delayed the earlier flight and plane….

  6. @ Chandan bhat @ Dave — I tried using it yesterday, and had the same experience. Buggy as can be. The way it pulls flight data is also horribly incompatible with my life, so uninstalled it as well. Not sure I have anything useful to say based on that, but maybe one of the other folks can test it.

  7. I’d have to agree with chandan. I’ve been using flightstats for YEARS, but lately have noticed a lag when google now sends an alert about a delay. i haven’t used the google flights app though. i’d be interested to hear where google gets their data from, as it’s different from the airline websites.

  8. @Dave Flight radar 24 does sometimes show the registration about a day out. Also if you’ve know the reg, flightaware will show u scheduled and past flights for that specific aircraft. Speaking of which @Lucky have you tried flightaware.com very similar to to flightstats by also has a map of the aircraft’s projected and actual route, and the ability to look up info on the inbound flight. Great for delays to see how far back it goes.

  9. @davidmal – do you mean FlightAware? I usually use that to track things as I can also get a weather map with projected flight path to see what to expect. It doesn’t have the same runway informatoin as FlightStats does, though.

  10. @Lucky– I’m curious why your screen shots show Back to Safari in the upper left corner. Are you using Safari to get to flightstats. There is a separate app.

    @anon: I use Flightradar24 to identify the reg number. You can then search on the reg number to identify and track the current/previous flight. If I waiting at the gate where the incoming flight has yet to arrive, I will often track the incoming flight, “watch” it land, and taxi to the gate. Much better than asking the agent about the incoming flight.

  11. I use FlightStats a fair bit, both to try and track down incoming flight info, and also to check the historical delay performance of a flight before booking. That timeline feature can be especially useful to fact check when the gate agent announces a “short” delay.

  12. Have you ever used the flight status within expertflyer? It gets you the FLIFO within the GDS systems. I think that is WAY more useful as you often get the actual explanation for the delay (albeit – it isn’t always useful but more often than not it’s better than the airline page).

  13. I’m confused, and not just by the “Back to Safari” text in the upper left . . .

    Just for the heck of it, after reading this post, I opened up Flightstats and looked up today’s VX908 (SFO-LAS). It showed that it had landed on time, approx. 30 min. ago, BUT it also showed that the equipment (plane) was changed from an A320 to a Aerospatiale (Sud) SE210 Caravelle — a plane first introduced in 1955! Really????

  14. @davidmal

    The app that you’re referring to is FlightView. I’ve found it to be prettty decent, especially the feature that lets you email your trip itinerary so that it can send alerts to your phone. Not too useful to me because most of my travel is non-rev and it doesn’t recognize itineraries generated by the site that we use to list for flights, but it’s still pretty nifty.

  15. Presented in the FWIW Dept.:

    VX 908 Flight Information
    Route: From (SFO) San Francisco, CA, US to (LAS) Las Vegas, NV, US
    Duration: 1h 20m
    Equipment: Airbus A320 (Scheduled)
    Equipment: Aerospatiale (Sud) SE210 Caravelle (Actual)
    On-Time Rating: 4.8 of 5 What’s this?
    Codeshares: This flight marketed as a codeshare flight by the following airlines:
    (HA) Hawaiian Airlines 2571
    (MU) China Eastern Airlines 9882
    (SQ) Singapore Airlines 1332

  16. I use FlightView Elite as my main travel application. It gives you the ability to track your flight via time or the map. The map shows your flight path and any weather in and around your path. The app informs you of delays and revised departure time. In addition you can set your home airport and monitor weather, departures and arrivals. The app will allow you to do this for any airport but by setting your home airport it’s one click. You can email your complete itinerary to family and friends which is handy as well. The app shows your inbound flight and you can track it completely. The app shows “landed” when the flight lands and “arrived” when at the gate. When you are leaving the app shows “departed” when the aircraft door is closed and “in the air” upon takeoff. The Elite version is a paid version but the free version is good too and might be enough for most people. The main difference is the arrivals and departures board which is identical to what you will see at the airport. This has helped me find alternative flights during irregular operations. I may have missed a feature or two but the app is a must in my book. I also use FlightTrack as an alternative but it’s not as comprehensive. Give it a try and if you like it consider giving it a review.

  17. For IROPS, I find Flight Board to be the best tool. But, again, it isn’t very useful if you’re on a restricted ticket and you depend on your airline for assistance.

  18. The HUGE ads on the iPhone app are a showstopper.. They cover over 50% of the screen area and there is no way to pay a few dollars to get rid of them.

  19. Personally, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on those “runway” times.
    While the estimated flight time is physically calculated per today’s conditions, the “taxi out” and “taxi in” times are simple table look-ups. At least it is for airlines using Sabre FOS (Flight Operating System). Each airport has a table for each aircraft type and the table is broken down into multiple time frames, giving the estimated taxi time for each time slot. If the table says “11 minutes”, then each time the ETD changes, the ETO updates to ETD+11.

    I think it’s rare for the pilots to update the ETO for “normal” taxi delays. While operations maintains the ETD, they won’t (can’t ??) touch the ETO unless the crew radios in a new time.

  20. Thanks for the review @Lucky! I downloaded and played with it, but I agree with @Sahir Siddiqui – the big splashy ads are a dealbreaker for me. I tried to pay the $1.99 to remove them, but it looks like the app no longer allows that.

    Does anyone know of another app that has the “flight timeline” functionality, as well as map tracking etc., but is ad-free? Certainly willing to pay a reasonable fee for it. Thanks!

  21. I’ve been using FlightStats’ website for years, even back in the Blackberry days.

    I also find Kayak’s mobile app quite useful for itinerary tracking. They call it Trips, but same difference. Probably the best free alternative to TripIt I can find. And nowhere near as buggy/bloated as TripIt.

  22. No. This is not a good app. By comparison the now defunct FlightBoard and FlightTracker is just what you want from flight information. You can look for all flights from one airport to another. It keeps you updated and you can search for specific direct city pairs. It’s simplified as well. Just like the board at the airport. This one is complicated and shows all the code shares which can be confusing because it’s really only one plane not multiple planes and multiple flights.

  23. I loved the original flight track app! It was quick, intuitive, and the flights were unduplicated( unlike flight track 5). I was forced to purchase the flight track 5 app because the original was discontinued.. a few days after the purchase, the Flt track 5 app was discontinued!! I would like my $$ back!!

  24. Tammi, while you can’t get your money back directly, Mobiata (the company that makes Flight Track 5) is offering a $10 voucher for the iTunes store or Google Play to customers like you who purchased Flight Track 5 After August 1, 2016. Details on how to get the voucher can be found here: https://www.mobiata.com/

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