Planning a trip might feel more complicated than ever. But fear not: with the right technology, like a flight tracker app, there are ways to make the whole ordeal a lot less stressful. The latest flight app offerings do a heck of a lot more than just keep tabs on your plane, too.
These endlessly helpful bits of software—which are easily downloadable on a smartphone or tablet—not only track your flight and alert you to delays or cancellations, but can also help you navigate any specific COVID-19 travel restrictions or vaccine requirements. Beyond the organizational logistics, they can also pinpoint your exact location while 40,000 feet in the air, or even provide some suggestions on the best places to eat during your six-hour layover. You don’t need to be an #avgeek to appreciate them either.
Here, some of the best flight tracker app offerings around—and remember to download your apps of choice before you get hooked up to spotty airport Wi-Fi (though some of them even work offline).
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FlightAware is a bit of a Swiss army knife when it comes to flight tracking apps. With it, you can track the real-time flight status and location of any commercial flight worldwide, as well as private and charter flights in the U.S. and Canada—which comes in handy when your flight is delayed. You can also see where your incoming aircraft is coming from, how close it is to picking you up, and what weather may be in its way. You can sign up for push notifications for your flight’s departure and arrival info, as well as pings for gate changes, delays, and cancellations. (Sometimes, we’ve gotten FlightAware notices faster than from the airline itself.)
Why we love it: FlightAware’s desktop site is already our go-to when flights are delayed, and the free app makes having all of the info you need even easier. (Plus, if you’re a real aviation sadist, check out the “Misery Map” to see which airports are being hit the hardest by delays and cancellations—and pray you don’t see your current location on there.)
Download now: Free; iOS, Android
App in the Air
App in the Air is more than a flight tracker; it dubs itself “your personal travel assistant,” and that’s not an exaggeration. While it has all of the key features of any standard flight tracker, like flight status updates, it acts as a one-stop organization tool for more than 6 million travelers around the world. You can book flights and hotels right within the app, keep up-to-date with changes to your itinerary in real time, and maintain a searchable log of all your trip information long after you’ve returned home—in case you can’t remember the name of that fabulous hotel with the spa you loved in Paris. In 2020, the app introduced new “health filters” to keep users updated about travel restrictions, government regulations, and airline rules to more easily—and safely—navigate travel during the ongoing pandemic.
Why we love it: Much like a human personal assistant, App in the Air gets to know you over time. The app uses AI to better understand your personal preferences and suggests itineraries based on what it knows. Best of all, it works offline so that you won’t miss a key notification—like, say, that your flight has been cancelled—because your Wi-Fi conked out.
Download now: Free-$4.99; iOS, Android
If you’re not flying, but really, really love planes, download Flightradar24. We’ll wait. The app essentially lets you play air traffic controller, showing you exactly which flights are passing overhead. All you have to do is point your phone in the direction of the flying plane and you’ll get real-time flight stats, like where the airplane is coming from, where it’s headed, its speed, and its altitude. Sort of like Shazam for planes. The fun part comes with features like Cockpit View, which allows you to see through the eyes of a pilot. You also get all of the basic flight tracking app features, like arrival and departure times, flight status, and delay information, if you’re heading to the airport.
Why we love it: While the basic app is free, it’s the $3.99/month Gold Plan that really excites the aviation-obsessed (there are Silver and Business Plans as well, with the latter costing a very pretty penny—nearly $500 a year). You get all of the above, plus live weather patterns, aeronautical charts showing the different paths that flights historically follow in the sky, air traffic control boundaries—and 365 days’ worth of that data. There’s not much more you could ask for.
Download now: Free-$499.99 per year; iOS, Android
The Flight Tracker
This is, well, exactly what it says: a flight tracking app that offers details on arrival and departure times, terminal info, seat maps, and alerts for gate changes, delays, and cancellations plus a weather tracker. For the frequent flier, it also gives you the option to make notes on specific flights, label frequent routes, and sync the app with flights on your mobile calendar. It also lets you set customized reminders before departure.
Why we love it: The real perk here? It all works offline, so you can follow your route while in the air—even if the plane’s Wi-Fi connection leaves something to be desired.
Download now: Free-$11.99; iOS, Android
Sometimes, all you want is a simple flight board that lists arrivals and departures in an easy-to-digest design. Luckily for travelers, that’s exactly the kind of straightforward information that Flight Board offers for more than 1,400 airlines traveling to and over 16,000 airports, with updates made every few minutes. If the app’s appealingly old-school design looks familiar, that’s probably because it’s based on the flight board of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Why we love it: It doesn’t get more straight-forward than this, and sometimes simple is best.
Download now: Free; iOS, Android
This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.
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