(Graphic: Ryan McCullah)
There are few things more stressful than flight delays—whether you’re the one traveling or the one picking someone up from the airport. We’ve all gotten used to plugging and chugging info into an airline’s website to find the most up-to-date info on a flight, but that doesn’t really give you an accurate picture of exactly what is going on in the skies.
I’ll just admit it. I am a sky stalker. Not only do I stalk my own flights, I stalk my friends’ flights and sometimes my parents’ flights. (I stopped stalking ex-boyfriends’ flights in my twenties.)
These are some of my favorite apps for flight stalking that actually make travel much more efficient and sometimes even more fun.
What does it do: Want a bare-bones flight tracker, free of bells and whistles? Flightaware is your app. Tell it an aircraft number and it tracks it for you. Easy peasy. It also provides push notifications for flight departure/arrival info, as well as cancellations, gate changes, delays, and diversions. You want basic, this is it. Fair warning, the ads can become a little distracting.
What does it do: This is, hands down, the best tracker for flight nerds. This app actually turns your phone into an air traffic radar system that lets you see planes as they move in real time on a detailed map. The app allows you to identify planes flying overhead just by pointing it at the sky (with GPS enabled on your phone this works about two-thirds of the time … which feels like a win). It is also easy to search for individual flights using flight number, airport, or airline.
What does it do: We love that this app has an “automagic” option. Just enter your frequent flyer number and it will “know” when you are traveling and start tracking the flight for you. This functionality is perfect for the lazy traveler. Like most tracker apps it delivers up-to-the-minute itinerary push alerts. It will also “automagically” and manually help you search for the best rates on hotel and car rentals nearby.
What does it do: GateGuru has all the flight-tracker basics (sweet and simple), but once you input your itinerary it connects all of the dots—telling you where to check in, what the weather is like, estimated security wait times (LOVE THIS), and what amenities are available for your specific terminal (along with a helpful starred ratings system. Beware: Some of the crowdsourced user comments are helpful and some are just noise, but it’s still better than nothing.
What does it do: You may be asking (we did), “Why should I pay $4.99 for a tracking app when there are free tracking apps?” FlightTrack Pro is definitely one of the better apps for tracking flights around the globe in terms of accuracy and efficiency. It also helps you find alternative flights when there are cancellations. The maps are a step above most other tracking apps, with beautiful renderings of most flight paths that include satellite and weather radar imagery. At the end of the day, a lot of other flight apps do what FTPro does, FTPro just looks a lot prettier doing it.