and it’s FREE!
Since 1903, the first moment humans get to fly, the technology never stop evolving into more instrumentation and technology in the aviation industry. We as the civilians (non-aviation people) could also benefit from this advancements as some of the facilities (like a Flight Tracker) are actually available in public-domain …for FREE. Amazing isn’t it?
One of the most known flight tracker worldwide and that we use is “flightradar24“.
There are many uses when it comes to a flight tracker and flight-information providers. These are some ways I use a flight tracker :
1. Picking-up someone at the airport
Yes, I do this most of the time. When someone ask me to pick them up at the airport, I really hated to pay that extra or unnecessary parking fees (and they are usually very expensive) and not mentioning the boredom of walking around the arrivals terminal looking suspicious to the airport security.
I usually have the app installed on my phone, enter the flight number, and use the ‘follow-flight’ function (available on flightradar24.com) . Refresh the page every 5-15 minutes. That way I get real-time timing on where the plane actually located.
Usually it is accurate to 5-10 seconds of the plane’s location depending on my current mobile phone internet connection speed. On good internet days, I get accurate to 1 second -yes, I saw the plane touching down on the runway live-feed.
Other live-information displayed includes Flight Path, Airplane Altitude, Scheduled Time Departure & Arrival, Actual Time Departure & Arrival and Flight Duration.
2. Checking why was my flight delayed or cancelled?
Usually when you’re waiting at the airport for boarding call at the terminal, you only refer to the flight-information display that tells you flight departure time, destination and gate status (open, boarding, closed, or cancelled).
I know it can be disappointing to ask airport personnel about why your flight was cancelled and they’ll just usually say “wait at your gate until there’s an announcement”. I find using these flight trackers, you could kill-time feeding your curiosity on why your plane was delayed.
The common causes of flight delays I’ve found was the weather due to poor visibility, severe ‘cross-winds’, generally bad weather or late flight arrivals. Cross-winds simply mean, the wind is blowing across the runway forcing the plane to ‘strafe’ left or right either on take-off or landing, which can be dangerous. Go ahead lookup on YouTube how a cross-wind condition looks like or click HERE. I’m sure no one wants to be on such a flight.
If you encounter a situation where its foggy, up to certain degree, the flight will be grounded until visibility improves.
On a more ‘aviation-geek’ level, I use METAR or the weather-report used by pilots and airports for aviation purposes. On FlightRadar24.com, the website displays every airport’s METAR on the “Weather” tab. You’ll need a METAR converter to understand the format (or view from FlightRadar24.com) :
LEMD 021630Z 36004KT 310V050 9999 SCT080 24/09 Q1011 NOSIG
LEMD is the airport code for MAD – Madrid Barajas (Spain) Airport
Day: 2nd (day of the month)
Time: 16:30 UTC (time of the weather report was issued)
Wind direction: 360° (based on compass direction)
Wind speed: 4kt (about 4.5mph)
Runway Area Temperature: 24°C (too hot/cold=flight delays)
Dew point: 9°C (related to fog development)
Pressure: 1011 hPa (related to fog/rain/snow development)
Visibility: 9999 m (pilots can see that far? it just means very clear view haha)
lastly.. NOSIG means “No signs of weather changing in the next hour”.
In case you’re wondering, why can’t I just check the weather report from AccuWeather.com? It isn’t meant for aviation uses. Instead the METAR is the official aviation-purpose weather report. You won’t be seeing me flying out from an airport that uses Accuweather.com, hahaha.
And also there are times that it was the Pilot’s fault (haha) for picking up the plane out of the parking lot really late. Yes, you could actually track where the plane was parked in the airport. Once the plane was switched on and ‘registered’ its transponder to the Flight Number, it’ll appear on FlightRadar24.com.
3. Predicting my flight departure gate!
I love this one particularly when I don’t feel like running to my gate when it announces. Some economy airlines such as EasyJet or Ryanair, they usually announces the departure gate at almost the last moments. So this knowledge would be useful if your flight ticket or airport info board didn’t mention what gate you’re going to pass.
There was once Consu and myself had to run to a boarding gate 15 minutes away (from the information board) when the status changed, airport staff announces the gate number, then turned status to final-boarding-call in 2 minutes??! Lesson learnt, no more waiting for gate-calls. But yes, we made it onto that EasyJet flight, hahaha.
To check on your boarding gate, you’ll need your flight company name, flight number and flight departure date and use FlightStats.com or click HERE. You could also look into the flight’s departure gate history from previous day only for free on FlightStats.com, which would be sufficient to give you hints on which gate to wait. An extended flight history data would be available on paid-subscription.
It should usually be around the same area. That way you could wait around the previous gate numbers ahead of time. No more running! and more space for your hand-carry luggage if you’re some of the early passengers in the airplane.
4. Which flight seat to choose?
I personally use this especially on long-haul flights. It helps a lot when you don’t fly Business or First Class to know how much space or the position of your flight seat in relation to the lavatory (toilet), pantry, isles, emergency-exits (more legroom), spiral-staircase (eg. Airbus A380), airplane-wings (if you like ‘better’ views) or even when coordinating seatings for your travel-group.
Ditto, you’ll need your flight number and flight departure date to check on SeatGuru.com.
By using this seat-check, I could avoid getting cramped-seats such as the last row before a toilet. It won’t be any fun riding in that seat for 14-16 hours, I’ve been there-done that. Also not forgetting the usual unpleasant toilet smell, hahaha.
Now you can fly Economy knowing that you’re going to get the best of economy-seats and no more “OMG I got a horrible seat”-moment 😉
5. Making sure he/she gets there safely …awww 😉
I know, I know, he/she’s going on a travel-trip and you’re worried sick. The least you could do is track the flight, make sure it took-off and landed safely, and then wait for a phone call he/she’s out of the passport control area waiting for the luggage at the baggage-collection belts.
I use this countless times when any of my loved ones travel especially my mom, my sister or Consu was flying alone.
It actually helps to know where they were when there’s no phone signal 36,000 -38,000 feet up there. Use the “Follow” function on FlightRadar24.com and sit back with a drink in your hand watching TV 😉
Also, don’t forget to “Follow” us on Instagram @snacksinthebackpack ;P
Lazing on the beach looking up to the skies, spotted an airplane flying probably 36,000 feet high, where’s this plane flying to? how fast is that airplane flying? Yep, hop on to FlightRadar24.com and check!
For someone like me, somewhat an aviation-geek and both of us who travel lots, we love to plane-spot and get inspired for our next destination.
Sometimes, we even spot helicopters, gliders (yes, like the one in Fifty Shades of Grey) and private bi-planes on the map.