It’s no secret that air travel can be stressful. From making sure you get to the airport with plenty of time before your flight’s departure to dealing with last-minute gate changes, layovers, and getting through crowds at airport security—flying commercially can be a bit of a headache if you cannot charter a private jet.
Fortunately, there are some resources available to make your life easier. In recent years, more travelers have begun using flight tracker apps to help them stay on top of changes in flight arrival/departure times, weather-related delays, gate changes, and other important details that can impact their travel plans.
Whether you’re a frequent flyer, an aviation enthusiast, or simply want to be as prepared as possible for an upcoming trip, you may want to consider installing a flight tracker app on your phone or tablet. By having a better understanding of the potential pros and cons of using a flight tracker app, as well as the most important considerations to keep in mind as you select one, you can ultimately decide on the app that’s best suited for your specific needs.
Best Flight Tracker Apps
If you search for flight tracker apps on your smartphone, you may quickly be overwhelmed by the number of options available to you. Not sure where to begin? Check out our picks for the best flight tracker apps to help narrow down your list.
This free app is available on both iOS and Android, and offers real-time flight-tracking of any commercial flight across the globe. While you’re on your flight, you can also use this app to see other aircraft that are in your area and find out where they’re heading.
This app is available for free on both iOS and Android, though there is a paid version that provides more data (such as flight history and weather overlays). For the average traveler, however, the free version will offer more features than you need. Specifically, you can use this app to check out departure and arrival times based on your flight; you’ll also enjoy a 3D pilot view for any commercial flight in the air.
This free app is extremely practical for those who do a lot of flying. When you open the app, simply enter your flight number and you’ll instantly be provided with all the information you need, including check-in times, boarding times, gate numbers, and everything in between. This app can also come in handy if you ever need to pick somebody up from the airport!
This app isn’t free (it’ll run you $4.99 on both iOS and Android), but for those looking for an app that stays up-to-date even without the use of Wi-Fi, this is worth the cost. It offers everything from information on flight delays to gate changes without the need for a Wi-Fi connection—and when you consider that a lot of flights still don’t offer free Wi-Fi, this can be a worthwhile app to check out.
FlightStats is available for both iOS and Android with a free version that will fit the bill just fine for most travelers. This app has a use-friendly interface that makes it a breeze to use. You can search by route, flight number, or airport to find your flight and enjoy added information on weather updates and potential delays.
Advantages of Using Flight Tracker Apps
There are many benefits to installing and using a flight tracker app, whether it be on your phone or tablet.
Stay on Top of Changes
If you’ve ever flown before, then you already know just how quickly a trip itinerary can change. You might experience a delayed departure due to weather or mechanical issues, or you might have a sudden gate change that can throw you off (or even cause you to miss your flight!).
One of the main purposes of a flight tracker app is to help you stay alert of any changes related to your flight as soon as possible once they’re announced. In some cases, a flight tracker app may even be able to predict potential issues that could affect your flight. For example, many of these apps come with weather monitoring that will notify you if inclement weather is expected in the area at the time of your scheduled departure. This can help you enjoy a better heads-up to expect possible delays.
Likewise, if there is a last-minute delay or gate change, a flight tracking app can help you stay alert so you can avoid potentially missing your flight or otherwise being caught off-guard. Overall, a flight tracker app can make the entire process of traveling by plane less stressful by keeping you informed in real-time.
Pinpoint Your Location
Have you ever been on a plane and looked out the window, only to have no idea where you were? For some travelers, this loss of awareness can be stressful. For others, it may not be bothersome, but you may be curious about where on the map you are. A flight tracker that can be used during your flight is a great way to pinpoint your exact location using GPS technology. Simply open your app and you’ll be able to see the exact location of your plane at any time. This can help alleviate stress for many travelers and help give you a better idea of how far you have to get to your destination (after all, doesn’t time seem to stand still when you’re sitting on a plane?).
Kill Time Before or During Your Flight
Looking for ways to kill time at the gate or even while you’re aboard your flight? A flight tracker app with lots of features can keep you busy for hours! While sitting at the gate, for example, you can use your app to learn information about the other flights currently arriving and departing, current news and even gas prices. You can also check out details about your upcoming flight, including anticipated flight time and weather conditions.
While you’re aboard your flight, a tracker app can continue to keep you entertained by providing real-time location reporting and other fun features. Some apps, for example, will allow you to use the app in-flight to detect other aircraft nearby. Have you ever seen another plane in the distance while aboard a flight and wondered where it was headed? The right flight tracker app can provide you with these kinds of details to keep you entertained until you land!
Track a Loved One’s Flight
Even if you’re not a regular traveler, having a flight tracker app can come in handy when you have loved ones who do a lot of flying or when you need to pick a friend/family member up from the airport. For example, you can use a flight tracker app to find out when a loved one’s flight has safely landed at its destination, which can give you added peace of mind. In addition, some apps let you track the location of your carry-on luggage or other checked luggage.
If you’ll be picking someone up from the airport, you can use a flight tracker app to set notifications on their flight number. This way, if there are any delays or other changes that could affect your pick-up plans, you can stay informed/
Potential Drawbacks of Using Flight Tracker Apps
There aren’t many major disadvantages when it comes to using flight tracker apps, but there are a few potential drawbacks worth keeping in mind.
Not Always Up-to-Date
While most flight tracker apps do a great job of providing up-to-date information on flights in real-time, the only way to guarantee the accuracy of flight information is to contact the airline directly. It’s not likely that you’ll be provided with inaccurate information from a flight tracker app, but because these are third-party applications, this is something worth keeping in mind.
Some Require a Wi-Fi Connection
In order to receive real-time updates and alerts, many flight tracker apps will require a Wi-Fi connection. And while most airports offer free Wi-Fi these days, not all airplanes do. This means that you may be unable to access information and features of some apps unless you pay for in-flight Wi-Fi. Of course, if you only need to get information about a flight while you’re at the airport or before you even leave for the airport, this isn’t likely to be a problem. And these days, more and more app developers are making it possible for flight trackers to provide real-time updates without the need for a Wi-Fi connection.
May Have Annoying Ads
Some flight tracker apps are available in both free and paid versions, with the free versions using ads that can sometimes get in the way of the user experience. In these cases, it may be worth paying a little extra for an app that doesn’t include ads. On the other hand, some free flight tracker apps don’t have ads, so it may just be a matter of shopping around to find the right one.
User-Friendliness Can Vary
Depending on how experienced you are with using a flight tracker app, the interface and user-friendliness can vary quite a bit from one app to the next. Some may have complicated interfaces that are difficult to navigate, which can make it hard to get the details you need about your flight.
Top Considerations When Choosing A Flight Tracker App
Thinking about installing a flight tracker app on your phone or tablet? Be sure to check out our above list of top five flight trackers. As you explore your options, there are also some other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind.
For the most part, you probably don’t need to pay for a flight tracker app unless you want advanced features. Some aviation enthusiasts, for example, may find it worth it to pay for an app with bonus features. For the average traveler, however, a basic (and free) flight tracker app will have everything you need. In some cases, however, it may be worth paying a few bucks for an ad-free experience.
Depending on the type of phone you have, some flight tracker apps may not be available. Some apps, for example, are only made for iOS or Android devices. Be sure to explore options that are available for download on your specific device.
The overall design and user-friendliness of the app is important, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience using a flight tracking app. The most user-friendly options tend to have features that allow you to search based on your specific flight number, route, or airline or luggage companies.
Not all flight tracking apps offer the same features, though most will offer the basics such as real-time flight updates and gate-change notifications. If you want more information, such as weather updates and other more advanced features, you may need to do a little more shopping around.
Most flight tracker apps rely on a Wi-Fi connection to provide real-time updates to users, which can mean you’ll be without updates while you’re aboard your flight if you don’t have access to Wi-Fi. If this is a concern of yours, then you’ll want to look for a flight tracking app that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection. There are a handful of these available, and it is expected that more of them will come into development as demand increases. Of course, some flights are beginning to offer free Wi-Fi, so this may not be a concern depending on the airline you’re using.
As you can see, there are many advantages to using a flight tracking app, whether you’ll be flying in the near future or have a loved one that you need to pick up from the airport. Overall, flight tracking app makes it easier for you to stay up-to-date on any changes to your flight while providing some entertaining features that can help you kill time as well. When searching for the right flight tracker app for your needs, be sure to consider such factors as value for the money, operating system, and available features.
And remember, you can always try out a few different free flight tracker apps to see which one is best suited for your needs. From there, you can simply uninstall the ones you don’t like and keep your favorite.