If you’ve ever found yourself sitting at an airport terminal just minutes before your flight is scheduled to leave — and yet the boarding process hasn’t even begun and, quite frankly, there doesn’t appear to be an airplane at the gate, but the flight information screen still promises an on-time departure — you’re not alone.
Airlines are often hesitant to announce delays, and are notorious for waiting until the last possible minute to do so. But there is an easy way to tell if you’re going to be delayed long before the airline is ready to admit it.
As BoardingArea blogger Dan Miller pointed out, there is one simple step travelers can take to keep closer tabs on their flight. And that’s to track the status of the aircraft with a tool like FlightAware.com.
After entering flight information on FlightAware, travelers can track the inbound aircraft by clicking “Where is my plane now?”
You’ll see if it’s arrived at the gate — or if it’s still en route and half an hour behind schedule.
FlightAware uses navigation data from a number of sources, including military and government agencies and radar data from a global network of antennas. Exact timing can get spotty if you’re trying to track an aircraft traveling on a polar route, or above an ocean. But the website should still make it clear whether or not your flight is going to leave at the ticketed time.
With enough notice, travelers can use FlightAware to avoid wasting hours at an airport gate (especially crucial if you’re trying to survive overcrowded terminals during the holiday season).
Travelers can also get reliable on-time information from the app GateGuru, though it won’t let you track your specific aircraft.