How To Determine Where Your Plane Is Before Your Flight

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Typically, when friends or family have travel-related questions, I’m the first person they reach out to. I don’t mind because…well, I love helping and I get excited when I can talk about anything travel-related. It’s kinda my thing! 😉

Yesterday, I had friend reach out because of a flight delay and I thought it would be good information for others to know also.

BACKGROUND

My friends were flying from Orlando (MCO) to Baltimore (BWI) on Southwest Airlines flight #1293 and a few hours before departure, they received the dreaded “Your Flight has been delayed” text message. Their flight had been delayed by an hour. Then, they received another text and it was now two hours.

That’s when they texted me, “What should we do?”

WHERE’S MY PLANE?

Let’s start from the ground level…every commercial plane you’ve ever flown on arrived from some other city. Additionally, every plane has a daily schedule, often with 4 or 5 flights per day.

My friends were asking “why is our 7PM flight from Orlando to Baltimore delayed even though the weather appears fine in both cities and other planes are departing on time?” It’s probably because something delayed that specific aircraft at some point earlier in the day.

Understanding where your plane is coming from could be the key to understanding the status of the delay.

PLANE TRACKING APPS

There are two apps that I use to track my flights:

  • FlightAware – Use this for domestic flights.
  • Flightradar24 – Use this for international flights (or to be certified as a true aviation nerd)

For those of us that enjoy simplicity, the amount of information on the following screen may be overwhelming. However, if you take a second to read over the information, it’s basic.

For example, it lists the origin and destination, the departure and arrival times, etc. But the gem on this page is the “where is my plane now” button.

Photo provided via flightaware.com

The link will take you to another page but this time it will display the route your specific plane is flying before your scheduled flight.

I was able to easily determine that their flight was coming from Chicago (MDW). Unfortunately, the plane was still in Chicago and given the flight time from Chicago to Orlando, this delay was going to be far longer than two hours.

With a simple search on the Southwest site, I also discovered there were 3 or 4 Southwest flights that were departing from Orlando bound for Baltimore. There was a good chance that 2 of these flights would depart before their original scheduled flight.

I advised them to be proactive and speak to an agent about the delay and see if there was a chance to hop on a different flight because they were likely going to be delayed again.

THE RESULTS

They followed my directions and were able to depart on a different flight. Let me be clear, boarding a different flight is not always an option. Often, ticket agents are limited in their capabilities so it’s not a guarantee.

Interestingly, this is what happened to their original flight…

THE NEXT DAY

Although, my friends took a different flight, their arrival at home was only delayed by an 1.5 hours.

However, let’s say that their flight had been canceled, it was the last flight departing for Baltimore that night, and they were re-scheduled to be on the first flight the next morning (6:05AM).

Using the same steps I can determine where the plane is:

Step 1: Go to flightaware
Step 2: Enter the 6:05AM flight number (flight #2362 in this case)
Step 3: Click on “where is my plane now?”

It appears the plane is already in Orlando having arrived from Austin (AUS) the night before. This is no guarantee that it won’t be delayed in the morning for other reasons but we can guarantee that it won’t be delayed because it is in another city.

FLIGHT DELAY COVERAGE

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or a first-time traveler, delays can happen to anyone and there are plenty of reasons why your perfectly scheduled plans may go awry.

While airlines may offer compensation (particularly if the delay is NOT weather-related), often, meal vouchers are restrictive, and the hotels rooms that they offer make you consider if sleeping on the floor of the airport is a better idea.

Fortunately, there are a number of credit cards out there that are structured to cover you in situations just like this.

Most reimbursement policies offer to reimburse you for up to $500 per person, as long as the delay is greater than 12 hours.

For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred has a trip delay reimbursement that says:

Provides reimbursement for expenses such as meals and lodging if your common carrier (airline, bus, cruise ship, train) travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay (up to $500 for each purchased ticket)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a bit more generous and its trip delay reimbursement says:

If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 6 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

FINAL STAMP

Tracking where your plane is coming from gives you the ability to make decisions about your travel schedule. It also provides clarity so you’re not in the dark and at the mercy of what it says on the departure gate screen.

It’s worth noting that there is the possibility that an airline can swap in a different plane, particularly if you’re at a hub airport where additional planes are available.

Orlando (MCO) is a Southwest Airlines hub so I advised my friends to get to the airport as soon as possible. Although there was a delay, that time frame may disappear if the airline decides to utilize a different plane.

Hopefully, this information helps anyone that has had (or will have) a flight delay.

Have you even been delayed for hours (or worse, over night)? What was your experience?

4 comments

  1. This by far has become one of my favs! So most of 2019 I flew Spirit intentionally. And unfortunately we experienced a lot of delays on our flights leaving Particularly the east side of the nation and I always wondered why lol. This app is genius man thank you for sharing this is going to be so beneficial. And not because it tells us when the flight will come but it kind of makes you feel like you’re in the know versus just being furious at the travel counter looking for an answer. So thank you for this as always it is appreciated!!

    Liked by 1 person

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