The Secret to On Time Passenger Pickup

Here's a little nugget to tuck away until you have to pick someone up at the airport, or if you want to know if someone's flight left on time.

Flightaware ( is a flight tracking system that accurately provides up to the minute departure and arrival information for flights in the U.S. It has saved me many times from being late to pick someone up, or the very irritating experience of circling the airport several times because the flight was delayed.

You may be asking why I use flightaware instead of just calling the airline for an arrival update. I have found that the airlines consistently provide the wrong information! Flightaware is what pilots use. The information is what the air traffic controllers use to schedule airplanes.

It's accurate. And there is an app for my smartphone that I can use while I'm sitting at the airport waiting for the plane.

Here are the instructions.  It's easy, even if you are "not a computer person."

All you need to know is the airline, the departure city, and the arrival city.  Make sure the departure city is the city the plane is coming from if your passenger has a connection.  If you actually have the flight number, that's even better.

Go to and on the left hand column in orange, you'll see a box that says "Airline flight tracker."  Start typing the name of the airline and several will pop up.  Click the correct airline.

If you have the flight number, enter it, and click "track flight".
If not, click on "Don't know the flight #?", and it will give you a place to put the origin (departure) airport code, and the arrival airport code.  If you don't know the code, type in the city clue and select an airport. 
Click search.

A map will pop up.  Scroll down and you will see a list of flights scheduled. Select the flight by clicking on the airline/flight number under "ident".

Now comes the good part.  You'll see a map with the departure and arrival cities designated. If the plane has already taken off, you will see exactly where the plane is en route!

On the right side of the map, you'll find the duration of the flight and how long it has been flying, and the status (in flight, not yet departed, etc.).

At the bottom of this section is the best part: the departure and arrival times that are scheduled, the 7 day average, and the actual/estimated times for today's flight. You can see by the actual/estimated times if the flight took off on time and when the air traffic controllers expect it to arrive.  To update the information, just click on "Track Flight" in the blue box on the left side of the page. You'll see the little airplane on the map has moved closer to the destination.

This is much different than the information the airline gives you if you call to get flight status.

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