Is This The Best Way To Track A Flight?

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I’ve found the quickest way to track a flight is to skip the airlines website or the airlines mobile app and go straight to my Google toolbar. In order for this trick to work, you need to know two things:

  • The airline’s two letter ITA airline code
  • The flight number

Then just Google it. It works on my laptop, ipad, and iphone.

I typed in UA 123 and here are the results.Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.44.44 AMI Googled AA 123 and received these results.Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.44.03 AMI Googled JetBlue flight 123. JetBlue has more of an odd 2 letter code, as it is B6 123 and I received these results.Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.50.32 AMI Googled Southwest flight 123 and it is a multi-segment flight and here are the results. They also have an odd 2 letter code, WN, so I typed in WN 123.Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.53.49 AMBottom Line:

If your not sure of what the airline 2 letter code is, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a global airline trade association, has an on-line directory here. But once you crack the code, it is a lot easier to Google flight numbers rather than using the airline specific site. When I switch my search toolbar to Bing it seems to work, however, it doesn’t seem to work when I switch it to Yahoo.  And one more bonus Google tip – did you know you can get answers to math problems in the Google tool bar? 1+1, anyone?

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  1. WN makes sense. They used to be Western.

    Same as O’Hare being ORD. Used to be Orchard.

    Was surprised they didn’t leave JFK as IDW. Changing either code is as BIG hassle.

  2. @Dan: The history of “WN” is somewhat muddied and is part of Southwest’s mythos. “SW” was taken by another airline, and supposedly the executives used “Why Not?” as their alternative.

    ORD isn’t just Orchard Field; it’s Orchard-Douglas Field.

    The Idlewild name was never used for the modern airport; by the time it was opened as an international airport the Port Authority had already decided to name it after the recently assassinated Kennedy.

    My favorite IATA quirk is IAD for Dulles – it did open as DIA, but as that was only one letter away from nearby DCA the air traffic controllers realized that this could be confusing and cause a mistake. Hence, the new rule is that airports in close proximity must be distinguishable by more than one letter. (And then, of course, there’s the funny element that Denver calls itself DIA even though its code is IAD).

    Anyway… the problem with the Google flight search is its data source. Google often relies on what the airlines are “telling” it, which can be way off of reality. I’ve seen canceled flights that show as “Taxiing” for an hour on Google. Generally it’s much more accurate to take the extra step and go into FlightAware, Flightradar24, or FlightStats, which will be accurate to the second in most cases.

  3. My mistake. SW was never connected with Western. I had them both scrambled in my ancient brain with Hughes Air West, which was formed from, in part, the OLD Southwest Air. Hadn’t heard the “why not” legend for WN symbol.

    Yes, starting in 42 the military built Orchard Place-Douglas Field, but when, in 46, the city took it over it was simply Orchard Field, and was thus known. I lived in Chicago at the time and we didn’t really know or remember the Douglas part. Most thought the ORD came from ORcharD. And even after named for Medal of Honor recipient O’Hare, it was called Orchard for quite a while.

    And then we could get into MCO and YYZ. 🙂

  4. is the most accurate in most cases, but you do have to go to their website. It’s the only site that shows wheels up to wheels down time.
    But the most important feature I’ve found about the Google flight status search you are talking about is that it’s free on any GoGo equipped aircraft. Just use google search as you would at any other time and poof, it displays. Really helpful when your plane is diverting due to weather, etc.

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