About 20% of major U.S. airline flights were delayed in June, according to the Transportation Department. And that's reason enough to have a mobile app to track flights before you head to the airport.
But many of today's leading flight-tracking apps — including FlightTrack Free, AirportZoom, FlightView and GateGuru — provide more than arrival and departure times and terminal, gate and baggage claim locations.
Many of these free apps also let you find the best shoeshine at the airport and the best restaurant choices near your departure gate.
My favorite of the four apps reviewed was FlightTrack Free (iOS and Android) from Expedia-owned Mobiata. But AirportZoom by FlightStats (iPad), which has a different focus, was a close second.
I liked FlightTrack Free for its elegance and simplicity in tracking a flight. It covers 1,400 airlines around the world and 16,000 airports, but lets you monitor the progress of one flight at a time on a zoomable map.
Its search function by airline and flight number or route also is easy to use. It doesn't bury you with mountains of information.
AirportZoom takes advantage of an iPad's graphics and is more comprehensive than FlightTrack. But the amount of information it provides — a delay index for the airport, current weather, a seven-day forecast and gate changes — can seem overwhelming.
GateGuru's Airport Info & Flight Status app (iOS and Android) doesn't let you view a flight's progress on a map. But it's easy to use and provides basic flight and arrival status in an attractive manner on flight cards. GateGuru's prowess is providing ratings and reviews for restaurants, shops and services at about 125 airports around the world.
FlightView 2.0 (iOS) lets you track flights on a map, and provides weather and airport information. But it seems bare-bones and not very interactive.
A new feature on FlightView 2.0, Where's My Plane?, offers an interesting twist: a specific aircraft's previous flights on different routes over the past couple of days to provide past on-time performance for your flight. This feature is available only for certain flights by about a dozen airlines, including United, Virgin America, WestJet, British Air, JetBlue and Air New Zealand.
A closer look at the four apps:
AirportZoom by FlightStats
•Overview: IPad app enables flight tracking on a map. Provides detailed flight and airport arrival and departure status, gate locations on a map, terminal maps at 120 airports, information and reviews about restaurants, amenities and services.
•Pros: Comprehensive information on flights, including scheduled aircraft type, codeshares, on-time performance ratings. Nice graphics.
•Cons: Amount of information can seem overwhelming at times. Flight tracking on map not as attractive as with FlightTrack Free.
•Take-away: For the serious aviation buff, the flight-event timeline, and barometer and dew point information provide much to dig into.
FlightTrack Free by Mobiata
•Overview: Covering 16,000 airports and 1,400 airlines, this iOS and Android app enables searching and tracking of a single flight on a zoomable map, and provides departure and arrival information, plus gate and baggage-claim information, all refreshed every five minutes.
•Pros: It's a beautiful app, elegant in its simplicity, as a plane appears in motion, progressing toward its arrival airport.