8 Online Tools That Could Change the Way You Fly
When it comes to travel, it’s important to take control of your overall experience — whether that means doing the research before you go or tracking flights and mileage balances post-travel — there are a ton of online resources at your fingertips. As AvGeeks, we all have our favorites, which allow us to explore the inner workings of airlines and aviation in general. Here, we've rounded up some of the top choices that are sure to please beginners, frequent fliers and aviation buffs alike.
FlightAware lets you search city pairs, airports, flight numbers or aircraft registration numbers to see up-to-the-minute flight information. There's also an option to search by airport so you can watch inbound and outbound flights, making this a great tool for plane spotters.
2. Book with Matrix
The ITA Matrix is one of the most comprehensive search engines for air travel, providing more results and airline pairings than almost any other site — the problem is, however, that you can't book directly with the site. Instead, you have to replicate the flight results on another site like Orbitz independently. Book With Matrix allows you to simply copy the ITA results and paste them into a window on the site. It then scours the web to find other sites that'll recreate the exact fare you found so you can book it — talk about a time saver!
3. Aviation Herald
Interested in knowing about the latest flight incidents and the detailed reports surrounding their occurrence? Aviation Herald lists everything from bird strikes and other minor situations to plane crashes, so aviation fans can read the full report on what happened and where. If you have been involved in some type of incident, chances are the full explanation will soon appear on this site.
4. Where to Credit
Since almost all domestic airlines' award miles are based upon the flight cost rather than distance flown, passengers need to employ some serious strategy when it comes to deciding where they should credit their flights. Even elite status is becoming less valuable as airlines monetize first-class upgrades, resulting in fewer free bumps to first class. The good news is you can still earn lots of miles if you're not as interested in reaching elite status, especially when you look into crediting your miles to another airline’s program that might award distance-based miles no matter which fare class you're flying in. Where to Credit tells you which airline partners provide the most miles for your trip after you input the airline and fare class you’re flying in — for example, United flights earn full mileage with Singapore KrisFlyer. Before you go full steam with another mileage program, it’s best to look at that airline’s award chart to determine if it has desirable redemptions within your reach.
Getting to the airport early doesn't always have to be a chore if there’s a decent lounge to help you pass the time. If traveling in a premium cabin internationally, chances are you will have access to a lounge, but if not, many travel credit cards like The Platinum Card from American Express and the Citi Prestige provide you with a way in the door. Amex Platinum offers access to many lounges on its own, while both cards provide global lounge options through Priority Pass. The LoungeBuddy site and app are great tools for finding these lounges — best of all, the app even works when your phone is in airplane mode.
6. Airline Route Maps
Clicking around on Airline Route Maps is a fun way to pass the time and daydream about upcoming trips since it's got nearly 1,000 airline route maps to flip through for both past and future flights, a great tool whether you’re feeling nostalgic or you want to see which airline flies where while planning an award redemption.
7. Expert Flyer
Expert Flyer is often written about because of its easy access to flight inventory and award seat availability. While not all airlines are covered, this is still an awesome tool for locating flights with award seats and setting alerts so that you are emailed if previously unavailable space opens up. Another great feature is that you can look up specific details about a flight, which is especially helpful during delays or cancellations — even if a gate agent says your wait is due to weather or air traffic control, Expert Flyer will give you the exact operational reason (maintenance, delayed arrival of inbound flight, etc). Note that there is a fee to use this service — the basic version is $4.99 per month or you can pay $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year if you wish to access premium features — but new users can take advantage of a free five-day trial.
8. Live ATC
Live ATC provides links to major air traffic control towers across the globe, giving listeners the chance to tune in and hear the correspondence between pilots and controllers. Major airports like JFK and LAX have particularly active streams with a large number of international airlines visiting daily. Pair this stream with a Flight Aware map and a list of departures and arrivals for a truly unique form of AvGeek entertainment.
What are some of your favorite online travel tools? Tell us about them, below.