Live flight tracker: How to track a flight in real time

Live flight trackers can save you time and money. Especially if you are eagerly waiting for a loved one to arrive and need to know if it’s time to head to the airport. Or if you are anxiously waiting for a connecting flight at the airport.

They can also be fun!

Have you ever looked up at the contrails of planes flying over your head thinking: I wonder where this plane is going? You can easily find out using a live flight tracker.

Not long ago nearly 5 million viewers used a similar platform to track Queen Elizabeth II’s final journey in real time as the coffin was being transported from Edinburgh to RAF Northolt. This became the most tracked flight in history. In fact, so many viewers wanted to follow the plane online that the website crashed and some of them had to watch the live stream on YouTube.


Can you track a live flight?

Yes, you can. Using a live flight tracker you can explore the busy skies anywhere in the world. All you have to do is open the flight tracking website or app. You will see a flight tracking map. Click on an aircraft to follow its journey or click on an airport to explore planes departing and arriving at the moment.


live flight tracker visualisation 

Flight trackers also provide information about scheduled and actual time of departure, estimated time of arrival (ETA), airline, plane type and even weather conditions.

So if you are at the airport waiting for a connecting flight, feeling anxious due to a flight delay in the first leg of your journey, you can use the flight tracker to check the ETA for your next flight.

About to miss the connecting flight? You might be eligible for compensation under EU 261. SkyRefund can help you assert your rights and get up to €600 for your flight delay, cancellation or denied boarding.

Check My Flight

How can I track a flight for free?

Most live flight trackers have a free version which has all the features a traveller (or an aviation geek) needs, such as:

  • A live flight tracker map displaying all planes currently in the air; you can zoom in and out and easily navigate real-time flights globally;
  • A search bar which allows you to search by flight route, number, airline or airport
  • Flight info, e.g. airline, flight number, origin/ destination, time of departure/ arrival, even aircraft type, current speed and altitude
  • Some flight trackers offer data on most tracked flights and information about airport disruptions (live! - currently 14°C and drizzling at Amsterdam; average delay time: 40 minutes)


This basic live flight tracking information is usually also available in the flight tracker app and most apps can be downloaded free of charge.

Some apps even have fascinating extra features. For example, Flightradar24’s app has an augmented reality mode which allows you to point your device at the sky and identify the origin and destination of the flight, plus airline, flight number, altitude, etc.


live flight tracker air visual


Flighty, on the other hand, offers a feature, called ‘Flighty Friends’ which allows you to track loved ones’ flight details automatically. The app allows users to connect directly. Then they can get personalized reminders (e.g. ‘Ryan arrives in 1 hour’) or messages (e.g. ‘Mom arrived in Austin’).

Flight trackers also offer highly specialized data, reports and extra features in their paid versions which are geared at airlines, air traffic control staff and aircraft owners and operators.


What is the best site to track flight status?

Here is a list of flight tracker apps and websites that can help you prepare for any unexpected twists on your journey. They all provide valuable real-time updates and comprehensive flight information, plus a little extra.

You can also use Google's flight tracker which is a web-based service. If you don’t want to download a special app, you can simply enter your flight number in the search bar. Google will display a quick snippet with basic flight information, such as airline, origin/ arrival point, departure/ arrival time (both scheduled and estimated). The snippet also contains a link to the tracker providing the information, which you can follow for more details.


How does a live flight tracker work?

The aviation industry uses a technology called Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B). Here is how the data transmission process works:

  • A satellite provides GPS data which is used by the aircraft to ascertain its location
  • On-board avionics monitor the aircraft speed, altitude, barometric pressure, etc.
  • The aircraft ADS-B sends both GPS and avionics data over a radio frequency
  • ADS-B receivers all over the globe pick up and decode the signals
  • Data is sent to a web platform over the internet, where it is augmented (flight number, aircraft type, departure/ destination airport is added)
  • The data is displayed live via the platform app or online website


What are the benefits of live flight tracking services?

The live flight tracker technology is still in its infancy and is expected to grow significantly. Its main advantages are:

  • Security - air traffic controllers and pilots can receive real-time information about the flight, which decreases the risk of incidents; if a plane deviates from its route, a warning is sent to  the aircraft operator;
  • Innovation - the ADS-B technology is used in various innovations, such as drone deliveries
  • Environment - improved aircraft routing and management leads to a shorter flight time, less fuel consumption, less noise, and less pollution.


How can you use live flight trackers?

The main benefit of a flight tracker for travel-lovers is that they can track delays and cancellations in real time and filter data by airline or airport. You can browse flights by operator, airport or even aircraft type and find your flight by origin or destination.

In case you are experiencing a flight disruption, feel free to contact us to get help with your compensation claim.