Learn how to use the iOS Messages app to track a flight instead of installing another airline app

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Whether you’re picking up your kid at the airport, or your grandparents, or even your parents, Apple’s Messages app might come to the rescue. The app is known for its ability to separate iOS users from Android users by putting texts from Android users in a green text bubble while texts from iOS or iPadOS users are placed in a blue bubble. Those using the Messages app who get the blue bubble treatment are able to take advantage of certain features such as encryption and the ability to send larger video files just as long as everyone in the group chat is using an Apple device.

The iOS Messages app can be used as a flight tracker to watch for delays, gate assignments, baggage claim numbers, and more

All it takes is just one Android user in a group chat to make the blue bubble go away along with all of the features that iOS and iPadOS users enjoy when using iMessage with others sporting Apple devices. You probably didn’t know that the Apple Messages app can be used to track flight information so that you’ll know if your son’s flight is running early or late, or if the plane has been directed to taxi to a different gate. And instead of installing a separate airline app on your handset, all of the flight information you need can be found on the Messages app.

There are some things that you’ll need to keep in mind: iMessages must be enabled. To do that, go to Settings > Messages. Simply make sure that the toggle switch next to iMessage is toggled on. Since flight information won’t work on SMS or MMS, having iMessage toggled on is important.

According to CNET, the flight that you want the Messages app to track must be written as part of a message that you sent to someone (even yourself) or was sent to you. This information must be sent in a specific format that includes the [Airline] [Flight number]; for example, American Airlines 4736.

All you need to do is open the Messages app and find the thread that includes the message containing the flight information. When the specific message with this info appears on your phone, the flight information will be underlined (see the photo that accompanies this article) which means that it is actionable and can be tapped on. On the other hand, if a flight you’re tracking is a few months away, or has already taken to the friendly skies, you’ll see a message that says, “Flight information unavailable.”

Keep in mind that airlines also “recycle” flight numbers so if you flew JetBlue flight 808 from Oshkosh to Hershey, the next time you see JetBlue flight 808 in the Messages app, it might be used to denote a different flight from New York City to Boston.

You’ll know without having to install an airline app whether your flight is on time, the gate where it will taxi to, and more

If you tap on that actionable underlined message with the name of the airline followed by the flight number, you will see two options appear: Preview Flight and Copy Flight Code. The former will show you more information about this flight if you tap on this box. Tap on the latter to copy the flight code and put it in your clipboard from where it can be shared with others via text, or email.

If you do tap on Preview Flight, not only will you see more detailed information about the flight, at the top of the screen will be a flight tracking map with a dot on the flight’s origin and one on the destination. A small airplane icon will move between the two locations showing you the location of the plane in real-time.

It sounds like a ton of info, but there’s even more data to be found underneath the map including:
  • Airline name and flight number.
  • Flight status (arriving on time, delayed, canceled, and so on).
  • Terminal and gate numbers (for arrival and departure).
  • Arrival and departure time.
  • Flight duration.
  • Baggage claim (the number of the baggage carousel).

If you swipe left on the bottom half of the flight tracker, you can switch between different flights, but only if there’s a return flight that you need to track.

This is all useful information if you’re supposed to head to the airport to pick up someone or drop someone off. In both scenarios, knowing the terminal and gate number, the baggage carousel number, the flight status, the airline and the flight number, can make the task go a lot smoother not to mention quicker.

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