six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

Protect your privacy and decipher iOS 11 network features with a new book by Glenn Fleishman. Get 25% off with code SIXCOLORS.

By Jason Snell

Bad trip: Searching for a replacement for FlightTrack

It was the saddest push notification I’ve gotten on my phone that didn’t involve a news app telling me that someone famous had died: The one app I have relied on for every trip I’ve taken this decade was being shut down forever.

Sadly, FlightTrack 5 is being retired on Feb 28th, 2017. See www.mobiata.com for details.

FlightTrack was originally the brainchild of Ben Kazez, who created the company Mobiata, which was later sold to Expedia. In the way of so many things ruined after being purchased by a larger company, FlightTrack got worse and then it got dead. Because it relies on a back-end service for its access to flight data, the app is now gone forever.

Here’s how I used FlightTrack: Before traveling on an airplane, I’d add my flight information into FlightTrack. (Before the Expedia purchase, I could just forward my airline confirmation emails to TripIt, and they’d be added to FlightTrack, but that feature was a victim of corporate synergy.)

Once FlightTrack had my flight information, I’d get push notifications when there were delays or gate changes. There was even a pretty nice Apple Watch app with basic details about my flight’s status. It became a bit of a ritual to, as soon as I was past security, open up FlightTrack to see what gate I was heading to. No more stopping at airport monitors like a sucker!

I would even add family members’ flights to FlightTrack, so I was aware of when they were coming and if their flights had been delayed or rescheduled. Getting a notification when my mother’s cross-country flight had landed was pretty great.

So here we are. FlightTrack is dead, and I’m not sure I have a replacement. I’ve had a couple apps recommended to me, and I’ll try them out. Google Trips works seamlessly with my Gmail account, so seamlessly that the first time I launched it, it knew everything about my upcoming travel. It seems to be more of a travelogue app than a flight notifier, but I’m going to give it a go.

I’m also looking at the TripIt app, which does indeed suck in forwarded email itineraries and turn them into formatted itineraries. Again, until I can actually test the app out while in motion, I don’t know whether it will serve my needs.

Best as I can tell, these are my needs in a trip-taking app:

  • Push notifications about flight status changes
  • Able to see a flight’s current status in just a tap or two
  • Gate information, ideally with accompanying maps
  • Easy to monitor any arbitrary flight I want
  • Apple Watch app for quick reference

I hope there’s an app out there that fulfills most of my needs. You’d think, given the size of the App Store, that there would be. So I turn to you, the readers—what apps do you rely on for this type of information? What should I be looking at? Tweet your suggestions to @bleedsixcolors and we’ll follow up with what we find.

[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]