When airlines hit major scheduling turbulence (metaphorically speaking), it can be hard to know where to turn for a comprehensive look at your chances of facing a flight delay or cancellation.
Emergency situations can occur without notice, as proven by incidents like airport computer failures, emergency safety groundings, and even government shutdowns. And airlines and/or government agencies typically issue announcements only about specific flight delays and cancellations, and only individually, and to customers holding a ticket, within hours of the change. This is all to say: It can be hard to get the full picture of what air traffic delays truly look like on a given day beyond waiting until you’re at the airport and getting notified.
But there is a little-known service monitoring the state of the skies. Here’s the one place you can check all of the live delays across the country.
Misery Map: Tracking Flight Delays in Real Time
Delays and cancellations usually result from weather and other circumstances beyond an airline’s control, but looking out the window to see what your likelihood of being delayed isn’t always your best bet. Because any sudden delays and cancellations can ruin a vacation, in addition to checking in via app with your airline (so you can receive live updates) you should also check the flight delay website FlightAware. It offers two great tools to help travelers visualize the overall state of the skies.
First, travelers can browse FlightAware’s live flight delay statistics, which show how many flights are delayed or canceled for the current day. You can click one specific airline to see how it’s doing—here’s Southwest, for example—but the broader view provides some helpful context. And if you’re lucky enough to find out about widespread flight delays or cancellations before most other travelers do, it’s wise to get on the phone with the airline to see if you can get ahead in terms of being rescheduled before seats run out.
For map-appreciating people like myself, the site’s aptly named Misery Map displays the data by destination, and overlays a current radar image to show where weather may impact arrivals and departures. Hovering over a destination displays routes that are experiencing delays and highlights routes that are on time.
Tools like this don’t eliminate delays from your future travels, but they do help you plan and, hopefully, bring some comfort in knowing you aren’t the only one slogging through a disrupted schedule. It’s a good idea to bookmark the Misery Map for the next time you’re wondering what the chances are you’ll see a flight delay.
Readers: Would you use this in an uncertain time of frequent flight delays? On a normal travel day? Comment below.