Flying soon? Flighty is a must-have iOS app for air travel this holiday season

Flying soon? Flighty is a must-have iOS app for air travel this holiday season

Flight on Dynamic Island on iPhone

The information available in Flighty’s extensive Dynamic Island implementation.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

I recently started traveling again for work. I missed it. I missed seeing people I only interacted with online. I missed experiencing different parts of the country. I missed New York City (yes, I mean it). But one thing I haven’t missed is flying.

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To be clear, I don’t mind flying around. That’s good. But I don’t enjoy the process of traveling to the airport, finding out which gate my flight is at, and worrying about whether or not my flight is on time. It is a miserable experience.

I’ve used TripIt for years as a way to organize my travel plans. And with a TripIt Pro subscription, I received timely alerts about gate changes or delays.

A few years ago I read about a new flight tracking app called Flighty. The app promised faster alerts and generally more information about your flight. I used the free trial shortly after launch to test it out, and found it to be good enough. But I couldn’t justify paying for TripIt Pro and subscribing to Flighty Pro to unlock all the push alerts and other features, like TripIt sync, that it brings.

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And yet, every time I booked a flight, I found myself paying for a one-month subscription to Flighty Pro and using it instead of TripIt for alerts.

Always on display with Flighty on iPhone

This is what the live activity on the lock screen looks like on the iPhone 14 Pro’s Always-On display.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Once I started traveling again after COVID, I felt bad about my travel routine. I found myself trying to remember what apps I used and for what. I even had to reevaluate what gadgets went in my backpack.

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I ended up going back to Flighty and still paying for a month at a time. And then last week I went on a trip to San Jose, California, where the Flighty experience convinced me to finally pay for a year-long subscription, and not just for me — for my whole family.

The reason? Flighty’s iOS 16.1 update with support for live activities on the lock screen and in the iPhone 14s Dynamic Island displayed all the information I could possibly want while constantly on the go, regardless of whether my phone was locked and sitting idle (Always-On Display for the win) or when I was actively using the phone thanks to the Dynamic Island.

Here’s an example of the Flighty experience that starts a few hours before your scheduled flight and ends as soon as you land and collect your luggage.

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A few hours before your scheduled flight, you’ll receive an alert letting you know the plane you’ll be flying that day is on its way to the airport, along with whether or not it’s on time. In fact, with a Pro subscription you can see where your plane is 25 hours before your scheduled flight. This is a useful piece of data that shows if your plane has been late for previous flights, and sets expectations for your flight.

Fleeting close-up on Dynamic Island on iPhone

Flighty shows just enough information in the Dynamic Island to make it useful.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

As the flight approaches, an alert will appear on your lock screen and in the Dynamic Island, providing a countdown to gate departure along with your gate number. As soon as your incoming plane lands, you will get an alert. And then another warning when it arrives at the gate.

All the time, the most important information about your flight is available and you can view it on your lock screen.

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Once you board your flight, Flighty doesn’t stop working. The alert remains active, showing you how long until the plane lands, and if you actually open the app instead of just using the alerts, you can see the exact flight plan your pilot submitted to the FAA and a estimate of where you are on that path. If you have in-flight Wi-Fi, that last set of data will be even more accurate — but even in offline mode, Flighty does an excellent job of estimating flight location and time.

Volatile flight information

Several examples of the information you will see available throughout the day.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Then, when you land, you get an alert letting you know how long it will take to taxi to the gate. I am not exaggerating with this next statement. I received an alert that my flight had landed within seconds of the wheels when my flight landed in Denver on my last trip; that’s how fast Flighty’s alerts can be.

You’re supposed to also receive baggage claim information in another alert, but on my last two flights that information never populated the app.

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The whole experience is a prime example of how a developer should view and use Live Activity and the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 series. In fact, it wasn’t until Flighty added support for those features that I was finally convinced it was time to go all in and sign up for the $90-a-year family subscription. That way, when I travel, I can share my plans with my wife and kids, and they can watch my trip as closely as they want. Or, when we travel as a family, we’re all on the same page—especially when it comes to the dreaded, “How long until we land?!”

You don’t need to sign up for the Pro plan to use Flighty. Your first trip in the app is free, complete with all the push notifications and extra data I didn’t even touch on (like the percentage of time a flight is late and for how long). You can even use it to track a random flight while sitting at your desk, just to get a feel for how the app works and what you can expect when you travel.

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