How to Know How Long Your Flight Is *Actually* Delayed

Is it 20 minutes? Or is it two hours? Here's how to find out.

Flight delay screen at airport
No more guessing games at the airport

Twenty minutes. That’s how long your flight’s been delayed, per the notification you just received through the airline’s app. Not bad, given the current state of things, you think, and you head to your gate as planned.

But those 20 minutes pass, and then another, and another. Maybe you’ve since received an update regarding your new scheduled departure time — but maybe you haven’t. It’s a tale as old as time: the one where a 20 minute delay turns into two hours.

That said, when a flight is delayed, it’s typically for a good reason. Further, according to God Save the Points‘ Gilbert Ott, there are also a few ways of knowing how long you’ll actually be waiting. As Ott notes, airlines always downplay delays because “giving shorter delay estimates helps to get passengers to a place where the airline is in control — airside.” Basically, they want you to have to wait on them, not vice versa. But thanks to a whole slew of apps out there — FlightRadar24, chief among them — you can do your own sleuthing, should you feel so inclined.

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FlightRadar24 lets you view flight info based on specific aircrafts, so if you enter your flight number then hit “aircraft info,” you can actually see how long that aircraft has before it reaches you (assuming, of course, that it’s flying in from someplace elsewhere). Factor the amount of time it takes for the aircraft to be cleaned between flights and long it takes to board (Ott says 20 to 30 minutes, typically), and you’ll have a loose idea of when you might take off.

And FlightRadar24 is just one example. FlightAware, OAG, Cirium and Google (my go-to) are also generally pretty reliable resources, with the caveat that, at least at bigger hubs, the aircraft can sometimes be swapped out for another. But they can work well, as on more than one occasion, I found out I was delayed through Google before the airline’s app.

It is worth noting, though, that this is merely a tip from a seasoned traveler, not a directive from an airline. In other words: use it at your leisure but not to incite hysteria at your gate. Check out Ott’s full breakdown of FlightRadar24 here.


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