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How to track flights on iPhone

An iPhone in hand, showing the progress of a flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK, representing an article about how to track flights on iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

Do you know how to track flights on iPhone? And I don't mean by using Safari or Chrome to do it within a browser, nor do I mean via a bespoke app. I mean: do you know how to access a live flight tracker built right into the very phone itself?  

I wouldn't blame you if you said no. One of the reasons why the iPhone is one of the best phones around is that it's packed full of features hidden deep within its firmware, and this one is no exception. It's tucked away pretty good.

Built into the Messages app is a live flight tracker, which can give you live locations, flight details and both take off and landing times for any flight in real time. All you need is the flight number.

In my opinion, this is one of the coolest iPhone features yet (which is saying a lot, given I deal with so many hidden iPhone features as part of my job). I even ran around showing this to people when I learnt it, despite knowing nobody that was taking a plane at the time. Come vacation season, it'll certainly come in helpful for keeping up to date on family flying into the UK, where I live.

Here's how to access the iPhone's built-in flight tracker.

How to track flights on iPhone using Messages

  1. Find the flight number
  2. Send or receive a text including the flight number in Messages 
  3. Tap on the flight number in the sent text
  4. Select Preview Flight
  5. Check the flight's details, timings and baggage information

Read on to view detailed instructions for each step.

1. Find the flight number of the plane you want to track. You can find this on a flight booking confirmation, by asking whoever is flying, or by going to the airline's website to see their flight schedule.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Open Messages and send a text with the flight number, e.g. BA0117. Alternatively, receive a text with the flight number in Messages.

(Image credit: Future)

3. The flight number should be underlined, indicating it can be tapped on as a link. Tap on the flight number.

(Image credit: Future)

4. A box will appear showing you the flight map and position of the plane on its path. Tap Flight Preview for more details, including departure and arrival terminal/gate information, departure and estimated arrival times, and baggage claim information.

(Image credit: Future)

And there you have it. A full flight path tracker built right into your iPhone. Now that you know how to track your friends' and family's flights, why not check out our other iOS-themed guides, including how to identify plants on iPhone, how to use the built in level on iPhone, how to stop spam texts on iPhone, how to set TikTok videos as iPhone wallpapers and how to remove badges on iPhone.

Peter Wolinski
How-to Editor

Peter is the How To Editor at Tom's Guide. As a writer, he covers topics including tech, photography, gaming, hardware, motoring and food & drink. Outside of work, he can usually be found telling everyone about his greyhounds, obsessively detailing his car, squeezing as many FPS as possible out of PC games, and perfecting his espresso shots.