How to preview flight information and track flights on iPhone, iPad and Mac

By , Nov 10, 2015

iOS 9 Notes preview flight information 3D Touch iPhone screenshot 003

Aside from several headline feature additions, Apple’s iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan software updates contain a bunch of little gems, among them data detectors for flight information.

This permits iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Mac owners to quickly look up flight status information found in notes, messages and emails using a rich interface with flight trajectory, flight status, arrival times and other information.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to quickly preview the current status and other information pertaining to an airline and flight number, with or without leaving the context of what you’re currently doing.

Before we begin, it’s important to remember that iOS’s data detectors only support previewing flight information from Mail (messages containing itineraries from airlines), Messages and Notes.

In addition, this feature only works with the most recent flights. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going going to demonstrate previewing flight information in Notes.

How to preview flight information o iPhone, iPod touch and iPad

Step 1: Launch Mail, Messages or Notes on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 9.0 or later.

Step 2: You can now create a few sample items by typing the airline and flight number into a note, with or without the number sign. For example, both “United Airlines UA531” and “United Airlines #UA531” should work fine.

Step 3: Now tap and hold over one of the links to bring up a contextual menu.

iOS 9 Notes preview flight information iPhone screenshot 001

Step 4: Choose Preview Flight to continue. This’ll put up the flight preview screen.

How to preview flight information on Mac

Step 1: Launch Mail, Messages or Notes on your Mac running OS X 10.11 El Capitan or later.

Step 2: Create a few sample items if you haven’t already by typing the airline and flight number into a new note.

Step 3: Click a desired flight number to bring up a contextual menu.

OS X El Capitan preview flight information Mac screenshot 002

Step 4: Now select Preview Flight in the menu to preview your flight.

OS X El Capitan preview flight information Mac screenshot 001

Step 5: Tap Done to exit the preview.

How to preview flight information using 3D Touch

Step 1: Launch Mail, Messages or Notes on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 9.0 or later.

Step 2: Create a sample item if you haven’t already by typing the airline and flight number into a new note.

Step 3: Press one of the links firmly to Peek your flight. From there, you can slide your finger upward to reveal the option to send the flight number to the system clipboard, or press harder to Pop the full-screen flight preview view.

iOS 9 Notes preview flight information 3D Touch iPhone screenshot 002

Step 4: Tap Done to exit the preview.

If you own a MacBook with a Force Touch-enabled trackpad, you can force-click a flight number just like with 3D Touch on the latest iPhones.

Interactive flight preview

The flight preview screen gives you a real-time update for the flight, including a map with the projected flight trajectory and information about any delays, all updated in real-time.

The screen is dominated by a mapped overview of the flight path. The remaining portion of the interface displays essential information such as your flight number, the departing and arriving airport and terminal, an estimated arrival time with to-the-minute accuracy, information whether the flight is arriving on time/early, has been delayed or landed.

The flight information screen is interactive. For instance, you can quickly position the map on the departing or arriving airport by tapping its abbreviation, such as LAS or SJC.

OS X El Capitan preview flight information Mac screenshot 003

Tap on the airplane icon between the two official city abbreviations to center the map on how far along the route the flight currently is, as determined in near real-time.

You can also zoom in on the map on an iOS device by holding the two fingers on the map and spreading them apart (zooming the map preview isn’t supported on the Mac). On iOS devices, the flight preview screen works in both portrait and landscape.

Last but not least, Calendar in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan will automatically show you events found in Mail, including flight information, that you can add to your calendar by clicking Accept. And in Mail, when an email containing flight reservation details hits your inbox, you can add it to your calendar with a single click or tap.

Where does this data come from?

Apple’s acknowledgments webpage, accessible by tapping the link labeled Legal on an embedded map, doesn’t reveal where Apple sources flight information from.

If history is an indication, it’s entirely conceivable that the company is using multiple data sources for flights. Also, iOS’s Proactive assistant doesn’t seem to be aware of flight delays so you won’t get notified if your flight has been postponed.

Is this tip useful?

If so, give us a shoutout in comments and pass this article along to your friends. Shoot us your tutorial ideas at tips@iDownloadBlog.com.

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  • Very useful.

    I wish though Apple released them as standalone apps: Dictionary, Flight Tracking, etc.

  • Anonymous

    This is really cool. Perhaps ill find it useful the next time i fly. But yes, cool tip for sure.

  • Jamessmooth

    Great tip guys

  • Stephaughn Alston

    You don’t have to have 3D Touch on your mac trackpad to do it, you can also do the 3 finger tap and it will bring it up as well.

  • Keith S.

    Be warned – this feature is still a bit spotty. It took me forever to get it to recognize a flight on Alaska Airlines, because unlike with American or Delta, it doesn’t work if you have a space between the symbol and flight number. Probably because it can’t differentiate the airline symbol (AS) from a dictionary word. It also doesn’t handle one-digit flight numbers for any airline — that’s just poor QA right there. I’m also rather disappointed it doesn’t work from the Calendar app, which is where I’d find it the most useful.

    Let’s hope for some improvements here in 9.2.