Photo Credit: Young african american business woman holding paper plane as communication symbol stressed with hand on head, shocked with shame and surprise face, angry and frustrated. Fear and upset for mistake.
Prep for Your Next Flight with Misery Map
Flying the friendly skies used to be a luxurious experience that made you the envy of all who knew you. From posh seats to smartly dressed flight attendants, there’s something alluring about the golden age of air travel. These days between shrinking airplane seats, rowdy and just plain weird passengers, and constant fees for any little thing, flying is anything but a luxurious experience if you’re going the commercial route.
As if there’s not enough to stress out even the most zen of air travelers, delayed and canceled flights can make a frustrating situation even worse. If you’re trying to catch a connecting flight, a delay along the route can spell trouble for you reaching your desired destination. Thankfully, there are tools you can use to determine just how likely you are to have a frustrating or enjoyable travel day.
One option is to download your airline’s app and pay attention to the incoming airplane that will eventually be relabeled with your flight number. In many instances, you can track that plane all the way back to its first route of the day. Spoiler alert, if it’s first take-off was late, then there will often be delays for the rest of the day. But there’s also something known as a Misery Map. Find out why the Misery Map can be clutch, and how it can at least help you prepare for what might be a headache of a travel day.
What is Misery Map?
As ominous as the name Misery Map sounds, it’s actually a straightforward travel tool. The Misery Map is simply an interactive map that updates in real time, displaying the current delayed or canceled flights for airports. While you can focus solely on flights arriving and departing from U.S. airports, if you’re flying abroad, the filters can be adjusted to focus on flights worldwide.
When you first use the Misery Map, it will focus initially on the 16 busiest air traffic cities in the U.S., normally locations that also serve as hubs for the main airlines. Flights are aggregated and color-coded with green representing on-time flights and red representing delayed or cancelled flights. Just keep in mind that if there are multiple major airports clustered together (as in New York or Miami), you’ll need to click on a city code to drill down further to see the potential misery on a per-airport basis.
More importantly, the Misery Map shows you 48 hours worth of flight data. So, presumably, you can track your odds of living the airport struggle life up to two days prior to your upcoming flight.
Who Created the Misery Map?
Misery Map was created by FlightAware, an aviation service that lets you track the real-time status of any flight in the world as long as you know either the flight number or route and airline. Similar to the Misery Map, FlightAware’s main product is an interactive map where you can either enter flight information, readjust the map, or tap on any flight on the screen to get its flight details. This even includes private or chartered flights.
How Can Travelers Use a Misery Map?
Is the Misery Map going to protect you from ever experiencing a delay or cancellation? No, of course not. But, it can give travelers a real-time view of what to expect when they arrive to the airport. It’s ideal when used with other tools such as the “incoming flight” information for your intended aircraft which most airlines provide. You’ll get a better idea of whether your trip is going to be smooth sailing or if you better post up in an airport bar or lounge because there’s a long wait in your future.
Most importantly, when there are massive airline snafus, like say an airline’s booking system going haywire and flights are cancelled en masse, literally seeing red across the country on the Misery Map is the ultimate heads up that you should probably rebook your flight if you can.
Tips to Minimize the Sting of Flight Delays and Cancellations
Misery Map can’t prevent flights from being cancelled. But as mentioned previously, it’s one of a few tools you can use to make your next trip less stressful. Consider the following tips for a better travel day.
Download the Airline’s App
It’s unlikely that there’s an airline out there that flies to or from the U.S. that doesn’t have a companion app. Before your next trip, download the app and be sure to preload your flight information even if this requires creating a free account. In most cases, the app will update with flight changes long before notifications are provided at the gate. Not only will the app let you know if there’s delays, but you can also track your airplane using the “where is my flight coming from” feature that many airlines provide. Similarly, if there are delays or cancellations, you can use in-app customer support (which is usually faster than the phone) to switch flights.
Know Your Rights
Every airline is different, but if your flight is significantly delayed or cancelled, you’re often entitled to refunds or even hotel accommodations. More importantly, know that the U.S. Department of Transportation has strict minimum guidelines that airlines must follow when they cancel or delay flights, and even when bumping customers either down a class of service or off a flight entirely. Airlines can offer more to make a bitter situation less stressful, but they must at least meet the DOT’s requirements.
Research the Airport Before You Arrive
Even if your flight is on time, you might not want to sit at the airport gate unless you have a thing for people watching. Assuming you arrive early enough that you have plenty of free time on your hands, research the restaurants in your terminal, or consider purchasing a day pass for your airline’s airport lounge (assuming there is one or you don’t already have a ticket class or enough status to access the lounge for free).
Enroll in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
Nothing derails a flight plan like getting stuck in a security checkpoint line that’s moving slower than a snail’s pace. Avoid this fate as much as possible by either getting TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Of the two, Global Entry includes using the TSA PreCheck lanes at U.S. domestic airports. Meanwhile with both, you don’t have take your shoes off or remove electronics from your bags when going through security in U.S. airports. .