01 August 2013

Flight Tracking Software - Part 2 of 3

Now that we are done with the introduction of the three flight tracking software, let's put them head-to-head with each other and see how they do.

For the first test, I've picked a QQLand domestic flight, Shenzhen Airline ZH 9920 from Shanghai HongQiao Airport (SHA) to Shenzhen BaoAn Airport (SZX).

First up, let's goto 航班管家 to take a look.

This particular flight, on that unfortunate day, was delayed and it was something that was hardly surprising for QQLand domestic air travels during the summer months.

It was a 16:40 flight which was re-scheduled to depart at 20:00. At the point of taking this screen cap, the flight schedule was still pending changes, if at all.

Travel tip for QQLand domestic travelers: Do not believe the schedule until it's wheels up. You may be fooled into boarding on time or even push off on time but as long as the wheels are still touching the ground, you aren't flying just yet.

What I like was that they took the initiative to recalculated the estimated time of arrival due to the rescheduling.

Next, we look at 飞常准.

As you can see, there isn't a new flight time as opposed to the first app that we just saw.

Like I said, the flight schedule was still pending changes at the time I captured the screen.

Perhaps this app is more conservative with regards to publishing new departure timing.

This is good and bad at the same time.

The bad thing is that as a passenger, we don't have a new timing to hang on to which can be unsettling, especially if one has a connecting flight to catch.

The good thing however, is that it prevents passengers from having false hope for a flight time that may or may not change again.

Lastly, we look at FlightTrack (Pro/Free).

The information published was utter bullshit. It said that the flight left the gate at 45 minutes later (Note: Left gate may not necessarily mean take off. You could be stuck on the tarmac for all you know).

The flight didn't take off until after 8pm that evening i.e. the 20:00 new estimated departure by 航班管家 changed again subsequently and 飞常准 was right after all not to have jumped the gun with the new departure time.

Now this. FlightTrack (Pro/Free) published rubbish information to put it bluntly.

If you look at the Chinese notes at the top of 飞常准's screen cap, you would have noticed that the incoming connecting flight was only scheduled to land at 19:18 (hence the departure delay).

So how is it possible for the flight to have left the gate at 17:25 when the plane was still in the air approaching?

FlightTrack (Pro/Free) lied.

* DING! DING! End of Round 1 *

And so I thought perhaps an ang moh software like FlightTrack (Pro/Free) has an unfair disadvantage handling QQLand domestic flights.

So I decided to pick an international flight for good measure.

Cathay Pacific CX 751 from Hong Kong Chap Lap Kok Airport (HKG) to Thailand Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).

Again, we shall start with  航班管家.

For this particular the flight, it was punctual.

Bless CX's little heart.

Granted that it was late by 4 minutes, it was still considered to be on time since it is a very small insignificant percentage of the total flight time.

Besides, the pilots could easily make up that lost time with a heavier foot on the throttle during flight.

Again, the estimated time of arrival as been recalculated to reflect the change in departure time since my earlier mention of heavier-foot-on-throttle was mere speculation on my part.

Take note the actual departure time here before we proceed to take a look at the next candidate.

Here's the screen cap of 飞常准 and you would have noticed that the departure time differs slightly from 航班管家.

I can only speculate, from empirical evidence, that the latter starts the stopwatch when the plane takes off while the other app starts the clock ticking the moment the plane pushes off, in accordance to commercial aviation rules*.

* This is a tactic deployed by airlines to kelong their On-Time record by pushing off the gate as scheduled. They then spent all that delayed time sitting on the tarmac since actual time of arrival does not affect a flight's punctuality record.

In any case, the difference in their respective departure time isn't really that significant since they were just mere minutes apart.

Like the former, this app also recalculates the new time arrival, after factoring in the slight change in departure time.

Finally, we returned again to FlightTrack (Pro/Free) where the information published was again a total disaster.

The plane was already in the air and yet the red note said that the flight has yet to depart.


To add yet another layer of bizarre to it all was its recalculation of an earlier than expected landing.

So let me get this straight.

It claimed that the flight was delayed and yet it calculated an earlier arrival?

Hello? Logic? Hello?

* DING! DING! End of Round 2 *

Summary: Both 航班管家 and 飞常准 performed satisfactory on both QQLand domestic and international flights.

It was a tie between the two of them as each covered the other's shortfall. I like 航班管家 easier  user-interface better but it fell slightly short when it comes to searching for international flights a few months ahead. Fortunately, 飞常准 covered this aspect nicely and so my advice is to use both app together.

As for FlightTrack (Pro/Free). Don't waste you time on it. It is rubbish. I believe this is more geared towards those who fly US domestic routes and not so much for the passengers from the rest of the world.

- Voxeros

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