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Former Airline Employee Reveals Her Favorite Flight Hack That Almost No One Knows About

Photo: frantic00 / Shutterstock
woman at gate using flight hack on phone

There's no two ways about it: flying is a [redacted] nightmare, pretty much from start to finish. So anything that makes the process a little easier is welcome, right? 

A former airline employee's favorite flight hack is a hidden iPhone feature that streamlines the airport experience.

Flying is a pain, and it's only getting worse — a CBS analysis found that delays and cancellations over issues within airlines' control rose by 2.4% from 2018 to 2023. That doesn't sound much, but that's thousands more delayed flights. 

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Worse still, these troubles are expected to persist for the next decade due to air traffic control and flight crew staffing issues.

So, finding ways to get through the airport as smoothly as humanly possible is of the utmost importance — especially if you have a layover. Darby Maloney, a content creator who worked for a major airline for three years, has just the trick. 

Simply texting yourself your airline code and flight number creates a constantly updated flight guide on your iPhone.

Now first things first — sorry Android users, this trick is for iPhones only. (Of course, there are plenty of apps that track flights that Android users can download instead.) So, how does this trick work?

"The morning of your flight, you're going to text yourself your flight number," Darby explained in her video. She suggested using your airline's two-letter code — AA for American, DL for Delta, WN for Southwest, etc. (The International Air Transport Association has a searchable tool to find your airline code.) 

   

   

"So, for example, if I'm flying American Airlines Flight 686,  I'm gonna type AA 686," Darby explained, adding that you can also send this text to whoever's picking you up. According to CNET, some airlines work better if you just type the whole airline name out, so see what works best for your flight.

Either way, "that text will become a link to tell you everything you need to know about your flight, and it will update in real-time." 

Just click the link and click "Preview Flight," and all your flight numbers, times, gate, and baggage claim information will come up, along with a little plane icon to show you where in the world the plane is at this moment. Here's one I did as an example for a United flight from Chicago to New York:

Former Airline Employee's Favorite Flight Hack Makes Everything Easier & Almost No One Knows About It

It's basically like having one of those onboard screens that long-haul flights have on the seatback in front of you that tracks your flight — but on your phone.

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The information updates in real-time, so it's often more accurate than airlines' apps.

Now we know what you're thinking — the airlines' apps do all this, too; what's the big deal? Sure, but you have to download them, for one thing, and every airline's app is a bit different. Some apps don't even provide all of these details, either.

   

   

And some of them definitely work a lot better than others (if only all airline apps were like Delta's. Delta does everything right. Be like Delta, other airlines!), and many don't update nearly as fast as people say this iPhone hack does.

That means you often have to rely on those annoying monitors in the terminal that are hard to read and usually mobbed with people gaping at them just like you are. Who has time for all that when there are Cinnabons and trashy magazines to procure before the gate doors close? 

Former Airline Employee's Favorite Flight Hack Makes Everything Easier & Almost No One Knows About ItPhoto: Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock

Darby pointed out her hack is particularly helpful for connections since oftentimes every second matters, and an airline app that's not updated yet can leave you scrambling to find the right gate.

"The second you land, you can just click your link and know exactly what your gate is," Darby said. Whoever's picking you up will have constant updates on your arrival, too.

As Darby put it, "It's the greatest hack ever, and I feel like nobody knows about it." Now, if we can just find a hack for the way people behave on planes nowadays … and an app to make those accursed seats more comfortable

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.