Is there anything scarier than a flight disappearing from a “flight status” page?

A good friend (who scored well in the bump department yesterday) was booked from Chicago to Seattle this morning. His flight already had an hour-long delay out of Chicago, and about 30 minutes ago I decided to check his flight status to see when he’ll be landing in Seattle. For a moment my heart stopped, as his flight didn’t show up on the “flight status” page. I’m pretty sure my biggest fear in life is losing a friend or family member in an air tragedy, since safety is something I often take for granted when flying.

After the initial panic, I got a phone call from him a few minutes later saying he was in Billings, Montana, and that the plane diverted due to an oil leak in one of the engines, so they had to shut it down and divert. While everyone is okay, he’s now stuck in Billings for a few hours. After several bumps yesterday, and now the diversion to Billings today, his itinerary looks quite interesting online!

And what’s crazy to me is that I’ve never had anything happen while flying. Not that I’m expecting anything catastrophic, but I’ve flown well over a million miles over the past five years, and not once have I had a diversion, or even an aborted landing or takeoff. I have, however, witnessed several arrests and “interesting” people, but that’s about it.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s a good idea to totally remove a flight from the flight status page on an airline website just because it diverts. There aren’t any words that can describe the feeling I had when I saw the flight was no longer listed at all on the status page.

Happy and thankful, though, that everything is okay…

Filed Under: Travel, United
  1. When my mom flew from Montreal to the Dominican Republic on Air Transat several years ago, the flight was no longer tracked just as it was passing through the Bermuda Triangle… My father and I were quite worried because, on top of that, she had failed to call us upon her arrival, so I can imagine how you felt. Turns out the flight had simply gone outside of the coverage area of that particular flight tracking service.

  2. I did some calculations a while back, and assuming that air travel stay exactly as safe as it is now, and i average 300,000 miles a year, until i’m 70 years old. my chances of dying in a air disaster is around 1 in 833. Now that may sound high, but compare that to me chances of dying from heart disease of 1 in 4. I should stop eating cheeseburgers long before i should stop flying, and i certainly don’t plan of giving up cheeseburgers.

  3. I second the FlightAware mention. I wouldn’t go to an airline site for updated info unless FlightAware was unavailable. Love to use FlightAware to call gate agents out on their delayed messages at smaller out stations.

    Gate agent makes an annoucement saying the flight will be delayed by one hour. I check FA and see that inbound flight hasn’t even left hub which is 1.5 hours flying time away. Knowing this I approach the gate agent and ask how they plan to pull off the impossible.

    Honesty airlines. Try it, you will make your pax much happier. Kudos to WN for their usual honesty when it comes to delays.

  4. While it seems to spawn a new thread on FT every time it happens, non-medical, non-weather diversions are pretty rare in my experience. In hundreds of thousands of miles, I recall only getting diverted once, on a L-1011 in the late 80s, same sort of issue, an oil problem.

    That said, even when the Captain says all is well, the airport fire trucks chasing you on landing can be unnerving.

  5. In 100K miles this year, my only diversion was to COS. Flying IAD-DEN on 5/26 when the tornadoes shut down DEN. Had to spend three hours on the ground at COS, before being cleared to fly to DEN, which shut down shortly after we landed..

  6. There is no worse feeling than the helplessness that one encounters when you think/know that some of your friends are moving at five hundred miles an hour in a metal tube five miles above the earth and something may have gone wrong.

    I’ve been there a few times and I would never wish that feeling on anyone. I’m glad your friend made it through without any issues.

  7. Wow! I’ve had three diversions in my life, none serious (so they just made good stories afterward).

    First one: for weather, supposed to be landing at LGW…circled for a while, got low on fuel, went to CDG where we sat in the plane and they refueled, flew back to LGW and circled some more, eventually landed in MAN which was, apparently, the only airport in England that was still open.

    Second: going to NRT from…maybe ORD? Can’t remember. Was 15 and traveling by myself to meet a group. Engine failure of some sort, diverted to SEA, stuck there for around 24 hours. Thank goodness it was before the days of not letting minors out of the gate area…they gave me hotel/meal vouchers like everyone else and I was just fine.

    Third: last month, PHL-LAX…cooling system broke, and the range on the backup system wasn’t enough to get us all the way there, so we ended up in DEN. It was part of a MR and I was able to get myself rebooked out of DEN to catch up with the original itinerary. And we got auto-comp vouchers.

    So, all in all, I’ve had my share of diversions, but at the same time I’ve been VERY lucky!

  8. Is there a term for the opposite of a diversion? As in, when the pilot decides to skip a scheduled technical stop because strong tail winds mean there’s enough fuel to make it all the way to the destination in one go. Happened to me twice, on military/government flights. Not sure if it’s allowed in commercial.

  9. One diversion — BOS-DEN ended up in LNK due to weather in DEN.

    One aborted landing — coming into LGA, the pilot got a severe wind shear reading on the instruments and aborted. Flew around, and came in. It was cool because Ch 9 was on the whole time, so we got to hear the discussion between the tower, our captain, and the plane behind us.

  10. Typically when an “incident” occurs, the flight in question does not disappear from online tracking. However, the status changes from In Flight (or whatever it was) to Call Airline. That’s the dreaded keyword. I wouldn’t worry about a flight not coming up in a query.

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