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Old Dec 11, 06, 12:28 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
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Where does your plane come from?

I'm on a 9pm flight this Wednesday from LAX-OAK. It's the last flight of the day. And those of you who have flown WN in the late evening know that any delays that may have happened with your aircraft earlier in the day can impact your evening departure.

So, I wanted to find out where the aircraft for my LAX-OAK flight came from. Of course, checking on Southwest.com doesn't work, because you can't even simply plug in the flight number and see if that flight number originated in another city (for flight tracking, southwest.com is laughable).

I went to www.flightaware.com and found that my flight actually originated in Orlando. It goes Orlando - Jackson - Houston - Los Angeles - Oakland. So there are plenty of opportunities for delay.

I found that the flight (today) is leaving Orlando from Gate 129 at 3:55pm. So to find out where it came from before Orlando, I went to the Orlando airport website and searched the arrivals for flights arriving at Gate 129 at 3:30 or so. I found that WN2262 arrives at Gate 129 at 3:30pm and goes Chicago - Jackson - Orlando.

It left Chicago at 10:25....so I went to the Midway website and found that the aircraft came in from a flight that originated in San Antonio at 7:30am.

So....my aircraft will go: SAT-MDW-JAN-MCO-JAN-HOU-LAX-OAK. Busy day!

The point being...if you really want to find out where your aircraft is coming from, you can do it...it just takes a little time and research.

Now, if my flight is late...what am I going to do about it? Probably nothing. I just like to know.
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auggie doggie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Dec 11, 06, 12:40 pm   #2
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auggie doggie View Post
The point being...if you really want to find out where your aircraft is coming from, you can do it...it just takes a little time and research.
Unfortunately that's not quite true. Your scenario was ideal, but two problems crop up in practice:

(1) The same aircraft may change flight number during the day. Your trail will go "cold" at each point where this happens. Unfortunately, FlightAware doesn't seem to give you the tail number of an aircraft, which would allow you to track across flight number changes. (Perhaps there are other services that do?)

(2) Not all airports have the gate monitor display available online. It's fantastic when they do -- luckily my home airport (SAN) does, and I frequently use it to do what you described. But, there are plenty of airports that don't.

So, your approach will only work when you can tie together the flight number changes from FlightAware using the airport gate monitor displays.

Now, people will say that another problem with the approach is aircraft swaps, but these are increidbly rare relative to the total number of flights per day, because airlines need their aircraft in the right cities at the end of the day. So, your system will work, but it relies heavily on the gate monitor info that not all airports provide.

I wish airlines would provide this information directly, but none do.
justageek is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Dec 11, 06, 1:05 pm   #3
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
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another problem is you were able to backtrace the schedule for the current day only. You don't know where Wednesday's flights are going to originate, they may not be the same schedule, even if all the flight times you are seeing are the same.

While aircraft swaps aren't terribly common, crew changes are. I've had crews that learn while they're on one flight "looks like we won't be your crew for the next segment after all--they're sending us to ..." I think that often has to do with scheduling--fixing a delay, even if it had nothing to do with your flight.

SAT-MDW-JAN-MCO-JAN-HOU-LAX-OAK might be one plane's schedule for monday but then maybe they change it tuesday, because different planes are in position on a 2nd consecutive weekday morning than on monday morning where they finished the day on a Sunday schedule.
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Old Dec 11, 06, 1:20 pm   #4
 
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I definitely agree that an aircraft's schedule is likely to change from one day to the next.

I'm not convinced that changes in crew scheduling during the day indicate an aircraft swap, but perhaps someone who knows more about these things can confirm or deny that.
justageek is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Dec 11, 06, 9:51 pm   #5
 
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I use a combination of the pdf schedules and the flight status (gate assignments) on the day of departure to determine where my plane is coming from. It's pretty easy because WN's turn times are 30 minutes or less. It's also easy when the flight comes from a smaller WN city (as opposed to LAS).

Last time, I found that my plane went from DTW-LAS-PHX-OKC-PHX and then my flight from PHX-SEA.
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Old Dec 12, 06, 12:04 pm   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by formeraa View Post
I use a combination of the pdf schedules and the flight status (gate assignments) on the day of departure to determine where my plane is coming from. It's pretty easy because WN's turn times are 30 minutes or less. It's also easy when the flight comes from a smaller WN city (as opposed to LAS).

Last time, I found that my plane went from DTW-LAS-PHX-OKC-PHX and then my flight from PHX-SEA.
Yes, for me the easiest way is to have a hard copy of the WN schedule. It is usually pretty easy to find the flight either using the flight number for a incoming flight if it is a continuation or the arrival time of an incoming flight if it is not.
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