Whether you’re an aircraft spotter or mostly oblivious to plane models, it’s likely that you’ve been paying more attention to the type of aircraft you’re flying in. Aside from checking for potential cancellations, there are several other reasons why it can be useful to look up your plane type when you make your flight reservation.
What’s more is that usually a lot of research that goes into planning a vacation, while locking down travel plans is one thing, plane enthusiasts take it one step further and REALLY want to know everything there is to know about the specific plane they’re flying on.
Why find out what plane you are on?
There are multiple reasons why you would want to find out. Nervous flyers often find it helpful to thoroughly research details of their flight, such as the specific plane information. Other people are simply interested in and intrigued by this information.
There are some aircraft that have a certain ‘hype’ around them, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or the Airbus A380. There are also aircraft such as the Boeing 737 Max models, that people kind of want to avoid.
Some people simply have a preference of the aircraft type, some preferring wide-body jets to the narrow-body jets – this typically only comes into play on 5th Freedom routes.
Most commonly, people want to know what plane they are flying on so that they can work out the best seat for that flight, be it for extra legroom or to avoid a missing window. While aircraft manufacturers typically follow the same format for building the structure of specific plane types, there are plenty of things an airline can customize when buying a new plane. This can include things like where a carrier chooses to place galleys and lavatories, and the number and configuration of seats.
Airlines sometimes have schedule changes, especially for flights booked more than a few months in advance, which could change the flight timing or the aircraft. This doesn’t happen often but is possible. A change of aircraft is rare once the flight time approaches, unless there is an operational issue which could see your seat removed completely or more seats at the back of the plane open up.
How to find out what plane you are on
There are multiple ways to find out what plane you are on and what is important is how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go down.
On a superficial level, you can find out the make and model of the aircraft pretty quickly and be content with that. Other times may want to dig down and pull out the tail number of the plane and its corresponding configuration.
Which Plane Will You Be Flying On
Almost every airline and booking website in the world lists the aircraft type on the reservations page of its website. While every website is different, you will typically find aircraft information displayed near the flight details.
What’s good about these sites is that they target the general consumer and you will rarely find shorthand information in these locations – such as “32N” or “7M8” representing the A320 Neo and 737 Max 8 respectively.
Using An Online Booking Tool
One of the easiest ways to find out the make and model is to use an online booking tool like Google Flights, Kayak or Skyscanner. Take Google Flights for example, simply enter your flight details and in the bottom you will see the aircraft you will likely be on.
Go Straight To The Source
Alternatively, once you have booked a flight, go to the carriers website and work your way into the “Manage My Booking” section. From there go to your flight and you will see the information listed there.
If you are booked on an itinerary with multiple carriers you sometimes need to go into each carriers “Manage My Booking” section to find this information out.
Find The Seat Configuration
Even if you’ve decided which airline and route you want to fly and how you plan on booking it. Take Qatar Airways where you can be on their Qsuite Business class or their regular business offering; the same goes for British Airways with their Business Suite vs their original lie flat offering. In short, choosing the right seat configuration can make or break your experience.
In reality, the strategy relies on knowing which plane variant you will be flying on. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an airline to have different configurations for same aircraft type; take British Airways as a case in point who have no less than 10 variants for their B777 configuration.
Seat guru is one of the most well-known sources of information out there for seats. Its pretty simple so long as you know the airline, flight number, and the flight date, the engine will spit out the aircraft and variant you will be on.
It relies on user generated information to highlight any good or bad seats.
Find The Tail Number
In order to learn information about the specific plane that’s taking you from point A to point B, you’ll need to find the tail number. This number is painted near the back of most planes, though some airlines will also paint it on top of the wings. The tail number begins with a country identification code (“N” for planes registered in the US; “G” in the UK), followed by the numerical portion. Much like your passport number, this is a great way to look up where the plane has been in the past.
One of the best tools to find this information out is to use FlightRadar24. On it, you can search by multiple criteria such as by plane, flight, carrier or route.
In the End
Whether you’re researching your plane for fun or as part of your trip planning, there are plenty of tools out there to help you find all the information you want. Flightradar24, Google Flights , Seat Guru are all great tools that every serious traveller should know how to use. Just remember that oftentimes important information like cabin layout won’t be confirmed until a few days before your flight.