The downing of Malaysian Air Flight 17, the crash of an Algerian flight over Mali today (July 24, 2014), and the FAA's flight restrictions to the Tel Aviv Airport (lifted yesterday, July 23, 104) are making travelers nervous about the safety of their next international flight. In an ABC interview, just after the Malaysian crash, a frequent flyer in Rhode Island said : "If I was doing an international trip I would make sure that it wasn't going through an area that had hostile conditions or something. I'm really surprised they flew through there." There are at least 41 localized conflicts zones in the world that could pose a risk, according to the FAA and iJet International Inc. And, while downings like Malaysian Flight 17 are rare and experts are working to better identify danger zones, some flyers are always nervous regardless of global events.
Is it possible to fly more safely and know your flight path before you board the plane? Yes, there are a number of free and low-cost ways to take extra-safety measures.
First, check the US State Department's website for travel alerts and warnings here. While you are on the site, register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). When you sign up you will recieve automatic warnings about the places you are traveling and the embassy or consulate will know where you are if trouble arises.
If you fly to risky and troubled areas, check out the iJet International Inc's Travel Risk Managment app. The app allows travelers to have access to security and medical assistance worldwide. It features an "I'm OK" safety button and an GPS locator (available iOS and Android, free).
As for flight routes, you can check your flight before you board. Here is a list of the three popular flight tracking apps check the route your plane will fly, barring any last minute changes. If you don't like what you see, check other airlines for different flight paths.
FlightAware (free, iOS, Android)
FlightAware's service area includes airspace real time maps (30 second delay) for flights operated by the United States (including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam), Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, the United Kingdom, and France. FlightAware's secondary service covers scheduled major airline operations at any airport in the world. It may provide real-time positions of the flight if it is adequately equipped with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) tracking. Some airlines send FlightAware satellite position reports from aircraft worldwide that augments other position data and provides transoceanic coverage as well. Free app for iOS and Android. LINK
FlightTrack5 ($4.99, iOS, Android)
Scheduled flight paths are only one feature of this app, which was acquired by Expedia. It will help you navigate airports and find gates. FlightTracker has an offline feature that allows you to get information on flight updates, delays, gates and cancellations without WiFi. A parallel app, called FlightBoard, allows you to check and share flight arrivals and departures with coworkers, friends and family. This app will let you know about those annoying last minute gate changes that airlines are horribly poor at letting you know about. Flight crews who commute love this app. LINK
TripTracker (free, iOS)
This app is a one-stop shop for all your travel, including real-time flight plans, delays and weather reports. It also keeps track of all those other little details, like hotels, rental cars and limos. It's sister app, PageOnce will integrate all your finances into your travel plans, which makes it perfect if constant travel is part of your job. LINK