OpenFlights

News from OpenFlights, the site for flight logging, mapping, stats and sharing


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Airport edit review now through Github

Last month, OpenFlights moved to Github, and today we’re rolling out the first new feature enabled by this: airport edits on Github.

Until now, any edits to airports not submitted by yourself were sent by e-mail to a perennially backlogged review queue, which at time of writing has some 200+ edits waiting for review.  The downsides to this were legion: aside from the wait, there was no sensible way to distribute the load, no visibility into the status, and no way to prevent duplicate copies of exactly the same edit piling up in the queue.

Effective immediately, edits are instead posted as issues on Github, like this. This means they’re visible, so you can search and see if anybody else has reported the same thing; they’re automatically deduped, so that edits to the same airport (as determined by ICAO code) get added as comments to the existing issue; and they support “subscribing”, so you can get notified when it’s commented on, accepted or rejected.

And what’s more, you can now help.  Head over to https://github.com/jpatokal/openflights, “Watch” the repository, and configure how you’d like to be notified for new issues.  You can then review any edits and tell us if you think they should be accepted or rejected, making our job that much easier.

For time being, the autogenerated issues are pretty crude, you’re offered a chunk of SQL that you need to eyeball against any potential dupes.  We’re planning to upgrade this to a cleaner diff soon, and expand this to cover airline edits as well.

Gitting better every day,
-jani

 


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Import flights from TripIt

It’s been a long time coming, but I am tickled pink to announce the release of a long-awaited feature: integration of OpenFlights.org with online trip planning tool extraordinaire TripIt.com, which lets you create travel itineraries for flights, hotels and more automatically simply by forwarding them your reservation emails.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Log in to your OpenFlights account and select Import.
  2. In the Import dialog, choose the newly minted Import from TripIt up top.
  3. The first time only, you’ll be requested to authorize read-only access to TripIt.

You’ll then be presented with a list of your Tripit itineraries, newest first, with a separate tab for future flights.  Flights already in your OpenFlights record (same date, airports and direction) are automatically filtered out, and you can then choose Import for single flights or Import All for an entire trip.  Once done, click Close, and your newly imported flights will now be on your map.

As this is a new feature, bug reports, feedback and suggestions for improvement are very welcome.  And a big shout out to Andrew Chen for contributing virtually all the code for this!

Tripping it,
-jani


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Great Circle meets OpenFlights

Many aviation enthusiasts will be familiar with the Great Circle Mapper, a handy website that does just what it says on the box: maps great circle routes on top of a world map.  And now, thanks to a patch contributed by an OpenFlights user, you can get your OpenFlights maps up on GCM as well: just choose List flights and then click the shiny new GCMap button, which will open up GCM in another tab with a map that looks something like this:

Since the GCMap export is based on the currently shown list of flights, you can apply filters before listing and thus control the output of the map quite precisely.  And since GCM generates its maps as flat images, you can save them locally and reuse them as you wish — although it’s worth bearing in mind that GCM, an external service not affiliated with OpenFlights, retains the copyright to anything you create there.

The same kind contributor also provided the new Class by distance piechart for Analyze, which shows how much time/distance you’ve spent in each class of seat, whereas the existing Class chart just showed number of flights.  As frequent flyers will know, while short hops are quite tolerable even in steerage, it’s the long flights where those lie-flat business seats really make a difference.

In new circles,
-j.


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Quick and easy URLs for airport and airline route maps

Today’s feature is a new trick by an old pony — now, you can finally open up (or link directly to) airline and airport route maps, instead of needing to go to the main page, type in your search, select the correct choice and load up the map you actually wanted.  Observe:

Finnair: http://openflights.org/airline/AY

Alice Springs: http://openflights.org/airport/ASP

Singapore Changi: http://openflights.org/query/WSSS

In other words, take http://openflights.org, add any of /airline/, /airport/ or /query/, and plug in either a two-letter airline IATA code (eg. AY for Finnair), a three-letter airport IATA code (ASP) or a four-letter airport ICAO code (WSSS), and you’ll get a link to a map of the airline or airport’s routes.  At the moment, it doesn’t matter which form of the URL you use, but the long-term plan is to make query behave in exactly the same way as the  search on the main page, so using the airport/airline forms is preferable if you expect the results to stay the same.

Alternatively, if you’d like to find out which airports and airlines are covered by OpenFlights, check out this page for a full listing.  As always, a tip of the hat to Airport Route Mapper for providing our data.

Maptastically yours,
-jani


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Buggy airport data? Now you can fix it yourself!

Until today, pretty much the only way you could fix a bug in OpenFlights airport data was to submit a bug report, never quite as fast or painless a process as you might hope.  But now, there’s a better way: click on or search for the airport , click the edit icon , tweak the data until you are satisfied and hit “Save changes”.  Previously, this would have give you an error message unless you had actually created the airport in question; now, it will fire off a submission to OpenFlights HQ, where our mad scientists will verify that your suggested change makes sense and either accept or reject it.  Either way, you’ll soon get an e-mail message telling you what happened, and the data will be that much better.

Two caveats: you have to be logged in (the “Save changes” button will be grayed out if you aren’t), and for time being this only works on airports.  If it’s popular enough, we’ll enable this for airlines as well.    Give it a spin and let us know how it works for you!

Collaboratively,
-j.


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Slicing, dicing and spinning route maps

The route map we created with our airline route data a while back has been a bit of a sleeper hit: it’s now used on 16 language versions of Wikipedia, drawn excited reactions from blogs and — my personal favorite — claimed by a logistics company as their cargo network!  But it’s a boring old square, and recently, we received a request to make a round version of it.   Never ones to let a challenge pass us by, we set the number-crunchers to work, and here was our first attempt:

“Hmm,” is probably your first reaction, “that looks kinda strange.”   That’s because it shows the entire world squished to a disc, including even the parts you couldn’t actually see, at least not all at once, if you were in outer space looking down at the Earth.  (For you mapping nerds out there, it’s a Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection.)  The only way to make this happen is to stretch the bits around the edges, which is why poor Australia looks so strange.  So how to make it more realistic?  Back to the drawing board!

Our second attempt used an orthographic projection, which is Greek for “true writing” and thus pretty close to what you’d actually see from space.   The only problem this time is that you can only see around half the world at any time, which means you also only see half the airline routes.  How could we show them all?  The solution was to add time to the equation, and turn it into a video:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12078596&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Or, if you’re on a slower connection, here’s a non-HD version that should load a little faster. And while I was at it, I created my own routemap as a video as well:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12124356&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Nifty, eh?  We’re considering a campaign that will create route map videos for all users who help contribute to the site, so if you’d be willing to chip in a bit in exchange for a shiny new video, let us know!  Up next, a hardcore geek posting that will reveal the PHP ninja secrets of making maps and videos like this yourself.

Doin’ the rotomotion,
-j.


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Important: Password reset required for some pre-2009 users

OpenFlights has been in bug fixing mode lately, but today we rolled out a small but handy feature: the ability to reset your own password if you’ve forgotten it.  We use the same mechanism as every other site out there, namely mailing you a link to check that it’s you, and then giving you a new random password once you click on the link.  While we were at it, we also nuked a pesky longstanding bug that had prevented some users from changing their password, so you’re not stuck with random gibberish afterwards.

Now, there’s one more change afoot for users who registered before January 9, 2009 and whose usernames contain uppercase letters: due to changes in our login system, you will be unable to login after Saturday, May 15th, and you will have to reset your passwords to get your access back.  To emphasize, this applies only to users who fulfill both conditions: if your username contains no uppercase latters or you signed up anytime after January 9, 2009, you don’t need to do anything at all.  If you want to check whether or not you are affected, browse here and find out:

http://openflights.org/help/resetpw-test

For affected users, the reset can be done at any time (before or after May 15th) and after you have changed the password, your account will be OK.  According to our count, there are 123 of you, and while we will try to reach 82 by e-mail, here’s hoping this catches some of the rest of you.  The remaining unlucky 41, being email-less, cannot use the reset functionality and will instead need to login and change their password under Settings.

And if you’re wondering why we don’t just change your passwords for you, the answer is simply that we can’t: passwords are always stored encrypted (one-way hash), which means that even we can’t read them.

Loquaciously passwordy,
-jani


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Airline editing implemented

Things have been a little quiet in OpenFlightsLand lately — this doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing anything, it’s just that it’s mostly been unglamourous bugfixing that doesn’t really warrant blog updates.

But we do have a small new feature today: in addition to our existing airport editor, we have now enabled editing for airlines as well.  The same restriction applies, namely that you have to be logged in and can only edit airlines you have added yourself.  We’ve also made public a previous hidden field that reveals whether or not the airline is considered “active”, active airlines being those that either have published routes or flights recorded within the last year in OpenFlights.  Inactive airlines will not be offered by autocompletion.

What would you like to see next?  Let us know at OpenFlights’ Feature Request Tracker.

Reactivated,
-jani


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Airline route maps launched, metric distances available

Our recently released airport route maps have been a huge hit, so we’ve now followed through on our promise and released airline route maps as well: just enter your favorite airline’s name or IATA code in the Quick Search to get their route map. As an example, here’s Slovene national airline Adria Airways (JP):

But there’s more!

  • Filters are now implemented for airport route maps, so you can see where a given airline flies to from a given airport.  Just search for an airport, then choose Carrier from the Filter menu on the right.
  • If you choose an airline map, or an airport-filtered-by-airline map, codeshare flights are now indicated with dotted lines to show that the airline does not “really” fly on that route.  (Still on the to-do list: the ability to hide codeshare destinations.)

The second new feature launched today has been our most requested feature for a while now: the ability to display distances in kilometers as well as miles.  New users can select their preference when creating an account, while existing users can go to Settings to change to kilometers if they wish.  If enabled, the main map statistics, the “Analyze” and “Top 10” statistics and “List flights” all display kilometers; however, flight distances in the flight editor are still always in miles.

With this, OpenFlights will now be entering a feature freeze in preparation for the OpenFlights Epsilon release targeted for the end of August.  The goals of Epsilon are:

  1. Shake out bugs and usability quirks to create a solid, reliable, and easy-to-use website
  2. Improve airport, airline and route database quality
  3. Make installing your own copy of OpenFlights easier by modularizing and documenting the OpenFlights software base

You can do your part by reporting any bugs you encounter.  Translators, we’ve added some new strings to OpenFlights, so your assistance in updating them would be appreciated.

Onward to the Epsilon,
-jani


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Route mapping the world

So far OpenFlights has been all about mapping your own travels and seeing where others have been to, but today, we’ve taken a big step in making it your tool of choice for travel planning as well.   Now, you can click on any airport and see every single scheduled flight:

OpenFlights route map

For easy access to this, we’ve added a Quick search widget, shown expanded above but normally hiding in the bottom-right corner under the icon.  Here’s how to use it, in two easy steps:

  1. Enter the airport name, city or IATA code in the box.  OpenFlights will automatically suggest matches as you type, and if the airport is already shown on the map, OpenFlights will pop it up.
  2. Once you’ve entered a valid name, the Search button becomes active.  If you click on this, OpenFlights will load a route map showing all flights from that airport.

But there’s more!  In the popup for every airport, there’s now a Routes button, which you can also use to see the map.  If you click on the List button for the mapped airport (via popup or the top left corner), you’ll get a list of all flights operating from there; if you click on that button for another airport, you’ll get a list of all airlines connecting the two, even including codeshares.

In these route listings, you’ll see little buttons, which will take you to flight booking site Kayak.com with a preloaded search for the airports and airline that you have selected.  Buy your ticket from here, and OpenFlights get a little commission; just another little way to help support the site.

So, with the good stuff out of the way, it’s time to confess to a few things that we can’t do, at least not yet.

  • The route map covers routes, not schedules.  We don’t know exact flight days, times or route numbers; however, click through to Kayak, and it can usually tell you.
  • The route map covers non-stop flights only.  Singapore Airlines flies SIN-ICN-SFO, but if you click on SIN, you’ll only see the first leg.
  • The route map does not support route finding.  If there’s no direct connection, we can’t find it for you… yet.
  • Route maps are offered per airport, not per airline (although this is on the to-do list).
  • Filters, Analyze, Top 10 etc don’t work on route maps (yet?).  If you try to use them, it will just show you the data for your flights.

Last but by no means least, our thanks to our colleagues at Airline Route Mapper; without their amazing 53,000-route data file, this would never have been possible.

Routing for victory,
-jani