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


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:


Alice Springs:

Singapore Changi:

In other words, take, 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,


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!



Facebook updates back online, for now

A few weeks back Facebook once again broke the OpenFlights app, this time in style: by deprecating a critical API call, status updates started to aborted halfway through, causing some people to get an incessant stream of spam since the status went through, but the fact that it went through wasn’t recorded.  Gar!  My patience with Facebook long since exhausted, I simply disabled the updater for time being, but fortunately Niko was kind enough to send us a patch that seems to fix the problem and adds in country names to your updates as a bonus.

So, long story short, if you disabled your app because of this problem, you can turn it on again.  But it’s only a matter of time until Facebook breaks it again.



Animate your flights with FlightGlobe

There’s a long-standing feature request to create an animated “slide show” of your OpenFlights, and I was delighted to find out recently that it’s been done in the best way possible — by somebody else!

FlightGlobe is a nifty desktop application for Mac and Windows that takes an OpenFlights CSV export (“List flights”, then click on “CSV”) and displays them on an animated 3D globe that spins about as you criss-cross the world, providing a neat way of viewing your travels if you’ve been methodical about recording your flight dates.  While the current version is simple and straightforward, the Java source code is available so any programmers out there can try their hand at adding bells and whistles.  Give it a spin!


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Improvements to FlightMemory imports

I’ll be frank: the bit of code for importing flights from our friends at FlightMemory to OpenFlights has long been riddled with bugs, and that’s why we’ve at long last thrown out the bulk of the plumbing and rebuilt it with shiny new pipe.  This has already fixed a number of bugs (most notably, accented characters getting lost), but there may be loose fittings somewhere, so please let us know ASAP if something’s leaking on the floor somewhere.  The next roaches in queue to be swatted are this (can’t handle ICAO codes for airlines) and this (duplicates in database).  And if you’d be really keen on one-step imports (that is, give the site your FM password and it’ll slurp up all your flights), now would be a good time to say so!

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Farewell to Facebook

Like many other developers, I have hated the way Facebook handles applications for a long time: the APIs are buggy as hell, poorly documented, change constantly, crippled beyond belief, completely proprietary, a vast pain to test and debug, and increasingly obviously geared towards moving everything off the open Web and into Facebook itself.   But with several thousand OpenFlights users happily using the app, we put up with the pain.

But now the camel’s back is broken.  Only a few short weeks ago, Facebook announced that profile boxes were doomed and that all applications had to migrate to profile tabs.  We duly did so, only to get smacked in the face with another wet trout: as of today, profile tabs are also gone.  Their replacement?  Nothing: all applications have to live on their own pages within Facebook, and users aren’t allowed to attach them to their profiles in any way, shape or form.  Too bad if you want to share your flight map with your friends, because as of now, you can’t.

So we’re going to do the only thing we can: say a nice, big hearty “fuck you” to Facebook and start looking for alternatives.  Any suggestions?

(And just to be clear: the part of the OpenFlights Facebook app that feeds your flights to your Wall is not affected and not going away for the moment.  However, it’s a matter of time until Facebook breaks it again, and at that point we’ll probably nuke the app for good.)



State of the Data at 500,000 flights

Half a million user-entered flights!  That’s a pretty respectable number, and the way things are going, we’ll be looking at the Big One-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh sometime early next year.  What’s changed since 250,000?

Top 10 Airlines

Airline 250k rank World rank
1 Delta/Northwest 5 (+4) 1
2 Lufthansa 1 (-1) 5
3 United Airlines 2 (-1) 4
4 American Airlines 3 (-1) 3
5 Air France-KLM 7 (+2) 6
6 Continental Air Lines 4 (-2) 9
7 British Airways 6 (-1) ?
8 Ryanair 10 (+2) 8
9 US Airways 9 10
10 Scandinavian 11 (+1) ?

The big news is that Delta-Northwest grabs the top spot in both IATA’s 2009 stats and on OpenFlights, beating Lufthansa by a hair.  Similarly, Air France-KLM has leapt ahead and Ryanair continues its inexorable ascent, grabbing the 8th position in both lists.  So once again we’ve got 8 out of 10: as ever, world #2 Southwest remains striking in its absence, although it did creep up two spots to OpenFlights #19, and world #7 China Southern Airlines is a mere #49 in OpenFlights.  Chinese flyers, where are you?

A statistical sidenote: on OpenFlights, we figure out airlines from flight numbers, so regional affiliates not using their parents’ codes are not going to show up here.  Since all the majors have their own sidelines, I figure they’re all disadvantaged more or less equally, and this thus probably doesn’t make a huge difference.

Top 10 Airports

Airport 250k rank World rank
1 Frankfurt Main (FRA) 1 9
2 London-Heathrow (LHR) 2 2
3 Chicago Ohare Intl (ORD) 3 4
4 Charles de Gaulle (CDG) 6 (+2) 6
5 Munchen (MUC) 4 (-1) 30
6 Los Angeles Intl (LAX) 5 (-1) 7
7 Amsterdam-Schiphol (AMS) 8 (+1) 14
8 Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL) 10 (+2) 1
9 New York-John F Kennedy Intl (JFK) 9 12
10 San Francisco Intl (SFO) 11 (+1) 20

No change in the top three, with Frankfurt still reigning supreme.  Charles de Gaulle, new at 250k, has climbed up another two notches to number 4, and world #1 Atlanta has avoided the ignominy of falling off the list and moved up to a more secure perch at #8.   On the other hand, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, which made it as high as #4 in the 100,000 stats, has now collapsed to #11.  Still no sign of Beijing or Haneda, will this change now that HND is fielding more international flights?

What next?

The next job in the never-ending OpenFlights task queue is reworking our flight import system, which is a bit too buggy for comfort at the moment, but after that is autocompletion and, yes, that should finally include using previous flight data to suggest source and destination airports, plus possibly flight times as well. Stay tuned!

Looking forward to his first million,

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New map servers online

We’ve been having a bit of trouble with our map servers lately, so I’m delighted to announce that we’ve just switched to new and, hopefully, more stable ones today.

The default “political” blue-and-gray map is the same as it ever was, only it’s now hosted by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo).  OSGeo are also the folks behind the OpenLayers map system that powers the entire site, so please show your love on their Donations page.

The full-color geographical “world” map has been offline ever since NASA pulled the plug on their Blue Marble map server a few months back, but today it’s back courtesy of OpenGeo, another non-profit which, confusingly enough, is entirely separate from OSGeo.   If you haven’t seen this before, here’s how to activate it: click on the top right  icon, then choose “Base Layer > Geographical (OpenGeo)”, and the background of your OpenFlights map will now be the real world.  The two caveats are that 1) it’s considerably slower than the political map, since there’s so much more detail, and 2) OpenGeo’s map isn’t quite as high-res as the original, so you can’t zoom in all the way to the airport runways like you could previously.

Tiled and ready to go,


Facebook change: Profile box out, application tab in

Facebook, in their grandmotherly kindness, has once again decided to break the OpenFlights Facebook application.  Today’s change is that the “profile box” we’ve come to know and love is going away on August 23, 2010:

And it will be replaced by the profile “application tab”, visible only if you browse to the user’s profile and click on the “OpenFlights” tab there:

To add the application tab to your profile, browse to, look for “Step 3: Click the button below to add the OpenFlights application tab to your Facebook profile”, click the button and follow the instructions.  Once done, you should have a new tab in your Profile, and the application should tell you “You have added the OpenFlights application tab to your profile” (you may need to reload the page once to see this).

While this is a hassle, the change is not all bad, since at least from now on we’ll have 520 pixels to play with (instead of the previous 184), so we’re open to suggestions to what we should do with our new real estate.  Something like the “Analyze” stats and charts, perhaps?  Alas, enabling a full-fledged “slippy map” like the website is still out of the question, as Facebook’s JavaScript support is far too crippled for the OpenLayers goodness we would need to implement it.

Losing face,

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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:

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:

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,