Most travelers couldn’t care less about the type of aircraft they fly. But there are many passionate travelers who love all aspects of travel, including flying… the AvGeeks (aviation geeks). This is my case, and I am often wondering what plane I am flying on as I always find it interesting to know that… for many reasons.
The plane is now back in service, for example on United Airlines, one of the biggest carriers in the U.S. (and the joint venture partner for Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada). On Alaska Airlines, the company’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer (EVP & COO) was onboard the 1st flight and took the seat directly next to the emergency door affected by the defect, showing you how much you should be scared now that the problem is fixed.
Here’s how to check what type of aircraft is operating your flight if you ask yourself «what plane am I flying on»?
Overview of how to check which type of plane is operating your flight
Here’s how to concretely see what plane you are flying on:
- If you just want to see a specific flight
- Go to the airline’s website directly
- It almost always shows the aircraft type
- If you want to compare all airlines on the same screen
- With the right site to look at aircraft types
- Which is not the right site to book
I’ll show you some concrete examples below.
Finally, there are many reasons to want to know what type of aircraft is operating your flight, whether it’s before you book to compare your flight options, or even after you’ve booked:
- Choosing a particular type or model
- Some offer a better experience and more comfort
- Determine cabin layout
- To choose the best seat
- Determine which business class is offered
- Important to use your points well
- Avoid certain aircraft types and models
- Out of fear or as a strategy for a free refund
I cover each one below, including of course the last one that is likely of interest to many, knowing how a lot of people are always scared of everything.
Finally, it’s important to remember that airlines can change aircraft type at any time. For operational reasons, even at the very last minute. It’s rare, but it can happen. You usually have recourse, which I’ll detail below.
Steps to find out which type of aircraft is operating your flight
It’s very simple, but here are some more details if you like.
If you just want to see a specific flight
If you just want to see the aircraft type for a specific flight (if you already have a flight booked for example), the easiest way is to go directly to the airline’s website. Almost all airlines list the aircraft type on their own site.
I’d like to remind you of a very basic thing that too many people don’t know, because they always mix up the SEARCH stage and the BOOKING stage: always book your flights on the airline’s site directly if the price is similar.
So to book (or at least compare the price with the price on third-party sites), you’re going to be on the airline’s site anyway.
You just need to look at the flight details. It’s usually very clear, right next to the flight info or under a “Details” tab, a little clickable 🛈 icon, or something like that. The place where the flight is displayed is very small, just look at that section and you’ll find it.
On the Air Canada site, for example, it’s “Details”.
When you click, it clearly tells you the type of aircraft operating the flight.
By the way, I used the example of the deal from Montreal to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui for $461 roundtrip to remind you that Flytrippers spots dozens of good deals every day, which are published directly on our deals page every day!
I’ve flown 70+ airlines in my life, and I can say it’s exceedingly rare that the aircraft type isn’t going to be listed on the airline’s website directly.
If it isn’t, the 2nd option is always available.
If you want to compare all airlines on the same screen
Obviously, when you’re searching for flights, you should always use an aggregator/comparator like Skyscanner to compare (to compare not just airlines, but to compare booking sites too).
However, it’s not possible to see the aircraft type on this site (probably because the vast majority of people don’t care about aircraft type). Definitely something Skyscanner could improve to make it even more our favorite in terms of flight comparison tools.
So if you want to see the aircraft type for all your flight options, you can use:
Just to be very clear because people often mix a lot of things together, we don’t recommend using KAYAK or FlightHub to do standard flight searches or to book flights… just to see the aircraft model, that’s all.
On KAYAK, it’s the simplest. They just added a filter for this specifically, in the options in the left column.
I imagine you’ve used filters before, as they are the most important thing to master to be able to search well, for flights and accommodation.
But in short, you can exclude or include a specific model type, like if you want to see which flights from Montreal to Maui are on the famous Boeing 737 MAX 9.
On FlightHub, a Canadian booking site, you can always see the aircraft type too. In the results, they display the little clickable 🛈 icon in question.
When you click on the icon, you see the details.
Why check what plane you are flying on
Here are a few good reasons (or just reasons) to check what type of aircraft is operating your flight.
Choosing a particular type or model
It’s another of the many things that many less experienced travelers don’t know, but not all aircraft are created equal.
Some offer a far superior flying experience, with more comfort and features to make flying enjoyable.
For example, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner offers by far the best flight experience among widebodies, thanks to a host of cutting-edge technological innovations. On the same airline, or on airlines of a similar level, I’d always choose the 787 over the 777, for example.
The Airbus A350, created as a kind of response to the 787, is also far superior to the A330.
For narrowbodies, the Airbus A220 (the former Bombardier CSeries), offers a far superior experience to the classic A320s and B737s (with just 1 middle seat per row instead of 2). And so on.
Otherwise, as an AvGeek, I also sometimes just like to take aircraft I’ve never had the chance to fly on yet (surprisingly, I still have a lot of them, despite my 485 lifetime flights).
Determine cabin layout
Once you’ve booked a flight (and not chosen a seat if it’s not free and you want to save money, of course), you should go and prepare to choose your seat.
That way, you’ll be ready in case it’s free to choose when you check in online (as everyone should always do). It’s often free to choose then, and there’s still plenty of choice if you’re savvy and set an alarm to be there precisely 24 hours before your flight.
To choose the best seat, you need to know which aircraft it is, because they’re all different, of course (even within the same airline, of course).
Then, you can use the SeatMaps website to see the layout and choose the best seat. I’ll do an article on that specifically.
Determine which business class is offered
Traveling in business class is so easy with travel rewards (if you have the right types of points of course), and it’s what gives you the most value (by far).
But what’s important to know, if you’re going to use so many points (it usually takes about twice as many to fly business class compared to economy), is that not all business classes are created equal at all.
Some aircraft don’t even have true business class. Others don’t have lie-flat seats (pods). These should be avoided like the plague.
And even airlines with good business classes have very different seat models, depending on the type of aircraft you choose on that airline.
So you absolutely have to look at the type of aircraft if you want to travel in business class (or in first class, which is NOT the same thing unlike what everyone thinks).
To give just 2 examples, I’ll use the only 2 flights I’ve paid for in business class (paid with my points of course, NEVER pay for business class in cash).
On Qatar Airways with my Avios points, I flew a plane that had the Qsuite, the best business class in the world. The Qsuite is not offered on all Qatar Airways planes!
On Turkish Airlines with my Aeroplan points, I flew the 787, which has much more modern seats than the Turkish 777. A huge difference.
Avoid certain aircraft types and models
If you’re afraid of the Boeing 737 MAX 9, you might want to check whether your flight is operated by this aircraft.
Just to be clear, the 737 MAX 8s are not affected at all, it’s a different aircraft that doesn’t have the same problem. The 737-900s or any other 737s that don’t have the word MAX in their name are completely different aircraft too (apart from the 737-8200, but that’s also okay since it’s a MAX 8… long story).
But also, when these rare events occur, it’s an opportunity to implement the strategy to get a free refund if you wanted to change your flight anyway.
We keep telling you this, but it makes no sense to change or cancel a flight in advance, even if you’re 100% sure you’re not going to take it. There’s no advantage to it.
Always wait, that way you could cancel your flight for free and get a refund if there’s a schedule change, a storm, a disruption of any kind on the part of the airline, or even a safety incident like the recent one.
Airlines often issue a “waiver” when those situations arise and that allows you to get a free refund or at least a free change. But unfortunately, it’s another of the many tips that most travelers don’t even know exist!
Because of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 incident, many airlines will offer this waiver if your flight is on a 737 MAX 9. So you can take advantage of this if you needed to cancel your flight for any reason, you don’t need to tell them you’re not afraid!
For example, the largest 737 MAX 9 operator, United, is offering full refunds and might extend this waiver.
But if you don’t know the pro tips and cancel in advance for no reason, you’re sure to have to pay the change or cancellation fees.
Wait! Breathe, relax, and never act impulsively, irrationally, or emotionally.
If the type of aircraft operating your flight changes
If the quality of your experience changes drastically, for example in business class, you can ask to be rebooked on another flight free of charge.
In fact, even if it’s a minor change of aircraft type, since there has been a change, airlines often offer a little more flexibility to change flights free of charge. It never hurts to try!
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Featured image: Alaska B737 MAX 9 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)