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Cirium Developer Spotlight – Flighty

August 23, 2023

Q&A with Ryan Jones, founder of Flighty, a travel app that has won Apple’s Design Award in 2023.

In today’s Cirium developer spotlight, we’re shining a light on Flighty, a travel app available for download on the Apple App Store that just so happens to have won Apple’s Design Award in 2023. Flighty helps travelers track their flights while on the move. It’s not just another travel app – it’s one of the most user-friendly and reliable apps out there, according to its many fans. Flighty was featured by Apple in the keynote announcing the iPhone 14 with a feature called the Dynamic Island — showing you just the right amount of time-critical data when you need it. (Think the score of a game, when your ride share arrives, or, in the case of Flighty, a countdown to your next flight.) They are also an Apple Editors’ Choice, average 4.8 stars over 50k reviews.

If you’re looking for an easy way to track flight delays and always know what’s happening, Flighty is worth checking out. Cirium caught up with Ryan Jones, founder of Flighty, to talk about what makes Flighty tick.

Ryan Jones Flighty

How did you come up with the app and how do you see that it improves the customer experience?

It started in the Chili’s Restaurant at the Ft. Lauderdale airport waiting for a 6-hour delayed flight. I was traveling with my 90-year old grandmother and the plane was stuck in a Chicago snowstorm.

Being an aviation geek, I knew how to piece together all the intel from multiple sites to know what to expect, but I had to cross-reference about six websites, and to constantly refresh them to watch for changes. There had to be a better way.

Our goal — and I think we’re doing a great job of it — is to take all the nerdy, geeky sites and tricks, and combine them with the best-in-class data sources, then automate it. We can ingest more data, watch every millisecond, and just send you an alert much faster than you’d ever be able to do it manually.

What data feeds in to make it work?

Screen shot of Flightly App showing Lock Screen and different data modules.

That’s part of the secret sauce! But basically: everything. We have about six main feeds, including Cirium, and our expertise is knowing which are most accurate and fastest for each data need.

You publish flight delays and cancellations sometimes quicker than the airlines do. How do you do that, from a tech perspective?

Instant push alerts is one of the things we truly excel at. Prior to Flighty, our founding engineer worked for a tech tycoon in Europe who built his own push alert service for futbol goals. Speed was absolutely critical and it ended up sending millions of alerts within one second of a goal! So all of his learnings were ingrained in Flighty from the beginning, building his dream infrastructure from the ground up.

Today our latency operates in milliseconds, versus most other companies in minutes. And that’s why we are often faster than the airlines themselves.

In fact, we recently heard from a user who got a Flighty alert while in-flight that their plane was diverted and then felt the plane start banking prior to the diversion announcement having been made by the pilot.

Why is your app different than, say, other flight tracking apps or online travel agency apps?

Most apps are trying to sell you something – deals, flights, credit cards  – but we are trying to tell you the truth about your flight, as fast as possible. For example, airlines (and OTAs) want to sell you a ticket and in the case of the airlines, have you quietly waiting at the gate. Well, we want to tell you the truth about what’s happening as fast as possible. So we are extremely aligned with what users want.

The app automagically ingests your flights from your calendar. That’s a pretty handy feature.

Other apps require access to your entire inbox, which is a big privacy concern and many companies are actually starting to restrict. I’m really proud of the way we use your local calendar entries, process it on device, and anonymously import your flights. Nothing leaves your device except a flight number and date. And even that is anonymous. It’s really a step forward in privacy and speed. And that experience of seeing 500 flights imported from your calendar within a few seconds is really magical. You can then actually see your historical flights — perfect for a flex Instagram post at the end of the year — but most importantly, keep your future flights nice and organized.

Why do you think Apple put the spotlight on Flighty?

They sure did. We won an Apple Design Award this year, which is like the Oscars for apps. It was a proud moment for our team and recognition that we are building something that every traveler needs.  As to why, we are self-funded, we can build what we want as users, and ultra-focus on customer experience. So we don’t require an email or credit card to try it, have ads or creepy tracking, or pester users — because no one likes that stuff. And we get to build industry-first features that take months and years of time that other companies just can’t invest. That’s the kind of service Apple likes to highlight, so I think it’s just in our DNA and fundamentally aligned.

What’s coming next from Flighty? What’s your dream feature?

Dream features are our bread and butter. One core value is building industry-first features, so in a way we ship multiple dream features per year. It’s really fun.

Our first one was 25-hr Where’s My Plane and the most recent was adding live radar tracking even when you’re taxiing! And, users of the iPhone will have seen the Dynamic Island, which was a really great feature to work on.

We’ve been working on something really special for our next trick that’s not quite ready to talk about, so you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Cirium is proud to be supporting the out-of-the-box thinking at Flighty and glad they chose Cirium data. To learn more about how we can help you bring your aviation solutions to life, explore Cirium Sky APIs.

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