One of the things I miss about United is the ability to listen to “Channel 9″. Channel 9 provides passengers the ability to listen in on the flight deck’s communications with air traffic control. It’s a great way to learn about what’s going on with that delay you are experiencing before the rest of the crew does. Often times its comforting to hear that what is communicated over Channel 9 is the same thing the pilots tell the passengers over the public address system. Only once did the stories differ and that entire crew seemed desperate to blame anybody but United for the problems. In my last few months of flying United, it seemed as if the flight crew chose to leave it off. In fact, back in 2008, the Wall Street Journal wrote a great article about Channel 9 and the popularity of it amongst passengers.
I sometimes use the Live ATC App on my iPhone as a substitute now that I don’t fly United. There are a lot of things that it can’t do, like listen in during taxi, takeoff, and landing. However, it is fun to have if your flight is equipped with wifi or during a trip to watch the planes fly. Its certainly not an essential app, but can help pass the time on a long trip. Every once in a while I’ll let my kids listen in as we drive past the airport. They’ll use it to predict what planes we may see take off or land nearby. At $2.99, I’ve certainly received my money’s worth from the app.