I am in India. I booked my first flight ticket a few weeks ago and am very interested in identifying locations as well as geographical and human structures that I will see.

I have downloaded many GB's of offline maps on Google Maps. I had hoped that I will be able to use the GPS antenna on my mobile phone to get my latitude and longitude, and the Google Maps app would mark that location on the pre-downloaded offline map.

However, it seems that this doesn't work. I requested a friend to test it on his last flight.

I have two questions:

  1. Why doesn't this work?

  2. Is there a way I can track the plane without internet using the GPS antenna in my mobile phone?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Would Wi-Fi and a flight tracking site accomplish your purpose? $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2022 at 15:01
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ In what way doesn't it work? If it is a problem with GPS signal reception, quiet flyer's suggestions make sense. If it is a problem with the Google Maps app not liking to work offline, you might try a more dedicated GPS app such as Commander Compass (there is a free version). $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Feb 3, 2022 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @randomhead Thank you! I will try this app, as well as quiet flyer's recommendations. $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2022 at 15:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If you have a window seat and enough GPS signal, you might try using a better app than Google maps. There are various free Android apps capable of using offline mapping for hiking etc. The one I use (mainly a bike computer app) isn't free after a distance limit, so I won't recommend it here, and my other experience is out of date (hence no answer). OSMAnd might be worth a shot, for example, or Navit. Test it in a car first $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Feb 3, 2022 at 17:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Duplicate on Travel Stack Exchange: GPS when flying over the ocean $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2022 at 1:58

1 Answer 1


GPS reception inside an airliner fuselage will be poor. Holding the phone right up to the window will help some. I've often used a handheld Garmin Etrex GPS in exactly this way.

However some airlines prohibit use of such electronic devices. If you hold a GPS device right next to a radio antenna you can in fact pick up some electronic noise, so there's a concern that there may be interference with aircraft navigation instruments.

And it goes without saying that if you are going to be using your device in "airplane" mode, then you should confirm, on the ground, that your device does in fact receive and use GPS signals when in "airplane" mode. A quick google search suggests that this normally is the case, despite the potential issue noted above.

One problem is that if you are instructed to turn the device all the way off before takeoff, then when you turn the device on later in the flight, it has to calculate its position from an incorrect assumed starting point, while moving at high speed. This can be a challenge and may take quite some time. Try not to lose the satellite lock, once you've finally acquired it.

Here are three "quora" links that include some answers from people who successfully did what you are proposing -- https://www.quora.com/Does-mobile-GPS-work-onboard-airplanes , https://www.quora.com/Why-does-GPS-work-in-airplane-mode-and-in-the-mountains-with-no-cell-tower-nearby-but-doesn-t-work-on-planes , https://www.quora.com/Why-is-it-not-possible-to-use-the-Google-Maps-satellite-GPS-when-inside-a-flying-plane

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I used Waze to track a flight once. It did register that I was going about 500MPH (which seemed reasonable in the air). However, the speed did jump around considerably, and my track was erratic, leading me to believe that my GPS reception in the plane was sketchy at best. I was in the middle seat with my kid staring out the window. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Feb 3, 2022 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ My plane has a bubble canopy with no metal above, so my phone's GPS works fine, and I have a program called Naviator on my phone that I use for my VFR flying. I haven't used the airplane's nav radio or even the on-board Garmin GPS 295 in ages. The phone should work well in an airliner if held right against the window. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Feb 3, 2022 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Or you can just use in-flight wifi and any number of online flight trackers (just realize that position may have some delay). $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 5, 2022 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnK The problem is an airliner window will only allow seeing satellites in one direction, so you may not see enough to get a lock or, due to triangulation error, it will be so inaccurate as to be useless. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Feb 6, 2022 at 14:59

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