patineta89
Topic Author
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Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:33 pm

How often are airlines operating flights with small load factors?

Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:37 pm

I flew Southwest last week, BNA-BWI. Flight was on a 737-700 with 143 seats.
There were 37 passengers onboard, same is saying about 27% load.

About 5 years ago, on a United SFO-ANC, 757-200, we were a maximum of 30 pax on the plane.

I'm curious to know how often do major carriers do flights with this kind of load.
Any insight?
Last edited by SQ22 on Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Title updated
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AMS ANC ATL BDL BGO BNA BUF BUR BWI CDG CPH DEN EWR FAO FNC FRA HEL LAS LAX LGA LHR LIS MAD MSP OAK ORD SFO SJC SLC TXL
 
32andBelow
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Re: Small Load Factor

Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:41 pm

It happens a lot during the slow season. October is just about the slowest month of the year. Up there with February.
 
AWACSooner
Posts: 2115
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Re: Small Load Factor

Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:54 pm

They should just cancel the flight and declare bankruptcy because they're obviously losing money hand over fist ;)
 
thegoldenargosy
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Re: Small Load Factor

Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:33 pm

When I was a regional FA there were several flights with only 1 pax on a 50 seater.
 
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Midwestindy
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Re: Small Load Factor

Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:38 pm

patineta89 wrote:
I flew Southwest last week, BNA-BWI. Flight was on a 737-700 with 143 seats.
There were 37 passengers onboard, same is saying about 27% load.

About 5 years ago, on a United SFO-ANC, 757-200, we were a maximum of 30 pax on the plane.

I'm curious to know how often do major carriers do flights with this kind of load.
Any insight?


It is more common then you might think, especially during Jan-Feb, in October there was an EasyJet flight with one pax on board...https://thepointsguy.com/2017/10/passen ... to-greece/

Cancelling isn't really an option, unless it is done in advance due to the logistics involved in running an airline....

There are plenty of routes though that come to mind as having extremely low load factors (less than 25%)
'17:ADD ATL AMS BCN BWI BOS CDG CMN CLT MDW ORD CVG DFW DAL DAB DEN DKR DTW DXB ENU FLL FCO RSW GNV BDL HNL IAH IND MCI LAS LAX LGW LHR LOS SDF MEM MIA MKE MSP MUC BNA EWR MSY JFK LGA MCO SFB ORY PHX PHL PVD RDU RAP RIC SLC STL CPS PIE SEA TPA DCA IAD ZRH
 
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exFWAOONW
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:17 am

One trip back in the 70s rode a UA DC10 CLE-TPA with about 30 on board. After rotation, you couldn't lift your head off the seat until the pilot finally leveled off. The return flight was almost as much fun.
Is just me, or is flying not as much fun anymore?
 
USAOZ
Posts: 308
Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:34 am

Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:26 am

just because stuff all pax in one direction doesn't mean anything. the return flight might be full.

Also, repositioning. Aircraft might need to be at B for next flight which could be full, so has to fly A to B to get there & they might as well try & sell some seats, but sometimes not worth giving them away for very low yield. Too many low fares & pax start to think that the low fare is the normal fare. The last thing an airline wants is pax holding out for cheap fares.

After the end of 2007 global financial crisis, many airlines starting flying SYD/LAX, so even in peak season, when fares previously had been AUD$2500-$3200 return, many airlines were selling many seats for $999 return. You still hear people asking when are the sub $1000 fares for Xmas coming out, when most airlines are full & going fare is over $2000.

Flew IVC/CHC in NZL approx 10 years back & when we turned up at IVC they knew our names, as we were the only 3 pax booked. There were 3 x roughly 30 seaters, that had flown full CHC/IVC.
 
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Channex757
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:28 am

The OP's flight BNA-BWI may have had a garbage load, but Southwest work their assets hard and the aircraft will have its flights planned out well in advance. It needs to be at BWI to work the next of its legs, so cancellation isn't really an option.

Jet2 flew one the other day, Glasgow to Heraklion in Crete, with one passenger on a brand new 737-8MG. The return flight was sold out. Apparently they treated the single passenger to quite a memorable flight, and it was the last of a seasonal service.
 
zakuivcustom
Posts: 293
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2017 3:32 am

Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:56 am

Had two example myself:
1. The early morning AC flight from IND to YYZ, I believe it was a total of 3 pax on a CRJ200. But the late evening flight from YYZ to IND is usually full.
2. A one stop, same plane ride, HOU-TPA-IND on WN, back in 2011 (no non-stop HOU-IND on WN back then). First leg (HOU-TPA) was maybe 30 people, but the TPA-IND leg is all full.

In OP's case, WN probably can't even cancel the BNA-BWI flight bc they need the plane at BWI for a flight to somewhere else. It probably cost just as much to fly an empty plane and a plane with about 40 people. May as well recoup part of the cost by flying those 40 people.
 
FSDan
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:05 am

I was on a WN flight MKE-DEN back in 2012 that had something like 18 passengers on board (I don't remember if it was a -700 or an -800, but either way that's bad). Now they're up to 4x daily on that route though, so it must have been a one off situation, or the route just needed time to develop.
This is my signature until I think of a better one.
 
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knope2001
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:19 am

Three of us onboard a 100-seat DC9-30 from Omaha to Milwaukee on Columbus Day morning 1987 back in the Northwest "mini hub" days. Their seat assignment system put us in the same row even though we were unrelated parties (We spread out, of course...)
 
AWACSooner
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:21 am

Full flight from MDW to OMA on WN back in 05...same plane continued on to Vegas...I was 1 of 4 pax.
 
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adamh8297
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:24 am

Channex757 wrote:

Jet2 flew one the other day, Glasgow to Heraklion in Crete, with one passenger on a brand new 737-8MG. The return flight was sold out. Apparently they treated the single passenger to quite a memorable flight, and it was the last of a seasonal service.


These seasonal flights tend to have very poor loads the first day and the last day in one direction.

BOS-LIR inaugural was probably 75% full in November 2014 and the return that day was 25-30% if that.
Airlines flown: A3, AA, AC, AF, AM, BA, B6, CO, DL, EA, EL, IB, LH, MI, MQ, NH, NW, NZ, OU, PE, QF, S4, SQ, TP, UA, US, VS, WN
 
chepos
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:32 am

It happens offen, best flight ever was on BR from LAX to TPE. Everyone had a row to themselves for the 13 hour flight. They boarded the flight in like 10 minutes. Not so lucky on the connection to BKK out of TPE.
Fly the Flag!!!!
 
Seat1K
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:49 am

The last flight of the season to Bodrum from Manchester using a 757. We were only three passengers on the 235-seater.Of course it was packed on the return flight. Most holiday flights have planned loads on such seasonal services. Great fun having almost no pax. Crew loved it but would have had to work hard on the return (mercifully I was not booked on it but took TK to IST, then back to MAN).
 
Jshank83
Posts: 955
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:23 pm

Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 5:55 am

I don't know this without looking it up but I think WNs "focus city" to "focus city" shorter routes don't have great loads (compared to longer or non focus to focus short). I flew STL-BNA a lot 2-3 years ago because I was dating someone in Nashville. The flights I was on never were all that full. Especially the Thursday night STL-BNA. They still made it 3x daily recently. I've been on MDW-STL flights that were light also. It obviously depends on the day/time.
 
anstar
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:55 am

Ive been on a VS 747 from Orlando with 17 pac before... more pax than crew!
 
fessor
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Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2014 1:26 pm

Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:21 am

i have tried QR some years ago with 34 pax onboard a A330-300 from DOH-CPH more people in c-class than y-class the plane was almost sold out on return flight was almost sold out in y-class
 
conaly
Posts: 150
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:00 pm

Happened to me once, too: DUS-NUE on a Sunday morning, six passengers on a 90-seater Eurowings CRJ900.
 
cloudboy
Posts: 1054
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:51 pm

I just wish there was a way to know these flights in advance. I love to travel and would love to be able to take last minute short trips. But I can't do flights more than an hour or so in standard width seats when you have an absolutely full plane. If I knew that there was a very high chance of at least getting the middle seat free I would jump on a lot of last minuute flights that otherwise I just don't bother to take.
"Six becoming three doesn't create more Americans that want to fly." -Adam Pilarski
 
rogercamel
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:10 pm

I've been on some flights in Asia with shocking load factors. A bdo-sin flight on MI had less than 20 pax. A sq Singapore to Shanghai where I had the choice of any seat in 10 rows of y. Similar once returning from sgn to sin.

In most of these other flights the other direction was full. I also heard some international routes have minimum frequency stipulations and some flights are flown at a loss to meet these requirements.
 
PSU.DTW.SCE
Posts: 6506
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:12 pm

Typically, low load factor flights involve one or more of the following factors:
- Off-peak business travel heavy routes: Tuesday afternoon/evenings, Wednesday mornings, Saturday afternoon/evenings, Sunday mornings
- Off-peak leisure heavy routes: Tuesday & Wednesdays
- Slower/shoulder travel periods: Late Oct & early-Nov, Early-Dec, Post-holiday period January, Early-Feb
- Flights that are aircraft or crew positioning flights - you tend to see this more on the Connection/Express side where they contractually have to get airlines to RON in maintenance and crew bases
- Flights/routes where there is a imbalance in inbound/outbound traffic

Some of my low load factor experiences:
2008: NW ROA-DTW SF3 with 4 people, it was Saturday afternoon of Labor Day weekend
2009: DL GSP-LGA CRJ with 6 people, it was a Tuesday morning in late-January
2010: DL JFK-DTW 763 with ~50 people, it was a scheduled 763 repositioning flight on what was otherwise a CR9 on a Saturday afternoon in Oct
2010: DL DTW-PLN SF3 with 6 people, Friday afternoon in early-December
2011: DL MSP-DTW CR9 with 10 people, Tuesday late-evening in late-April, the flight that arrived in DTW around 1am
2013: DL ATL-DTW 744 with about 60 people, scheduled repositioning flight on a Saturday evening in early-Dec, otherwise was an MD88
2016: DL DTW-ERI CRJ with 5 people, Tuesday evening in early-Dec
2017: DL DTW-SDF E75, with about 10 people, Tuesday 10pm departure in early-March
 
737max8
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Re: Small Load Factor

Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:21 pm

Flights like this happen every single day on every single major airline.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in my comments do not represent that of any airline or affiliate.
Flown on: 717 733 734 735 736 737 738 739 744 744ER 752 753 762 763 772 773ER 788 A319/20/21 A332 A333 A343 A359 A388
 
Boston92
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Re: Small Load Factor

Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:09 pm

Back when Skywest has what seemed like 30 flights a day between LAX-SAN, I remember being the only passenger or one of 2-3 a handful of times.
 
alggag
Posts: 225
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Re: Small Load Factor

Sat Nov 18, 2017 4:12 am

I've been on some WN flights with only about 10 (or less) people. Happened a few times when I would take the early morning HOU-AUS flight especially when it was like a Tuesday during a slow period.
 
flydude380
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:10 am

Canceling a flight isn't really an option sometimes, as the aircraft may be needed somewhere.

As a passenger service agent for a GHA, I've handled a BA Cityflyer Las Palmas flight that only had 10 pax, on Qatar Airways, which I mainly handle, we recently had a flight that had only 40 pax in Y and 10 pax in J on our 787 - felt like heaven checking it in and departing it!! :) there was also a time this summer, when we had only 30 pax on the inbound 787.

And the day before Monarch Airlines collapsed, I checked-in and departed a Malaga flight with only 17 pax.

I love these light loads! ;)
 
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jetmechanicdave
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:27 am

My wife and were in SAN and our plane got grounded for a minor problem that would be fixed shortly. They gave all PAX the option to get on another plane, but my wife and I chose to wait until they fixed the problem. My wife and I and the crew were the only ones on the plane (737-700). We got spoiled that evening.
Aircraft Mechanic and Airliners.net Forum Moderator
 
EIDL
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:41 am

Mid week flights DUB-CFN against the normal flow (northbound in the morning, southbound in the evening) can run empty bit with the opposite sold out. Have been on my own and one of 3 on them before.
 
ncflyer
Posts: 607
Joined: Tue Sep 05, 2000 7:03 pm

Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:33 pm

To me the more interesting question is flights with consistently low load factors. . . .why they would continue to fly with as much capacity as they do. Obviously some rural routes in USA are subsidized--- but beyond that?????
 
Rdh3e
Posts: 3199
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:44 pm

Southwest's Cuba services have had some embarrassingly low load factors. FLL-VRA for example is at 26% for the period in T100 and was 15.7% in February. That's on 2 daily departures.
 
airbazar
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:17 pm

It happens all the time. Just last month I flew WN, MHT-BWI on a Friday night and there must have been only 50 pax on the plane. On the return, Sunday night, there wasn't a single seat open. There are a lot of other factors that are more or equally important to LF on a single flight.
For example, DL's BOS-LHR load factor is consistently in the mid 60's, even in the peak of Summer season sometimes and yet DL keeps the flights going and has been doing so for years.
 
freakyrat
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:22 pm

Happens in SBN on some of the mainline inbound flights after Notre Dame football games with the possible exception of flights from ATL. Those flight often reach over 75-80 passengers on a B717 or MD88 but the ones out of DTW and MSP may have only 60 or so pax. Both types go out full to ATL/DTW/MSP. I'm sure this happens a lot during college football season to all cities with big time programs whose airports are normally served by RJ's but go to mainline on football weekends.
 
Flaps
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Re: Small Load Factor

Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:24 pm

I was on a DL PIT-MCO flight on a 72S with 7 passengers. We all sat up front and had a great time. There were twice as many pax on my EMB110 connecting flight to DAB.
 
Planesmart
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Re: How often are airlines operating flights with small load factors?

Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:10 pm

It will become a lot rarer post-2020, and even more so post-2026, though not in the USA until they re-join the Paris Climate Agreement.
 
gunnerman
Posts: 310
Joined: Fri May 19, 2017 7:55 pm

Re: How often are airlines operating flights with small load factors?

Mon Nov 20, 2017 9:35 pm

An airline may fly largely empty aircraft to hang onto slots at slot-controlled airports. In the UK, Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) allocates slots at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, London Luton and London City twice yearly for the summer season and the winter season. Airlines have ‘Grandfather rights’ which entitle them to continue using the same slot in the next scheduling period, provided that it has used that slot for at least 80% of the previous period. This is often known as the 'use it or lose it’ rule.

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