Posts: 740
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2003 1:31 pm

Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 10:48 am

Do airlines cancel flights because they are empty? Do you have real or imagined proof of this? I would love to hear your replies?
Posts: 1245
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 1:38 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 10:50 am

Not at my airline, we need the flight to go to get our compleation factor as high as it can get. I don't know about the others
Posts: 187
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 9:11 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 10:53 am

U.S. federal law prohibits airlines from cancelling flights with low-loads
Posts: 3863
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2000 10:46 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 10:57 am

They do, but they desguise it. My dad was traveling ATL-EVV one day and his flight was cancelled due to "mechanical". While it may be possible, all signs leadt to light loads...inlcuding the fact that they had him bookedon other flights before he checked in. If he had taken that flight, however, I'd probably be writing this from EVV and not sunny FLL!
Posts: 740
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2003 1:31 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 11:23 am

Thats my example of imagined proof! I have work for 5 different airlines and they don't cancel flight due to light loads. The airplane or crew just doesn't fly back and forth to the same place all day. One time they took our perfectly good plane with a light load and gave it to full flight and then gave us a broken one. It ended up being cancelled, 10 people were inconvienenced instead of 140.
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2004 4:01 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 11:44 am

That's one of the most persistent and baseless misconceptions among airline passengers. If there are problems somewhere else in the system, a flight with a light load might be cancelled in order to facilitate the smooth operation of the schedule overall. Thus, a passenger may see a flight cancellation for no apparent reason other than "emptiness."

Airlines have EXTREMELY complicated planning requirements for aircraft and crew placements for daily operations, and even where a flight is a certain loser in terms of passenger load, that aircraft has been assigned a certain rotation in the schedule, and other flights depend on its being where it's supposed to be. Many factors are considered in this aircraft placement scheme, including maintenance requirements, crew scheduling, etc. This complex planning operation simply cannot be subjected to the short-term vagaries of load variations.

Scheduled cancellations, called NO-OPS, ARE often a part of an airline's operation during predictable periods of light traffic, such as holidays. These no-ops are simply reductions in a schedule and are planned and posted many months in advance. There could be instances where passengers, used to seeing a flight operate on a given schedule, seeing that on a particular day it is NOT available, might conclude that it was cancelled due to light load. In a sense true, but not really a "cancellation."
Posts: 3863
Joined: Thu Oct 26, 2000 10:46 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 11:53 am

my dad was at the airport when he found out. it was a busy time and all ops had been smooth. I did research and found NO delays or cancellations prior to his flight. This was a 10:10am flight...first fo the day to EVV...supposed to be empty. My dad might be the exception to what is stated above, but it does happen.
Posts: 4727
Joined: Sat Dec 04, 1999 1:58 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 11:55 am

I met a TWA flight from OMA-MCI that got in at 11:00 p.m. and the only "passenger" was my counter to counter package I was waiting for. I suppose they could have cancelled it, but that would have meant they would have had to cancel the MCI-STL flight that the aircraft was needed for the next morning.
Alpha 1
Posts: 12343
Joined: Sat Feb 03, 2001 12:12 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 11:58 am

Remember, most times, if you cancel one leg for an aircraft, you'll probably have to cancel at least one other ,and as many as 5 or 6 legs for that aircraft, depending on the time of day or the availibility of other aircraft. Your flight may have 15 people on it, but the next leg could be overbooked, something that a customer, who may not see "the big picture" fails to consider or realize.

A scenario that does happen is cancelling a lightly booked flight to run a flight that is more heavily booked, if they're both similar equipment, and you can't accomodate people that easy on the more heavily booked flight, and can accomodate those fairly easily on the lightly booked flight. This happens sometime, but it's not technically a cancellation because the flight is empty. It's the old adage "the good of the many outweight the good of the few."  Smile
Posts: 592
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2004 6:19 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 4:45 pm

Airlines won't cancel a flight if it is empty. The aircraft is on a set schedule, meaning there are flights that specific plane is set for provided no mechanicals. The airline needs the plane at the destination to go ahead and turn into another flight.
Dejale Caer tu el Peso! YOMO
Posts: 15080
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2003 4:36 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 9:08 pm

QF definitely do, on domestic sectors with high frequency - 2 flights close together can be merged if one of the flights has low sales - pax just get reaccomodated onto the next flight.
Young and beautiful and thin and gorgeous AND BANNED ! Cya at airspaceonline.com, losers
Posts: 1388
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2001 8:24 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Tue Feb 03, 2004 9:45 pm

The First Principal of Transport is that whatever the day, whatever the routing, there will always be an Inbalance of Flow!

As said above, the aircraft is not only going on the empty sector, it also has a schedule for the rest of the day/week. My main experience was with long haul, so we never cancelled flights, not only because of the differing load factors, but also for crew scheduling. A crew operating an 'empty' flight, might be due to operate another flight after their 'slip', and if they were not in the right place, then the later flight would have crewing problems!

Recent cancellations (of 'full' flights) through 'Intelligence Reports' cause havoc, not only to the delayed passengers, but particularly, the airline involved!

Per Ardua ad Astra! ........ Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense!
Posts: 1843
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 10:30 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 12:12 am

I can say WN XCL PHX-ABQ-PHX QUITE OFTEN. Oh sure they use the "Mechanical" reasons. A friend of mine who is an agent in ABQ says this one flight is always booked at 5-15 people and they are XCL 3-4x a week.
Posts: 2259
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2003 10:58 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:02 am

Not only is it against federal law to cancel flights due to low-loads, but I don't think some people understand how a simple cancellation of that would create a whole myriad of problems on the other side of the spectrum.

Airlines plan out days in advance just exactly where they expect planes and crews to be at the end of the day. If a flight is going to be going out light, they could easily cancel it, but they then have to put the scheduling department at work trying to put this crew somewhere, they then have to decide where to stick this plane in the meantime, and reroute all other arrivals that were scheduled to use that gate. Thats in a hub. If the plane will be remaining overnight somewhere, you then will have a canceled flight the next morning to deal with. Most flights will run, passengers or not, all because they are positioning flights for later on.

I once had a day during bad weather that we were able to move everyone on a 7pm flight that was now leaving at 10pm to a delayed 6pm flight that was now leaving at 8pm. When that 7pm inbound aircraft came in, it brought in 14 people and left out with 1, and even that person was a nonrev.

Of course, when our flights cancel, as a passenger we will always blame it on light loads, its the easiest thing to do and makes it seem as this airline is more ruthless than another. We don't want to admit to ourselves that maybe our safety was a factor in the cancellation, or maybe it is something thats out of our hands. Those are all too hard to personally accept. We can say, "Well, it bet it cancelled because of a light load, thats why I will never fly this airline again." We feel much better after sticking the blame all on something.
I don't have a microwave, but I do have a clock that occasionally cooks shit.
Posts: 3413
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2004 9:22 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:24 am

Airlines dont cancel flights with light loads? And the tooth fairy now has a union contract that says you must put no less then 4 teeth under your pillow.
I have over 1600 commercial flights under my belt and I can guarantee you to the death, they DO xcl flights with very light loads. Take it to the bank, gang!
Against the law? So is 56 miles per hour on a two lane highway in my state.
Any how many people drive at 55 or under? Close to nil. I think we all know that.
The number one excuses airline people give out are..... no crew or "weather". We have all seen the weather trick..they say "weather" so we call someone at our destination and they say "what storm?..its sunny and nice here".
been there...seen that ....more times then you would believe.
If two people agree on EVERYTHING, then one isn't necessary.
Posts: 14133
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2002 10:25 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:29 am

Its "illegal", but almost every return flight CMH-DCA I've ever tried to take on US got cancelled for whatever random reason.

I used to go twice a month, and literally 20 of the 24 return segments were cancelled, and I'd get rerouted via PIT or PHL.

These flights were always sparsely loaded.

Posts: 2556
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2003 1:30 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 1:40 am

"Airlines have EXTREMELY complicated planning requirements for aircraft and crew placements for daily operations"

Hmpf... no kidding. Try writing computer code to do it all... for a bloody game!

Actually, most airlines have something along the lines of a "delay/swap/cancel" advisor. It is ususally a computer program that does all the figuring for them of what would happen down the line. Mostly it is for situations like mechanical or weather delays. I suspect it would be good for lumping low load flights together, however. Why run 2 a/c that are less than half full when you can run one?

"Remember, most times, if you cancel one leg for an aircraft, you'll probably have to cancel at least one other ,and as many as 5 or 6 legs for that aircraft"

That is the crux of the problem. In a purely "out and back" hub system, it is the simplest calculation. If I cancel this "outbound" leg, I also have to cancel the return leg as well.

Dave Mark - Intrinsic Algorithm - Reducing the world to mathematical equations!
Posts: 740
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2003 1:31 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 2:11 am

I thought this was a popular misconception made by passengers, I will put it under urban legend! I have worked for 5 different airlines in the cabin, at the gate, ticket counter, operations, and ramp. I have yet to hear of a flight cancelled because the load was light. Once I was at ORD boarding the 8am flight to MSP. We have hourly flights. A passenger comes ranting and raving about us canceling the 7am flight becasue it was empty. At the gate next door was a DC9 with its engine cowling open mechanics working on it. Even after I pointed this out he stuck by his story that we were a bunch of liars. As far as the hub and spoke system, most majors have more than one hub so its all not out and back flying. To our dismay sometimes we even have to switch planes at out stations.
Posts: 2077
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2003 11:32 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 2:26 am

I've gotten that from passengers too. I've never seen a flight cancelled either because of light loads...of course they probably wouldn't tell us if it was. I've seen "OPNL DECISION" before, usually means it was cancelled for some reason other than mx, wx, crew....they also use it for planned cancellations around holidays.
Catch a ride on a smile!
Posts: 1457
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2001 1:11 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 3:30 am

I often have the unfortunate task of calling people when their flight is cancelled. The thing about aircraft schedules being complicated is very true. I often have to call about 4 different flights resulting from one aircraft out of service.

Weather is often used as a reason for cancelling flights because weather is often the primary reason why a particular flight was cancelled. So what if the weather is great in Atlanta and great in Indianapolis, the weather is really crappy in Washington DC where the aircraft and flight attendants are. Sometimes the weather is extremely crappy over Louisville, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and flying over the storm would be asking for a lawsuit when turbulence sends 5 passengers and two flight attendants rapidly flying toward to the ceiling and then rapidly crashing back to the floor, or onto other passengers. Flying around the storm makes you overfly DEN on the way (i.e. not feasible due to range restrictions)

And the passengers really don't want to believe this. I once called someone from Cincinnati, where I am based, about a flight cancelled out of CVG, and someone had the nerve to tell me that the weather was great in Cincinnati. I'm sorry, don't you hear the thunder. Let me open the window for you.

This is yet another reason why I love the Gate Information Display Screens that Delta has. They can just pull up the radar weather and point, see that line of pink, that means freezing rain. Freezing rain accumulates on aircraft wings and causes their shape to alter. An altered aircraft wing does not provide adequate lift. The aircraft becomes a rock. YAAA!

Think what you want, they don't cancel because of light loads
Posts: 120
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2003 11:32 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 3:40 am

All this makes me feel much better, just yesterday I was having this discussion about a 757 flight coming up that I and three other people are on so far. An early sunday flight on DL from IAD-ATL.
Posts: 9576
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:09 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 3:51 am

"Light loads" is just a cover story. The planes are ferried to a secret base in the Bermuda Triangle by men in black suits, to refill the chemical tanks with the mind control drugs that we spray back and forth across the oceans.

I'd like to see a person who beleives that a major airline cancels due to light loads take on the project of getting the planes, crews freight, mail AOG shipments squared away after just one such cancelation. Don't forget to make up the time, because the next maintenance is scheduled on a certain date, based on the time expected to be flown.

As a crewmember I am mildly incovenienced when we cancel a segment. I keep my perspective though, being thankful I don't have to deal with all the out-of-position people and equipment that result from the cancelation.

Illegal? You going 56 in a 55 zone leaves no paper trail. EVERYTHING an airline does leaves one. Fine for speeding - a few bucks. Fine for violating Federal regs by an airline - typically $10-12 thousand per event. The true cost of canceling a flight probably exceeds the after-tax cost of operating it.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
Posts: 1875
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 4:43 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 5:02 am


One possible reason you say he thought it was lightly booked is that others had already been protected by being booked on alternatives. You've said he was in fact pre-rearranged. That rebooking process can start way in advance if knowledge is available of, say a broke acft, in another city that would have been scheduled to be his flight. He may already have been enroute and unable to receive the rebooking information.

But yes, it can happen. The loads an acft is scheduled to have CAN influence which leg may be cancelled in order to effect the least people, crew, aircraft, maintenance schedule and airport where that maintenance can take place AND where the parts and facilities needed are available. It is only one factor and never the single determining factor.

Yet another possibility is that if the agent explained it as a mechanical problem they were just giving a simple reason that they hoped needed no further explaination when in fact it was more involved than that whether that info was available or not.
Less sarcasm and more thought equal better understanding
Posts: 1457
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2001 1:11 pm

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:23 am

Delta has automation that rebooks passengers on the next available DL flight as soon as a flight has been cancelled. Then it falls to folks like me to call. Sometimes we have time to get hold of everyone. Sometimes we don't. Often we don't have the correct phone number. I realize that many passengers don't trust any company with that little bit of information, but those are often the same passengers who raise a large stink about the airline not contacting them. It must have been a conspiracy  Insane. A helpful hint to those of you who are thinking of traveling; as soon as you know give the airline every phone number at which you might reasonably be reached during your travel (work, home, CELL, destination phone numbers) We do try to call. Really.
User avatar
eta unknown
Posts: 1876
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2001 5:03 am

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 8:01 am

Isitsafenow hit the nail on the head and I'm afraid to say, airlines do cancel flights because of light loads- I was once told this was the reason for my non-op LAX-DFW flight by the Delta check-in staff.

And if anybody ever flew United EWR-ORD prior to 9/11, you would know very well that flights get cancelled for no pax, especially if the aircraft is rostered to fly back and forth- don't forget, there is still a lot of that kind of flying- look at AA's ORD based fleet.

Yes, it may be illegal, but so what- you just log the cancellation as a mechanical- who is going to check?

[Edited 2004-02-04 00:22:52]

RE: Canceling Empty Flights!

Wed Feb 04, 2004 8:08 am

I've seen flights cancelled because they had light loads and the aircraft for another, full flight went mechanical. So, they cancel one and swap the aircraft to the other.

Popular Searches On Airliners.net

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos