Dead-head refers to a crew traveling, not working, from one city to another. When an aircraft goes from one city to another with just crew, it's called a ferry flight. Most ferry flights are unplanned, and as a result, aren't listed in any schedule. Typically a ferry flight will take on the aircrafts' tail number as a flight number unless the aircraft is ferrying on a flight that was otherwise cancelled.
For example, I worked a flight from ORD
where we were delayed over four hours due to weather. When we arrived in BOS
, we were to work a return flight to ORD
. But all the pax on our flight were accommodated on other flights so we simply ferried an empty aircraft back to ORD
. In that case, we used the normal flight number assigned to that flight. Another time I ferried an aircraft from COS
. That flight was not scheduled, and we took on our tail number as our flight number.
Ferries don't happen often since it costs a lot of money to fly an airplane empty. Usually if an airline needs to move an aircraft from one city to another, they simply sell it as a flight. For years Delta did that from OAK
. The flight only operated once a day and late at night. It was simply to get the aircraft to RNO
for a flight in the morning. I doubt the loads were ever anything to write home about. Likewise, I worked a flight on an AA
737 from JFK
, which was normally operated by Eagle. The last flight out was a 737 as it was a "placement" flight to get the aircraft to BDA for the morning bank.
The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect my employer’s views.