Moderators: richierich, ua900, PanAm_DC10, hOMSaR

 
User avatar
SumChristianus
Topic Author
Posts: 814
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:00 am

US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Mon Jan 23, 2023 11:10 pm

Scott Kirby's comments about rivals being unable to staff the flights they have scheduled, in last week's UA earnings call have been mentioned already on this forum, but I found these articles interesting that show that the US DOT is now investigating the worst offenders of such "phantom scheduling", selling tickets on flights the airline knows they won't operate.

https://www.levernews.com/airline-ceo-a ... buttigieg/

The Transportation Department did not respond to a request for comment about the rule and the letter demanding Buttigieg act. An agency spokesperson told the New York Times that the department is investigating three unnamed U.S. airlines over whether the companies have been scheduling flights they cannot staff.


And apparently some of this could have been started by Kirby's comments:

https://www.rawstory.com/airline-fraud/

Kirby's comments about competitors' alleged scheduling practices caught the attention of the anti-monopoly think tank American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), which described them as "the airlines' open admission of fraud."


"What an extraordinary admission," William McGee, senior fellow for aviation and travel at AELP and author of the airline industry exposé Attention All Passengers, tweeted Thursday.

For months, the AELP has asked the DOT "to investigate IF airlines were accepting bookings (and $!) for flights they couldn't operate," he said. "Now United's CEO confirmed it. Imagine any other industry taking money for products it can't deliver."

"Ironically, we're learning more about canceled flights from the airlines than we are from the Department of Transportation," McGee toldThe Lever, while also pointing out that the DOT's "complaint database showed that United was by far the worst offender on unpaid refunds dating back to the earliest days of Covid in 2020."


Will this go anywhere?

I know lots of people talk on this forum about AS habitually selling an over-ambitious schedule months ahead, but it seems like its an all or most of the industry practice.

Could the DOT realistcally force carriers to finalize schedules earlier? Or shorten the booking-window?
 
Deuceflyer
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Oct 02, 2022 10:43 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Mon Jan 23, 2023 11:21 pm

AA is the #1 worst offender of this. They have banks of flights loaded in the placeholder for some of their hubs that have not operated in almost a year.
 
GSPSPOT
Posts: 2761
Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2003 1:44 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:14 am

Deuceflyer wrote:
AA is the #1 worst offender of this. They have banks of flights loaded in the placeholder for some of their hubs that have not operated in almost a year.

So, THAT'S why there are so many "schedule changes" visited upon pax who book in advance.
 
gmcc
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:54 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:15 am

Not saying they shouldn't look at it, but they will probably have a hard time proving airlines in general are doing this. I see all sorts of loopholes, such as projected staffing levels not matching actual staffing or aircraft availability base on unscheduled maintenance, etc. If they get one of the airlines on this and are made an example of, the rest will probably cut flight to ensure they have the staff. Given the reduced flight options on increased staffing, costs and therefore prices will go up and choices will go down.
 
alasizon
Posts: 3552
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:57 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:32 am

I don't foresee the DOT being able to prove this at all because all it would take is the carrier saying they did intend to operate those flights/banks but due to changes in forecast operating conditions it was cut.

The only case DOT would be able to prove would be if an airline was still selling flights to markets they no longer planned to operate after the cessation was publicly announced.
 
cledaybuck
Posts: 2155
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2016 6:07 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:37 am

alasizon wrote:
I don't foresee the DOT being able to prove this at all because all it would take is the carrier saying they did intend to operate those flights/banks but due to changes in forecast operating conditions it was cut.

The only case DOT would be able to prove would be if an airline was still selling flights to markets they no longer planned to operate after the cessation was publicly announced.

I can still buy UA flights on Air Wisconsin this summer. Does that count?
 
alasizon
Posts: 3552
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:57 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:42 am

cledaybuck wrote:
alasizon wrote:
I don't foresee the DOT being able to prove this at all because all it would take is the carrier saying they did intend to operate those flights/banks but due to changes in forecast operating conditions it was cut.

The only case DOT would be able to prove would be if an airline was still selling flights to markets they no longer planned to operate after the cessation was publicly announced.

I can still buy UA flights on Air Wisconsin this summer. Does that count?


I would say yes if that same flight isn't going to operate on another carrier (i.e. same time slot +/-). The fact that UA is even still selling ZW flights shows just poor schedule management.
 
cledaybuck
Posts: 2155
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2016 6:07 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:13 am

alasizon wrote:
cledaybuck wrote:
alasizon wrote:
I don't foresee the DOT being able to prove this at all because all it would take is the carrier saying they did intend to operate those flights/banks but due to changes in forecast operating conditions it was cut.

The only case DOT would be able to prove would be if an airline was still selling flights to markets they no longer planned to operate after the cessation was publicly announced.

I can still buy UA flights on Air Wisconsin this summer. Does that count?


I would say yes if that same flight isn't going to operate on another carrier (i.e. same time slot +/-). The fact that UA is even still selling ZW flights shows just poor schedule management.

This Wednesday, I can buy 4 flights DAY-ORD on UA, all on ZW CRJ's. Wednesday May 17, I can buy 5 flights DAY-ORD on UA 3 on OO E175's and 2 on ZW CRJ's (on 3 ZW CRJ's on AA for that matter). On Wednesday, July 12 6 ZW flights on UA. I'm almost positive they are selling flights they know they are not going to operate.

On a separate note, two years in a row I have bought the AA 8:00 pm ish departure CMH-DFW. Two years in a row, it's not going to operate at that time.
 
User avatar
gatibosgru
Posts: 1925
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:48 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:35 am

Deuceflyer wrote:
AA is the #1 worst offender of this. They have banks of flights loaded in the placeholder for some of their hubs that have not operated in almost a year.


Have to agree with this one. AA stands out for sure.
 
B6JFKH81
Posts: 2363
Joined: Thu Mar 16, 2006 6:35 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:51 am

gmcc wrote:
Not saying they shouldn't look at it, but they will probably have a hard time proving airlines in general are doing this. I see all sorts of loopholes, such as projected staffing levels not matching actual staffing or aircraft availability base on unscheduled maintenance, etc. If they get one of the airlines on this and are made an example of, the rest will probably cut flight to ensure they have the staff. Given the reduced flight options on increased staffing, costs and therefore prices will go up and choices will go down.


I agree. The route planning crews go off of information provided by other groups. Aircraft deliveries are not going as planned, look at the production delays on the A220 and A32X families, or the certification issues on the A321XLR or the MAX7/10. The aircraft delivery groups are told they'll be getting a certain # of planes delivered from the OEM for the year, then the number drops as the year goes on due to production delays. That hurts expansion, aircraft retirement planning, heavy maintenance scheduling, etc. And as for the staffing, that's an entirely separate and complex issue. You need to increase pilots and flight attendants as the fleet number grows, and there are projections on the number of crew members they are going to bring onboard, and those targets might not be met. It is a complex, multi faceted thing to do. You obviously can't wait for the last minute to schedule a route, that comes out months in advance, based on the aforementioned information. So, how do you prove the airline maliciously sold the tickets if the flight didn't operate with all these variables?
 
User avatar
RyanairGuru
Posts: 9472
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006 3:59 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:52 am

Schedules will always fluctuate with trends in demand, but where an airline says something like ‘if we hire 10,000 staff in two months and have zero attrition then we could staff our entire schedule,’ that’s clearly unrealistic. An extreme example, but that’s basically the point Kirby was making. While I doubt any enforcement action would come of it, I expect the DOT to ask the airlines to explain their proposed workforce model to justify their forward schedule.

United still selling flights operated by ZW is disingenuous, but if they can say ‘we will operate those flights, but are still shuffling around the regionals and will have this sorted in the next couple of months’, I think that’s less egregious than a farcically unrealistic schedule based on almost impossible levels of staffing.
 
LH707330
Posts: 2649
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:27 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 4:39 am

RyanairGuru wrote:
Schedules will always fluctuate with trends in demand, but where an airline says something like ‘if we hire 10,000 staff in two months and have zero attrition then we could staff our entire schedule,’ that’s clearly unrealistic. An extreme example, but that’s basically the point Kirby was making. While I doubt any enforcement action would come of it, I expect the DOT to ask the airlines to explain their proposed workforce model to justify their forward schedule.

United still selling flights operated by ZW is disingenuous, but if they can say ‘we will operate those flights, but are still shuffling around the regionals and will have this sorted in the next couple of months’, I think that’s less egregious than a farcically unrealistic schedule based on almost impossible levels of staffing.

I think this is probably what they're after. Whether they can prove 100% that phantom flights were scheduled will be tough, but the point is probably to make the investigation painful enough to encourage the airlines to knock it off. If they get 70% less ridiculous with it, I'd call that a win.
 
User avatar
argentinevol98
Posts: 379
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2020 9:40 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:47 am

While the focus is clearly the big national carriers (and for good reason), I wonder if a version of this could be applied to carriers like Eastern. Eastern constantly announces new routes, sell tickets for said route, and then abruptly cancel the route to either to schedule charters or simply because they can't staff it. It routinely seems they have very little intention of operating the flights and use the scheduling as a "well if we can't get a good charter contract we'll do it, but hopefully we won't have to" type placeholder.
 
Sydscott
Posts: 3611
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 11:50 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 6:01 am

According to American Airlines from Dec 16 to Jan 2 their schedule was 31% bigger than that of United, their completion factor was the highest of any carrier and they had the best on time departure and second best on time arrival record. So fairly disingenuous comments from Scott Kirby. Yes Southwest had a meltdown but that aside it seems like the other Big Carriers had fairly robust and well worked schedules. Could it have been done better? Or course. Could they be more accurate in adding flights to their schedule and then withdrawing them? Naturally. But I think the biggest thing the DOT could so it so force the airlines to give full refunds within a strictish time limit to consumers. That would probably resolve 90% of complaints.

My source for that data on AA:

https://www.wfaa.com/article/money/busi ... a3487ec00c
 
USAirKid
Posts: 1518
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:42 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 6:10 am

Sydscott wrote:
According to American Airlines from Dec 16 to Jan 2 their schedule was 31% bigger than that of United, their completion factor was the highest of any carrier and they had the best on time departure and second best on time arrival record. So fairly disingenuous comments from Scott Kirby. Yes Southwest had a meltdown but that aside it seems like the other Big Carriers had fairly robust and well worked schedules. Could it have been done better? Or course. Could they be more accurate in adding flights to their schedule and then withdrawing them? Naturally. But I think the biggest thing the DOT could so it so force the airlines to give full refunds within a strictish time limit to consumers. That would probably resolve 90% of complaints.

My source for that data on AA:

https://www.wfaa.com/article/money/busi ... a3487ec00c


Fwiw in this discussion cancellation numbers are nearly meaningless. If you cancel a flight eight days before it was scheduled to fly it doesn’t show up in the cancellation statistic, it is just a schedule change.

Which leads me to thinking that perhaps the DOT would be better off coming up with a close in schedule change metric. Cancel the flight between 31 and 8 days before it was scheduled, it shows up there. Then have a medium schedule change metric for flights that get cancelled 90 to 32 days before they’re scheduled to fly. This’d give some actual data around what is happening.
 
Yossarian22
Posts: 190
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:25 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 6:10 am

Globally, in the last year, I had flights booked on AA, QR, and ET that all had 12-24 hour schedule changes.

When the airlines had very customer friendly change policies I was okay with the ghost flights. Now, that they are returning to pre-COVID change policies I have much less sympathy.

To me, a simple starting place is that airlines have to pay passengers the same change fee they charge passenger, if a flight is adjusted by more than an hour.
 
alasizon
Posts: 3552
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:57 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 6:55 am

Yossarian22 wrote:
Globally, in the last year, I had flights booked on AA, QR, and ET that all had 12-24 hour schedule changes.

When the airlines had very customer friendly change policies I was okay with the ghost flights. Now, that they are returning to pre-COVID change policies I have much less sympathy.

To me, a simple starting place is that airlines have to pay passengers the same change fee they charge passenger, if a flight is adjusted by more than an hour.


At least in the US, as far as I'm aware no carrier has moved to their pre-COVID change policies and all continue to offer free schedule changes and refunds if your flight is touched by a schedule change.
 
DaCubbyBearBar
Posts: 603
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2008 12:31 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:05 am

What can they do to enforce any penalty? Issue fines? Take away slots? Take away gates? Any thing is possible, but any sort of enforcement would be hard and even tougher to prove intent. just my $0.02
 
User avatar
RyanairGuru
Posts: 9472
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006 3:59 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 7:21 am

Sydscott wrote:
According to American Airlines from Dec 16 to Jan 2 their schedule was 31% bigger than that of United, their completion factor was the highest of any carrier and they had the best on time departure and second best on time arrival record. So fairly disingenuous comments from Scott Kirby. Yes Southwest had a meltdown but that aside it seems like the other Big Carriers had fairly robust and well worked schedules. Could it have been done better? Or course. Could they be more accurate in adding flights to their schedule and then withdrawing them? Naturally. But I think the biggest thing the DOT could so it so force the airlines to give full refunds within a strictish time limit to consumers. That would probably resolve 90% of complaints.

My source for that data on AA:

https://www.wfaa.com/article/money/busi ... a3487ec00c


Operational delays and cancellations on the day of travel, or even within a week, isn’t really what Kirby (or DOT) are talking about. It’s selling flights 3 or more months out which you never intend to operate. I haven’t followed AA’s schedule updates, but another poster upthread said that they have a hub bank scheduled month after month, but then gets canceled closer in. That won’t show on DOT reporting, but could inconvenience thousands of passengers every week.
 
MohawkWeekend
Posts: 2234
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:06 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 11:02 am

Yossarian22 wrote:
Globally, in the last year, I had flights booked on AA, QR, and ET that all had 12-24 hour schedule changes.

When the airlines had very customer friendly change policies I was okay with the ghost flights. Now, that they are returning to pre-COVID change policies I have much less sympathy.

To me, a simple starting place is that airlines have to pay passengers the same change fee they charge passenger, if a flight is adjusted by more than an hour.


Now that's not a bad idea ....maybe a few hours though.
 
chonetsao
Posts: 1262
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2005 3:55 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:01 pm

I am an AA fAAnboy, I don't deny that. And I definitely agree with Kirby, AA has a pattern of holding flights schedule months in advance then cancel frequencies closer to the time of operation as yield management matric kicks in. This method fits in AA's operational requirement and it generally works for AA when AA was trying to find the best scheduling following the AA/US merger. But now, the merger is long completed, I do wish AA could be more stable in schedule planning and have less place holder flights. I mean, AA must have a large enough data base to know exactly how many seats it is going to sell and how many flights are required. I also think past 2 quarters AA is improving and less schedule change reported by flyers.
 
MIflyer12
Posts: 11768
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:58 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:09 pm

alasizon wrote:
Yossarian22 wrote:
Globally, in the last year, I had flights booked on AA, QR, and ET that all had 12-24 hour schedule changes.

When the airlines had very customer friendly change policies I was okay with the ghost flights. Now, that they are returning to pre-COVID change policies I have much less sympathy.

To me, a simple starting place is that airlines have to pay passengers the same change fee they charge passenger, if a flight is adjusted by more than an hour.


At least in the US, as far as I'm aware no carrier has moved to their pre-COVID change policies and all continue to offer free schedule changes and refunds if your flight is touched by a schedule change.


'Touched by a schedule change' is a little bit disingenuous. AA/DL/UA all lengthened the minimum qualifying time that allowed a passenger to qualify for a free rebooking or refund. DL, for example, went from 90 minutes domestically to 120 minutes. UA tried going from 2 hours to 25 hours before getting DOT pushback. (I was happy to have filed my DOT complaint before the One Mile at a Time article.)

https://onemileatatime.com/united-airli ... nd-policy/

Along with the Southwest Christmas meltdown, this stands a fair chance of blowing up the industry's 'We offered you a rebooking or refund and owe you nothing more' stance.
 
Aliqiout
Posts: 831
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:10 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:41 pm

chonetsao wrote:
I am an AA fAAnboy, I don't deny that. And I definitely agree with Kirby, AA has a pattern of holding flights schedule months in advance then cancel frequencies closer to the time of operation as yield management matric kicks in. This method fits in AA's operational requirement and it generally works for AA when AA was trying to find the best scheduling following the AA/US merger. But now, the merger is long completed, I do wish AA could be more stable in schedule planning and have less place holder flights. I mean, AA must have a large enough data base to know exactly how many seats it is going to sell and how many flights are required. I also think past 2 quarters AA is improving and less schedule change reported by flyers.

Its not about how many seats they can sell. It's about how many seats they can staff and have the airplanes for.
 
Aliqiout
Posts: 831
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:10 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:43 pm

alasizon wrote:
I don't foresee the DOT being able to prove this at all because all it would take is the carrier saying they did intend to operate those flights/banks but due to changes in forecast operating conditions it was cut.

The only case DOT would be able to prove would be if an airline was still selling flights to markets they no longer planned to operate after the cessation was publicly announced.

It's a lot easier than that. They just have to prove that they are scheduling more flights than they can fly with their planned staff and equipment level.
 
Aliqiout
Posts: 831
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:10 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:47 pm

DaCubbyBearBar wrote:
What can they do to enforce any penalty? Issue fines? Take away slots? Take away gates? Any thing is possible, but any sort of enforcement would be hard and even tougher to prove intent. just my $0.02

It doesn't sound tough. The size of fleets and staff levels are planned out farther in advance than schedules are published. I'd their advance shedule exceeds those limits it is proved.
 
Aliqiout
Posts: 831
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:10 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:53 pm

B6JFKH81 wrote:
gmcc wrote:
Not saying they shouldn't look at it, but they will probably have a hard time proving airlines in general are doing this. I see all sorts of loopholes, such as projected staffing levels not matching actual staffing or aircraft availability base on unscheduled maintenance, etc. If they get one of the airlines on this and are made an example of, the rest will probably cut flight to ensure they have the staff. Given the reduced flight options on increased staffing, costs and therefore prices will go up and choices will go down.


I agree. The route planning crews go off of information provided by other groups. Aircraft deliveries are not going as planned, look at the production delays on the A220 and A32X families, or the certification issues on the A321XLR or the MAX7/10. The aircraft delivery groups are told they'll be getting a certain # of planes delivered from the OEM for the year, then the number drops as the year goes on due to production delays. That hurts expansion, aircraft retirement planning, heavy maintenance scheduling, etc. And as for the staffing, that's an entirely separate and complex issue. You need to increase pilots and flight attendants as the fleet number grows, and there are projections on the number of crew members they are going to bring onboard, and those targets might not be met. It is a complex, multi faceted thing to do. You obviously can't wait for the last minute to schedule a route, that comes out months in advance, based on the aforementioned information. So, how do you prove the airline maliciously sold the tickets if the flight didn't operate with all these variables?

You are making this to complicated. Its not about individual flights. No one is trying to restrict airlines from canceling flights do to poor performance. We will always have individual flight cancelations. This is about scheduling more flights than the airline can operate, not about investigating decisions to cut a certain flight.
 
Ziyulu
Posts: 1238
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 10:35 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 2:58 pm

What about for equipment changes? Don't you remember UA advertised a lot of flights in their new Polaris class that ended up not happening?
 
Planes4you
Posts: 393
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:35 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 3:08 pm

Ziyulu wrote:
What about for equipment changes? Don't you remember UA advertised a lot of flights in their new Polaris class that ended up not happening?



Why would equipment changes be included in this? That’s completely different for putting a flight (that doesn’t even exist) available for booking.
 
hivue
Posts: 2217
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:26 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 3:41 pm

RyanairGuru wrote:
United still selling flights operated by ZW is disingenuous, but if they can say ‘we will operate those flights, but are still shuffling around the regionals and will have this sorted in the next couple of months’, I think that’s less egregious than a farcically unrealistic schedule based on almost impossible levels of staffing.


So I guess, per the redundant-sounding title of this thread, that these UA flights would be classified as phantom flights they DO plan to operate?
 
alasizon
Posts: 3552
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:57 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 3:46 pm

Aliqiout wrote:
DaCubbyBearBar wrote:
What can they do to enforce any penalty? Issue fines? Take away slots? Take away gates? Any thing is possible, but any sort of enforcement would be hard and even tougher to prove intent. just my $0.02

It doesn't sound tough. The size of fleets and staff levels are planned out farther in advance than schedules are published. I'd their advance shedule exceeds those limits it is proved.


Crew hour maximums are typically submitted 90-100 days in advance (with Regional changes happening as close in as 60 in the current environment), at that point your schedule has already been being booked for at a minimum six months.


MIflyer12 wrote:
alasizon wrote:
Yossarian22 wrote:
Globally, in the last year, I had flights booked on AA, QR, and ET that all had 12-24 hour schedule changes.

When the airlines had very customer friendly change policies I was okay with the ghost flights. Now, that they are returning to pre-COVID change policies I have much less sympathy.

To me, a simple starting place is that airlines have to pay passengers the same change fee they charge passenger, if a flight is adjusted by more than an hour.


At least in the US, as far as I'm aware no carrier has moved to their pre-COVID change policies and all continue to offer free schedule changes and refunds if your flight is touched by a schedule change.


'Touched by a schedule change' is a little bit disingenuous. AA/DL/UA all lengthened the minimum qualifying time that allowed a passenger to qualify for a free rebooking or refund. DL, for example, went from 90 minutes domestically to 120 minutes. UA tried going from 2 hours to 25 hours before getting DOT pushback. (I was happy to have filed my DOT complaint before the One Mile at a Time article.)

https://onemileatatime.com/united-airli ... nd-policy/

Along with the Southwest Christmas meltdown, this stands a fair chance of blowing up the industry's 'We offered you a rebooking or refund and owe you nothing more' stance.


I believe at least DL/AA/WN will offer you a free rebooking even if your schedule change is under their threshold for a refund. Sure, you have to call to get moved to new flights if you originally booked a 90 minute connection and now only have a 40 minute connection and you want to have a better connection again but as far as I know, it's still offered and nobody is charging change fees still.
 
socalflyer00
Posts: 53
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2016 6:19 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 3:49 pm

A couple things:

1) The public feels like the airlines “owe” them. And that feeling is only natural. The airlines received an enormous amount of federal funding (albeit in the form of loans) and since that time customers, and the media, have increasingly scrutinized the airline industry and their operations. I think the climate in DC is one that will only lead to more intense scrutiny of the industry as folks become increasingly upset about the rapidly rising cost of air travel. The airlines that have good PR folks and can conjure up some level of transparency could benefit from this.

2) Kirby needs to watch himself. The CEO has been the most vocal of the airline CEOs over the last several years and has been seen actively flaunting his status including attending White House galas and such. Kirby is making himself a target and with comments like this I am sure the other airlines are wondering why he doesn’t stay in his own lane.
 
cledaybuck
Posts: 2155
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2016 6:07 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 4:14 pm

socalflyer00 wrote:
A couple things:

1) The public feels like the airlines “owe” them. And that feeling is only natural. The airlines received an enormous amount of federal funding (albeit in the form of loans)
The majority of Covid funds given to airlines were grants, not loans.
 
SuperDash
Posts: 416
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2003 1:52 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 4:56 pm

For those of you that are asking for a government crackdown are asking for higher fares. Why? If an airline places more capacity out in a market than it intends to fly, there is a high probability that its revenue management system will offer more "low" fares (more capacity - need more low fares to fill). If you book a low fare and the 8am to DFW doesn't happen, then you are (usually) placed on the next available flight nearest to your original itinerary. You don't pay the new fare - you are rebooked at the price you paid. Now, take it the other way. Airlines only post 80% of their schedule ahead of time. Now the revenue management system will see constrained demand and fewer lower fare seats will be offered. Even if additional capacity is added at three months out, doesn't guarantee additional discount seats being opening up as the original flights are now booking ahead of where they have in the past.

This is complicated and in every schedule built there are a lot of assumptions that go into it. Just think about the last couple of years. Pilot shortage? 10,000 pilots left the industry. Even for UA/AA/DL/WN there is a delay at getting a pilot trained up (and yes, some don't make the cut). But where did that pilot come from? Likely the regionals. Who do the regionals fly for? SkyWest recently told their partners they may have to drop 20% of flying due to lack of Captains. Some airlines may be able to cover that. Maybe the partner combines two E175 into 1 737/A320. The market is covered, but you may get a change. We all know a pandemic happened. No airline flew anywhere near what they planned in summer 2020. Due to government requirements and other factors, recovery had a lot of starts and stops in it. In 2008 fuel had the run up to above $200/bbl. What happened? Airlines cut capacity and introduced "bag fees" just to try to save cost and add revenue. Natural disasters. Anyone look at what the airlines planned for Ft Myers, FL this winter? One devastating event and it makes sense to change capacity. Boeing and Airbus....they aren't delivering on time....that changes the plan. It's complicated

I am not concerned with the booking schedules that are out there. I know if I book more than 3 months out that I will likely see a schedule change. I don't even care if Air Wisconsin is scheduled to operate the flight, even if their contract with UA is gone...Someone will likely fly that flight. Finally, the practice I dislike, comes from the LCCs. You say you are launching route XXX-YYY. It doesn't book well, so you pull it before you even fly that. That leaves someone that paid $99 now looking at $300-500 fare to get where they were planning. And the LCC's don't have protection on other carriers. So the passenger is left to their own devices to get where they need to go.
 
Canuck600
Posts: 422
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:24 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:16 pm

I think this is a warning to the airline to stop bad practices instead of a true enforcement action. First company I would scrutinize is United, to me it sounds like Kirby might be trying to deflect attention away from United & it's a case of do as we say & not as we do.
 
enterusername
Posts: 51
Joined: Tue Mar 08, 2022 5:48 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:32 pm

Deuceflyer wrote:
AA is the #1 worst offender of this. They have banks of flights loaded in the placeholder for some of their hubs that have not operated in almost a year.


There are so many "small" markets that have service to hubs that havent operated in over a year, but the selling schedule still has them. It's about time someone is investigating this for fraud.
 
PSAatSAN4Ever
Posts: 1598
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:38 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:37 pm

alasizon wrote:
At least in the US, as far as I'm aware no carrier has moved to their pre-COVID change policies and all continue to offer free schedule changes and refunds if your flight is touched by a schedule change.


And thank HEAVENS for this! Remember the days when once you booked your ticket the schedule change sometimes ended up being more than a new ticket? The airline was free to screw up times, seats, aircraft, and anything else they wanted - but the customer was powerless.

With the "no change fees" system in place, schedule changes aren't as big of a deal as they used to be.
 
User avatar
dennypayne
Posts: 442
Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:38 am

US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 5:59 pm

alasizon wrote:
I believe at least DL/AA/WN will offer you a free rebooking even if your schedule change is under their threshold for a refund. Sure, you have to call to get moved to new flights if you originally booked a 90 minute connection and now only have a 40 minute connection and you want to have a better connection again but as far as I know, it's still offered and nobody is charging change fees still.


This has been my experience as well (with DL and WN anyway) - pretty much any flight on the same route is in play when a schedule change happens.

Problem is, the timing generally seems to be going the other way - in other words I booked a 90 minute connection and now I have a 4 hour layover
 
Ziyulu
Posts: 1238
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 10:35 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Tue Jan 24, 2023 8:30 pm

Planes4you wrote:
Ziyulu wrote:
What about for equipment changes? Don't you remember UA advertised a lot of flights in their new Polaris class that ended up not happening?



Why would equipment changes be included in this? That’s completely different for putting a flight (that doesn’t even exist) available for booking.


If the equipment changes, you might not end up with the product that you originally booked.
 
Aliqiout
Posts: 831
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:10 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 1:24 am

alasizon wrote:
Aliqiout wrote:
DaCubbyBearBar wrote:
What can they do to enforce any penalty? Issue fines? Take away slots? Take away gates? Any thing is possible, but any sort of enforcement would be hard and even tougher to prove intent. just my $0.02

It doesn't sound tough. The size of fleets and staff levels are planned out farther in advance than schedules are published. I'd their advance shedule exceeds those limits it is proved.


Crew hour maximums are typically submitted 90-100 days in advance (with Regional changes happening as close in as 60 in the current environment), at that point your schedule has already been being booked for at a minimum six months.


MIflyer12 wrote:
alasizon wrote:

At least in the US, as far as I'm aware no carrier has moved to their pre-COVID change policies and all continue to offer free schedule changes and refunds if your flight is touched by a schedule change.


'Touched by a schedule change' is a little bit disingenuous. AA/DL/UA all lengthened the minimum qualifying time that allowed a passenger to qualify for a free rebooking or refund. DL, for example, went from 90 minutes domestically to 120 minutes. UA tried going from 2 hours to 25 hours before getting DOT pushback. (I was happy to have filed my DOT complaint before the One Mile at a Time article.)

https://onemileatatime.com/united-airli ... nd-policy/

Along with the Southwest Christmas meltdown, this stands a fair chance of blowing up the industry's 'We offered you a rebooking or refund and owe you nothing more' stance.


I believe at least DL/AA/WN will offer you a free rebooking even if your schedule change is under their threshold for a refund. Sure, you have to call to get moved to new flights if you originally booked a 90 minute connection and now only have a 40 minute connection and you want to have a better connection again but as far as I know, it's still offered and nobody is charging change fees still.

I am not sure what point you are making. This investigation is about selling tickets on more flights than the airline knows it will operate. For a publicly traded airline its as simple as comparing their fleet/employee projections to what they are selling.
 
User avatar
usdcaguy
Posts: 1814
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 12:41 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 2:15 am

Deuceflyer wrote:
AA is the #1 worst offender of this. They have banks of flights loaded in the placeholder for some of their hubs that have not operated in almost a year.


A classic example of this is AA flights scheduled to operate on Christmas night. For two straight years, they had no intention of operating what I was buying. The first year, they simply let me rebook, but the second year, they pushed back and tried to refuse to carry me on the 26th, a more expensive day to travel. I had to argue with them to get rebooked on that day. Scheduling flights that you don't plan to operate is at best fraud and at worst theft. I hope the government cracks down on this. If not, I'll continue to take advantage of AA's price differential to avoid the gouging on the 26th.
 
User avatar
N62NA
Posts: 4644
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2003 1:05 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 2:17 am

argentinevol98 wrote:
While the focus is clearly the big national carriers (and for good reason), I wonder if a version of this could be applied to carriers like Eastern. Eastern constantly announces new routes, sell tickets for said route, and then abruptly cancel the route to either to schedule charters or simply because they can't staff it. It routinely seems they have very little intention of operating the flights and use the scheduling as a "well if we can't get a good charter contract we'll do it, but hopefully we won't have to" type placeholder.


Eastern immediately also came to mind when I read the topic headline. Interesting that nobody else here is even talking about Eastern.
 
User avatar
Aesma
Posts: 16184
Joined: Sat Nov 14, 2009 6:14 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 3:01 am

chonetsao wrote:
I am an AA fAAnboy, I don't deny that. And I definitely agree with Kirby, AA has a pattern of holding flights schedule months in advance then cancel frequencies closer to the time of operation as yield management matric kicks in. This method fits in AA's operational requirement and it generally works for AA when AA was trying to find the best scheduling following the AA/US merger. But now, the merger is long completed, I do wish AA could be more stable in schedule planning and have less place holder flights. I mean, AA must have a large enough data base to know exactly how many seats it is going to sell and how many flights are required. I also think past 2 quarters AA is improving and less schedule change reported by flyers.


They could at least put a disclaimer when selling the seats, saying the flight could be rescheduled.
 
USAirKid
Posts: 1518
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:42 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 5:15 am

Aesma wrote:
chonetsao wrote:
I am an AA fAAnboy, I don't deny that. And I definitely agree with Kirby, AA has a pattern of holding flights schedule months in advance then cancel frequencies closer to the time of operation as yield management matric kicks in. This method fits in AA's operational requirement and it generally works for AA when AA was trying to find the best scheduling following the AA/US merger. But now, the merger is long completed, I do wish AA could be more stable in schedule planning and have less place holder flights. I mean, AA must have a large enough data base to know exactly how many seats it is going to sell and how many flights are required. I also think past 2 quarters AA is improving and less schedule change reported by flyers.


They could at least put a disclaimer when selling the seats, saying the flight could be rescheduled.


That disclaimer is in the Contract of Carriage.
 
alasizon
Posts: 3552
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:57 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 5:29 am

Aliqiout wrote:
alasizon wrote:
Aliqiout wrote:
It doesn't sound tough. The size of fleets and staff levels are planned out farther in advance than schedules are published. I'd their advance shedule exceeds those limits it is proved.


Crew hour maximums are typically submitted 90-100 days in advance (with Regional changes happening as close in as 60 in the current environment), at that point your schedule has already been being booked for at a minimum six months.


I am not sure what point you are making. This investigation is about selling tickets on more flights than the airline knows it will operate. For a publicly traded airline its as simple as comparing their fleet/employee projections to what they are selling.


AA/DL/UA (and to an extent AS) can project XYZ for Regional staffing - that doesn't mean it is anywhere close to what it will actually be. You can't just compare at 270 days out and assume that the staffing models are actually accurate, the Regional market right now is just simply too volatile staffing wise to make a clean cut like that.

To me, it is far more disingenuous for UA to be selling ZW flights still several months after the agreement ends than it is for any of the carriers to have extra flights planned based on what they wish their staffing to be in the future. One out of the two of those is for sure never going to operate.
 
Yossarian22
Posts: 190
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:25 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 5:48 am

usdcaguy wrote:
Deuceflyer wrote:
AA is the #1 worst offender of this. They have banks of flights loaded in the placeholder for some of their hubs that have not operated in almost a year.


A classic example of this is AA flights scheduled to operate on Christmas night. For two straight years, they had no intention of operating what I was buying. The first year, they simply let me rebook, but the second year, they pushed back and tried to refuse to carry me on the 26th, a more expensive day to travel. I had to argue with them to get rebooked on that day. Scheduling flights that you don't plan to operate is at best fraud and at worst theft. I hope the government cracks down on this. If not, I'll continue to take advantage of AA's price differential to avoid the gouging on the 26th.


I booked a QR flight for April of last year with AA miles 3 months before travel, 6 weeks before travel QR made a major schedule change to my home airport at the time, where QR flies less than daily, and both my outbound and return flights were pushed back 24 hours, which didn’t fit my work schedule. AA would only change my flight to 24 hour hours earlier than my initial booking if I paid a $100 fare difference (I’m unsure how that happened with miles). They flat out wouldn’t budge on that, even though the airline failed to honor their original agreement. Fortunately my hotel bookings were flexible.

The worst part is, I’ve continued to fly AA and their partners to collect AA miles.
 
B6SpiritofEWR
Posts: 92
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2022 3:29 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 7:10 am

Canuck600 wrote:
I think this is a warning to the airline to stop bad practices instead of a true enforcement action. First company I would scrutinize is United, to me it sounds like Kirby might be trying to deflect attention away from United & it's a case of do as we say & not as we do.


Can you provide some examples for this? I fly UA pretty frequently through hubs like IAD, EWR, and DEN and for each schedule change I have incurred none has moved a flight longer then 15 mins.
 
Canuck600
Posts: 422
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:24 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 7:19 am

i was commenting more on what Kirby is saying if he's bleating about his competitors doing stuff the suspicious part of me thinks "what is he trying to divert attention from? What is United doing that they are trying to keep under the radar. So it's not so much that United has done something but you have to wonder with the way he's apparently slagging the computers.
 
User avatar
Aesma
Posts: 16184
Joined: Sat Nov 14, 2009 6:14 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 10:23 am

USAirKid wrote:
Aesma wrote:
chonetsao wrote:
I am an AA fAAnboy, I don't deny that. And I definitely agree with Kirby, AA has a pattern of holding flights schedule months in advance then cancel frequencies closer to the time of operation as yield management matric kicks in. This method fits in AA's operational requirement and it generally works for AA when AA was trying to find the best scheduling following the AA/US merger. But now, the merger is long completed, I do wish AA could be more stable in schedule planning and have less place holder flights. I mean, AA must have a large enough data base to know exactly how many seats it is going to sell and how many flights are required. I also think past 2 quarters AA is improving and less schedule change reported by flyers.


They could at least put a disclaimer when selling the seats, saying the flight could be rescheduled.


That disclaimer is in the Contract of Carriage.


"read the fineprint"

That still flies in 2023 ?
 
USAirKid
Posts: 1518
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:42 am

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 11:48 am

Aesma wrote:
USAirKid wrote:
Aesma wrote:

They could at least put a disclaimer when selling the seats, saying the flight could be rescheduled.


That disclaimer is in the Contract of Carriage.


"read the fineprint"

That still flies in 2023 ?


Yup. That is the contract. Perhaps there should be a more prominent link, but if you try to out everything on the booming page, you just replicate the Contract of Carriage.
 
davidjohnson6
Posts: 2769
Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2016 10:10 pm

Re: US DOT Now Investigating Carriers for Selling Tickets on Phantom Flights They Don't Plan to Operate

Wed Jan 25, 2023 12:06 pm

USAirKid wrote:
Aesma wrote:
USAirKid wrote:

That disclaimer is in the Contract of Carriage.


"read the fineprint"

That still flies in 2023 ?


Yup. That is the contract. Perhaps there should be a more prominent link, but if you try to out everything on the booming page, you just replicate the Contract of Carriage.

Any company can bury things in the small print, including all kinds of nasty stuff. The problem is that if you put all kinds of stuff in the smallprint which is different from what marketing is telling people when encouraging them to buy tickets.... you get a bad reputation and people think of the company as sharks to be avoided. That's to be expected if you are some hedge fund dealing with another hedge fund on Wall Street (please don't turn this thread into a discussion of the merits of Wall Street)... but when it's large consumer businesses trying to sell their product to ordinary individuals, it's generally a good idea to be seen as reputable and transparent in your dealings with the public.

We make a deal, you promise to deliver a service, I pay you money up front, I expect you to deliver on that promise unless there is a good reason as to why something unpredictable prevented you from delivering that service (e.g. bad weather). If you regularly don't deliver on that promise and just quote the smallprint, I learn not to trust you, your brand is tarnished in my eyes and I become much more cautious and reluctant about buying from you in future

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