Strange flight numbering?

Old Mar 14, 15, 10:56 am
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Strange flight numbering?

I am on UA 1709 on Monday (IAD-SFO). Went to check its status today (on time? late?). But UA 1709 today is IAD-STT.

My wife and I are flying IAD-STT on 8/9 (Sunday) and this is UA 1443.

So why does UA have such confusion in numbering?
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Old Mar 14, 15, 11:33 am
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That's nothing.

The YVR-LAX UX flight often operates with the same number both northbound and southbound!

How's that for confusing?
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Old Mar 14, 15, 12:25 pm
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Strange flight numbering?

Both these phenomenons are not strange these days, nor new.

Express has been using the same numbers round trip for years now, definitely well back into the PMUA days. It's always, IME, when its that same aircraft going hub-spoke, then back to the same hub the same day.

The changing flight number thing is newer, though I seem to remember this becoming more common around merger time. Some speculate this is done as changing the flight number means the on time statistics can be reset and in the early days of it, not reported at all as it needs to be running the same route for the OTP numbers to be required to be shown.

But even PMUA used to change flight numbers somewhat, though they were more consistent especially earlier. For example, way back, probably until about 2007 or so, ORD-YYZ flights were the even numbers of 1100-1115 consistently, with the returns being the odd numbers in that range. But the connecting flights to and from ORD would change. So one day, flight 1111 might be, say, OMA-ORD-YYZ on the same flight number, and after a while, the flight number might be a DFW-ORD-YYZ. Eventually, the YYZ flights got more seemingly random numbers as well, and with the change from all mainline to a mix of mainline and express, it had to.

Also, some flights switch between PMUA and PMCO metal on certain days, so need different flight numbers (yes, still). For example, a couple of years ago I did IAH-YVR which was on UA 320, but was looking at going the next day also, which was a CO 737. So that's a potential other reason.

Never expect the same flight number to run the same route/time more than a few days In a row is what I expect these days, at least for the domestic/Canada/Caribbean network.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 12:28 pm
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With only 4 digits for flight numbers and all their flights and codeshare partners, UA is very short on flight numbers. You'll also see "nonsense" direct flights like PHX-EWR-SEA on the same day not because they think anyone would fly that for PHX-SEA, but to conserve flight numbers.

There's also a theory that the day-to-day scrambling of flight numbers is to hide their poor on time performance.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 2:46 pm
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Originally Posted by mduell View Post
...There's also a theory that the day-to-day scrambling of flight numbers is to hide their poor on time performance.
...for a specific flight...
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Old Mar 14, 15, 9:18 pm
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Originally Posted by mduell View Post
With only 4 digits for flight numbers and all their flights and codeshare partners, UA is very short on flight numbers. You'll also see "nonsense" direct flights like PHX-EWR-SEA on the same day not because they think anyone would fly that for PHX-SEA, but to conserve flight numbers.

There's also a theory that the day-to-day scrambling of flight numbers is to hide their poor on time performance.
That makes no sense. UA could easily keep some flight numbers consistent (or use numbers that they don't use now). And I don't see how a PHX-EWR-SEA would "conserve" flight numbers.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 9:43 pm
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
That makes no sense. UA could easily keep some flight numbers consistent (or use numbers that they don't use now). And I don't see how a PHX-EWR-SEA would "conserve" flight numbers.
No one (except mileage runners) would take the full PHX-EWR-SEA, nor would they take a YVR-LAX-YVR immediately. Using the same number for both indeed "conserves" numbers because it saves the number the second leg would use for another flight somewhere else in the system.

(US has done the same numbering out and back for a very long time. US 4898 was IND-BOS-IND on an ERJ-145 way back in 2000 and the same for quite some time. And occasionally IROPS might make someone actually do a bonkers routing like PHX-EWR-SEA, but on that rare occasion what's the big deal about it being a "thru" number except the mileage posting as PHX-SEA, which would probably get replaced with ORC anyway...if that mattered for RDMs anymore.)
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Old Mar 14, 15, 9:52 pm
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
That makes no sense. UA could easily keep some flight numbers consistent (or use numbers that they don't use now). And I don't see how a PHX-EWR-SEA would "conserve" flight numbers.
Agreed. According to UA's Feb 2015 "United Reports February 2015 Operational Performance" Report, UA operated 5,055 flights per day.

Assuming the first number cannot be a zero, there are 9,000 possible flight number calculations. Given that, I suspect that UA is not at a shortage, but rather constrained by the sCO and sUA flight numbering systems.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 10:18 pm
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There are flight numbers with 1, 2, or 3-digit numbers (<1000) and there may be sCO/sUA issues in numbering, but also the whole range up to 9999 is not available. Express carriers get certain ranges each. Charters have a range. Codeshares have ranges by carrier. The actual number of flight numbers available for UA/CO metal isn't as large as it may seem. (This does not preclude on-time data shenanigans being possible, of course.)

Per the current UA timetable:

Flight Number Ranges
1 - 1299 United Airlines
1340 - 1344 ExpressJet-Extra Section
1400 - 1764 United Airlines
2050 - 2119 UA Extra Sections - (XP)
2193 - 2200 Cargo Extra Section (XF)
2900 - 2949 Cape Air (Carribean)
2950 - 3049 Great Lakes Codeshare
3050 - 3149 Silver Airways Codeshare
3150 - 3249 Amtrak
3250 - 3254 Commutair Extra Section
3255 - 3274 UAX - ExpressJet - CO Contract
3275 - 3294 Skywest Extra Sections
3325 - 3329 Trans States Extra Sections
3330 - 3434 UAX-Trans States
3435 - 3439 Shuttle America Extra Sections
3440 - 3584 UAX-Shuttle America
3585 - 3590 UAX-CommutAir DH3 - CO Contract
3591 - 3604 UAX-CommutAir DH2 - CO Contract
3605 - 3714 UAX-Go Jet
3715 - 3717 Go Jet Extra Sections
3720 - 3724 Mesa Extra Sections
3725 - 3804 UAX-Mesa
3805 - 3854 UAX-Expressjet
3855 - 3904 UAX-Republic - UA Contract
3905 - 3919 UAX-Shuttle America
3920 - 3965 UAX-ExpressJet - CO Contract
3966 - 3969 Shuttle America Extra Sections
3970 - 3973 Silver Airways - Extra Sections
4051 - 4066 UAX- Silver Airways - IAD
4067 - 4084 UAX - Silver Airways - CLE
4085 - 4769 UAX - ExpressJet - CO Contract
4770 - 4834 UAX-CommutAir DH2 - CO Contract
4835 - 4859 UAX-CommutAir DH3 - CO Contract
4860 - 4868 UAX-ExpressJet - CO Contract
4869 - 4947 UAX-Republic - UA Contract
4953 - 4955 UAX-Republic - Extra Sections
4965 - 4999 UAX-Skywest
5000 - 5021 UAX-CommutAir DH2 - CO Contract
5022 - 5037 UAX- Trans States
5038 - 5082 UAX - Cape Air GUM
5083 - 5083 UAX Cape Air - Extra Section
5090 - 5122 UAX-Mesa
5123 - 5155 UAX-Shuttle America
5156 - 5269 UAX-Skywest
5270 - 5289 UAX- Trans States
5290 - 5659 UAX-Skywest
5660 - 5684 UAX - ExpressJet - CO Contract
5685 - 5774 UAX-ExpressJet - former ASA
5775 - 5778 ExpressJet - former ASA Extra Sections
5779 - 5809 UAX-ExpressJet - CO Contract
5810 - 5899 UAX-Expressjet
5900 - 6189 UAX-ExpressJet - CO Contract
6190 - 6539 UAX- Skywest Airlines
6540 - 6544 UAX - Bus Service - EWR-ABE
6545 - 6548 UAX - Bus Service - IAH-BPT
6549 - 6598 Aeromar
6629 - 6748 AVIANCA
6749 - 6828 Air New Zealand
6829 - 6848 LOT-Polish Airlines
6974 - 7073 SAS - Scandinavian Airlines
7074 - 7173 Copa Airlines
7224 - 7253 South African Airways
7254 - 7283 Croatia Airlines
7284 - 7323 Asiana
7424 - 7623 Air China
7624 - 7668 Aer Lingus
7669 - 7768 Swiss
7769 - 7792 Turkish Airlines
7793 - 7878 Hawaiian Airlines
7879 - 7914 IslandAir
8015 - 8714 Air Canada
8715 - 9589 Lufthansa Airlines
9590 - 9639 TAP-Air Portugal
9640 - 9739 ANA-All Nippon
9815 - 9854 Austrian Codeshare
9855 - 9868 Egypt Air
9883 - 9899 EVA Air
9900 - 9998 Brussels Airlines
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Old Mar 14, 15, 10:32 pm
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Originally Posted by mduell View Post
There's also a theory that the day-to-day scrambling of flight numbers is to hide their poor on time performance.
On the subject of that, how DOES DOT track on-time status with flight numbers changing all the time?

I track my miles with Quicken which would try to auto-complete based on my previous flights when I type in the flight number. It is crazy to see how the same number has been cycled to all kinds of routes.
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Old Mar 14, 15, 11:11 pm
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Originally Posted by euslaner View Post
That makes no sense. UA could easily keep some flight numbers consistent (or use numbers that they don't use now). And I don't see how a PHX-EWR-SEA would "conserve" flight numbers.
Flight number consistency is difficult when UA schedules are not the same each day of the week. While a flight, AAA-BBB, may appear to operate at the same times on each day of the week, it might be the case that the same flight continues to different cities after BBB on different days. Additionally, in many markets flights at (or near) the same time between given city pairs are operated on certain days by sCO and other days by sUA. Consolidate the operations, save flight numbers. Not there yet. Ever? Well... ever is a long time.

Originally Posted by UAzip View Post
No one (except mileage runners) would take the full PHX-EWR-SEA, nor would they take a YVR-LAX-YVR immediately. Using the same number for both indeed "conserves" numbers because it saves the number the second leg would use for another flight somewhere else in the system.
UA often restricts certain flights from being ticketed the entire length. Normally, when one sees PHX-XXX-SEA, one can ticket it as PHX-SEA. However, for PHX-EWR-SEA, UA would prohibit sale of PHX-SEA.
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Old Mar 15, 15, 2:22 pm
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Originally Posted by UAzip View Post
There are flight numbers with 1, 2, or 3-digit numbers (&lt;1000) and there may be sCO/sUA issues in numbering, but also the whole range up to 9999 is not available. Express carriers get certain ranges each. Charters have a range. Codeshares have ranges by carrier. The actual number of flight numbers available for UA/CO metal isn't as large as it may seem. (This does not preclude on-time data shenanigans being possible, of course.)
There may be additional factors that limit the use of some flight numbers as well. For example, unless something has changed, there used to be no flight numbers ending in 13. So that can take a whole wack of numbers out of the system. Also, not sure how the China flights are numbered, but I doubt they'd risk using something with a 4 in it since the Chinese generally consider it a bad luck number. So if they are trying to sequence flight numbers into PEK/PVG, there's another that might not get used.
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Old Mar 15, 15, 6:58 pm
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Originally Posted by emcampbe View Post
There may be additional factors that limit the use of some flight numbers as well. For example, unless something has changed, there used to be no flight numbers ending in 13. So that can take a whole wack of numbers out of the system. Also, not sure how the China flights are numbered, but I doubt they'd risk using something with a 4 in it since the Chinese generally consider it a bad luck number. So if they are trying to sequence flight numbers into PEK/PVG, there's another that might not get used.
I doubt UA considers the 4. TPE-SFO used to be 844. That is double bad CI's TPE-SFO has always been 004.
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Old Mar 15, 15, 7:06 pm
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Originally Posted by UAzip View Post
There are flight numbers with 1, 2, or 3-digit numbers (<1000) and there may be sCO/sUA issues in numbering, but also the whole range up to 9999 is not available. Express carriers get certain ranges each. Charters have a range. Codeshares have ranges by carrier. The actual number of flight numbers available for UA/CO metal isn't as large as it may seem. (This does not preclude on-time data shenanigans being possible, of course.)

Per the current UA timetable:
Flight Number Ranges
1 - 1299 United Airlines
1340 - 1344 ExpressJet-Extra Section

<snip>

9640 - 9739 ANA-All Nippon
9815 - 9854 Austrian Codeshare
9855 - 9868 Egypt Air
9883 - 9899 EVA Air
9900 - 9998 Brussels Airlines
I think your list is outdated. For example:
1 April 2015

UA8003 = NH849 HND-BKK
UA7971 = NH805 NRT-BKK

This discrepancy only adds to the perception how screwed-up UA's flight numbering system is.
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Old Mar 15, 15, 7:35 pm
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Originally Posted by username View Post
I doubt UA considers the 4. TPE-SFO used to be 844. That is double bad CI's TPE-SFO has always been 004.
You mean flight 4444? 4x the bad luck!!!!
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