UA to cancel flights with light loads

Old Aug 28, 20, 12:24 pm
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UA to cancel flights with light loads

New United Program Cancels Flights When Not Enough People Buy Ticketsby Gary Leff on August 28, 2020
Passengers have long suspected that airlines cancel flights that are mostly empty, to save money. In the past that’s almost never been true.
....
That’s no longer true at United Airlines, as Skift‘s Brian Sumers reports. Buying a ticket for a flight on United Airlines no longer is a commitment from them that you’ll travel on that flight, if it’s too empty to make money.

The airline started using a new computer algorithm on August 14 that considers where a plane and flight crew are really needed, and whether passengers can be accommodated on a later flight before deciding if a lightly booked flight should be cancelled.

Sumers reports that the program affects fewer than 1% of flights. ....
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 28, 20 at 12:45 pm Reason: per FT rule, Posting Copyrighted Material, this post has been editted
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Old Aug 28, 20, 12:48 pm
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Not too surprised to see this. I imagine things will only get worse before they get better.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 1:10 pm
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Makes sense - and the impact is less than 1%
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Old Aug 28, 20, 1:14 pm
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The quote is a bit off. The program is used on 1% of flights. That doesn't mean it won't affect 1% of passengers or won't be more or less widely used as cares act restrictions are released. Imo I interpret the 1% as a bit of a field test for a wider roll out.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 1:20 pm
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Putting aside the click-bait blog post quoted in the OP and looking at the serious reporting, this is absolutely not what anybody has "suspected" for years. Simply using inventory management to keep the air carrier afloat. Gonna be like this for the next 3-1/2 to 4 years, if all the carriers survive at all."In another sign United Airlines wants to conserve cash to withstand a protracted recovery, it has begun using a sophisticated algorithm to cancel flights within seven days of departure when load factors fall too low, provided it can accommodate passengers on other flights.

Along with considering whether customers can be rebooked, the system takes into account variables like where flight crew is needed and whether the airplane is required at the destination for a flight later in the day. Managers can overrule it when warranted, United said."
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Old Aug 28, 20, 1:34 pm
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Probably someone from the industry could answer:

Is load defined by passenger revenue, number of passengers, cargo, or what combination?

Would a flight 25% full of Y fares still go? What about a 75% booked cabin with discount fares. Could "not enough cargo" warrant a cancelation?
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Old Aug 28, 20, 1:36 pm
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I would be more concerned about how much notice they will actually give for passengers on flights that are cancelled due to low loads. I think most of us are used to crazy/frequent schedule changes these days...but I really hope this isn't a "12 hours to go and no one booked" scenario where people have arranged transportation to the airport, maybe a hotel stay the night before, or similar.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 2:29 pm
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Originally Posted by geckoflyer View Post
I would be more concerned about how much notice they will actually give for passengers on flights that are cancelled due to low loads. I think most of us are used to crazy/frequent schedule changes these days...but I really hope this isn't a "12 hours to go and no one booked" scenario where people have arranged transportation to the airport, maybe a hotel stay the night before, or similar.
I think that is my concern. Flights change. It's how much notice you get and what sorts of rebooking options are available that is the issue. If you cancel my flight a few weeks before it's due to fly and you give me multiple alternatives for rebooking, I can deal with that. If you cancel my flight hours before departure and give me few or no options for rebooking, that is a significant issue.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 4:58 pm
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Another reason to avoid flying the UNfriendly sky.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 5:18 pm
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Looks like a smart program. Running near empty flights will only bleed$$$
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Old Aug 28, 20, 5:26 pm
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Fortunately, for now at least, any scheduled international flight will probably still go due to the heavy cargo demand. Of course if it's extremely light, they could turn it into a cargo-only run, but all that saves are FA costs.

Dmestic flights usually run more than once daily and have more alternatives. Also, most of them are served from at least 2 hubs, so that increases your options a well.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 6:31 pm
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Looks like a smart policy in the short term but if it goes on for a while and many people are impacted by a cancellation it may hurt them in the long run. All in all its got to be very tough trying to keep the airline alive these days and trying this out is probably a good move by the management.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 6:42 pm
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Oh I think this is a dumb policy because its a PR nightmare waiting to happen. I was expecting a light flight and felt comfortable with social distancing and was then shoehorned by United on to a completely full flight.
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Old Aug 28, 20, 6:49 pm
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Are there DOT rules that keep airlines from cancelling scheduled flights last minute due to profitability?
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Old Aug 28, 20, 7:01 pm
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Originally Posted by cobrax333 View Post
Are there DOT rules that keep airlines from cancelling scheduled flights last minute due to profitability?
that would be stupid from a business perspective since it would strand planes and crews at places where they are not supposed to be. 7 days as it is currently reported is not a big deal when other options are available. I don't see that as being a big deal assuming UA will be o.k. with OAL rebookings.
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