View Full Version : Where do all the seats come from?

15th Jul 2018, 21:46
Something I wonder about as a 20-30x/year pax to whom this has only happened to me a couple of times.

Let's say you get to the airport and the plane is cancelled for some technical issue. That's, say, a full A320 or B737 with 180+ pax. Last time this happened to me at LGW with Air France (20:00 or so), the airline offered me overnight accommodation and a place on the first flight out the next day from LHR. I had quite a nice room at the LHR Hilton. :)

But now I wonder... wasn't that plane the next day also mostly fully booked already? There were 4 or 5 AF planes a day from London to Paris at the time. Unless they all had 20% spare capacity, how is everyone going to get out the next day? Do some cancel (maybe those who were going to a 9am meeting in Paris and so there was no point in travelling)? Do some accept extra compensation and wait longer?

And the bonus question: Same thing, but the airport is closed for 6 hours due to bad weather, or there's an ATC issue, and a hundred flights are lost. Where does the capacity come from to get those 20,000 people to their destinations? Is there a pool of planes and crews set aside for this sort of thing, or do those 20,000 have to get squeezed into an assortment of flights with a couple of free seats each?

I'm interested in anything that someone with experience in these cases might be able to disclose. And let me add that you must have one of the worst jobs in the world, having to deal with frustrated/angry/screaming pax...

15th Jul 2018, 23:12
Several options but they hinge on the established protocol that:
The flight/s immediately AFTER the one that is cancelled - operate as normal. That is to say, the pax on the canx flight go to the back of the queue. So they get distributed to:

other flights of the same carrier to the same destination
same carrier but might accept a connecting flight and compensation
flights of other carriers to destination with whom there is a preexisting agreement
to hotels to wait for a spare seat
to home with compensation if their trip was not urgent and they decide not to travel - or would have missed the meeting by that time
If diverted or a domestic flight, they might be oferred train/coach/taxi

Small carriers do not have spare capacity on tap but will usuually have an areement with 'white tail' companies who do. They have aircraft and crew on standby for exactly this kind of problem and the carrier can call them in to take the place of a machine that 'went tech' (technical failure causing it to be grounded).

Large carriers do have some spare capacity but usually only held at major hubs as the cost of an airframe and crew waiting is very high. However, they will know year to year how often they need such a 'spare' These large companies ALSO use the white tail companies to 'sub' for a flight that cannot operate.

They way in which a cancellation is handled depends mainly on where it happens. if at the carriers hub - fairly easy to deal with, But if the aircraft arrived at a remote point and then is unable to leave - that's obviously a much bigger problem. Also, whether the carrier is full service or LCC will change what happens to you because you have paid for the fare that you want, legal requirements aside.

An international or domestic flight will alter the options available. Further, each carrier has a list of which option is chosen first and those are based on cost, as you can imagine!

Lastly, the nature of the fault can affect things. if it's something that a local approved maintenance crew can fix overnight? Or will it require spares? Sometimes the aircraft is permitted to fly - but not with passengers. This is called a 'ferry' flight and will get the machine to a maintenance base. one in a while, a machine has to wait at a small airport for spares and a trained maintenance crew.

So there is no single answer.

Hotel Tango
16th Jul 2018, 08:52
If a major airline, there are also instances when one of the next day's flight, not necessarily the first, will get a gauge change to a larger aircraft. That's happened to me.

16th Jul 2018, 14:05
Thanks for the comprehensive reply!

Heathrow Harry
16th Jul 2018, 16:26
and with some airlines they plan on you taking the train or turning native and opening a "Benny Hill Party Bar" if in Spain or " Miquel's Tapas" if in Teeside

Or they plan on people giving up hope and lying down to die ..........

16th Jul 2018, 21:09
Good one HT that I had forgotten. I recall getting moved from a 75 to 76 when the Southern LHR runway was closed. HH obviously has painful personal experience ...

16th Jul 2018, 23:15
Happened to me a few times, Brittania 767 went u/s on the way back from Tenerife - GLA, had to land at Gatwick. Brittania brought another 767 in from their base. Only issue was it was a shorter aircraft.... fortunately, some had decided to get hire cars/train home (The flight was already 14 hours delayed by this point)

Loganair EDI-Orkney cancelled as inbound aircraft fog bound at orkney - offered overnight stay (I went home) and flight put on early next AM. I seem to recall they put an extra flight on.

After snowmageddon in March, EZY put an extra Bristol to Edinburgh flight on too.

Heathrow Harry
17th Jul 2018, 20:02
Good one HT that I had forgotten. I recall getting moved from a 75 to 76 when the Southern LHR runway was closed. HH obviously has painful personal experience ...
once or twice....

18th Jul 2018, 15:46
I've had the opposite experience. Happily it doesn't happen often.

I was going to Montreal not long after 9/11. By the time I flew traffic had dropped so BA merged the Montreal flight with a Boston and we went London/Boston/Montreal. Essentially downgauging!

But, sometimes I wonder a little. I once had a trip Gatwick Nantes. Evening flight out, night in Nantes, meetings, evening flight back. When I arrived at Gatwick the flight was cancelled and they put me in the Hilton and flew me on the flight next morning. Even with the extra load from the previous evening that Embraer wasn't full. I found myself wondering how full the inbound and outbound flights had been the previous evening.