Why do airlines give the same flight number to different flights with different equipment?
August 17, 2006 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Why do airlines use the same flight number for multiple flights, even if they wind up using different equipment and gates for the two flights?

For instance, AA flight 2003 is from BOS to ORD and then from ORD to IND. But at ORD, the flight changes gates and equipment. What possible benefit is there to not give ORD to IND a new flight number? Do they think they will trick people into thinking they are on a direct flight?
posted by JakeWalker to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is called a "change of gauge."

Do they think they will trick people into thinking they are on a direct flight?

Yes. Although there are now rules that are supposed to make this less deceptive. Also, many people don't realize that in airline industry jargon "direct" does not mean "nonstop."

The thing about a change of gauge flight is that you can even get stuck in the middle, which isn't possible on a nonstop or even a onestop.
posted by grouse at 3:10 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't think I've ever seen this. If I have a multi-leg flight, my boarding pass will show 2 different flight numbers. I don't think it would even really be possible to just use one, since multiple flights to ORD will feed into the ORD to IND flight, and they can't all have the same flight number.

Do you have an example of this? I just checked AA's website and see stuff like this:

Flight 1358 AUS to DFW
Flight 1669 DFW tp OAK

(a flight from Austin to Oakland obviously)
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:13 PM on August 17, 2006

I even tried BOS to IND on the AA website and didn't see any like this.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:14 PM on August 17, 2006

This has happened to me, too. A number of flights from Auckland to Dunedin are listed as direct--and, indeed, I only had one boarding pass for both segments--but stop in Wellington and require passengers to change planes. It seemed to me that this is done to decrease the number of frequent flyer points passengers can earn: a direct flight with a stopover in Wellington counts as one domestic flight whereas a flight to Wellington with a connecting flight to Dunedin would count as two domestic flights and earn twice the freuqent flyer points.
posted by lumiere at 3:22 PM on August 17, 2006

Oooh...I like lumiere's answer. That's a great theory.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:23 PM on August 17, 2006

The timetable (PDF) says (without making much sense):

3:58p 8:34p AA2003 M80 1 4:36 (Disc. Sep 5)

6:40p 8:10p AA2003 M80 0 1:30 (Aug 5 - Sep 2)

4:15p 5:40p AA2003 M80 0 2:25 (Eff. Sep 6)
6:40p 8:10p AA2003 M80 0 1:30 (Eff. Sep 6)

4:15p 8:10p AA2003 M80 1 4:55 (Eff Sep 6)

If I have a multi-leg flight...

There's a difference between a multi-leg flight made by a passenger, and one made by a plane. Some flight numbers include multiple legs.
posted by cillit bang at 3:23 PM on August 17, 2006

In answer to the question, it's probably because the route is sometimes operated by the same plane, or used to be operated by the same plane.
posted by cillit bang at 3:25 PM on August 17, 2006

In the '60s, my dad worked for the company that ran the buses in Philadelphia and the bus that left Stop A at 5 a.m. and arrived at Stop Z at 7 a.m. had a number. If the bus was switched for some reason between those points it still kept the same number. The physical bus didn't matter, but the bus number did, just for purposes of keeping track of how busy the route was and whether the bus was running on time, etc. I always thought that was also the reason for keeping flight numbers the same.
posted by Airhen at 3:30 PM on August 17, 2006

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