United Airlines has a new program to cancel flights that aren’t carrying enough passengers. The airline will tell customers 18-24 hours prior to departure that they’ll be traveling on different flights that may leave earlier or later, and 23% of the time mean arriving more than four hours off of the original schedule.
In normal times airlines operate even empty flights because they need the plane and crew in the next destination anyway, and all they’d save by cancelling is the cost of fuel. United now is willing to take that fuel savings and inconvenience customers. This isn’t like a mechanical delay or bad weather, where something goes wrong. This is United Airlines promising one thing and then reneging on its customers at the last minute to save short term cash. And this is a new, formal program.
Live and Let’s Fly has more details on how the new “Mainline Recommended Cancels” program works.
- The software begins looking for flight loads 7 days prior to departure
- It tries to consolidate flights that are less than 30% full
- They consider costs to the airline like needing planes and crew at a flight’s destination
- And then spits out recommendations for review by Network Directors and Operations Managers
- They won’t consolidate flights to become more than 75% full, because taking people on planes with no one sitting in middle seats to totally non-socially distanced flights is a level of complaint they weren’t looking for.
The airline expects to cancel about 4 flights per day this way, mostly on flights between hubs or between a hub and a major city where there are several flights per day.
Make no mistake: United is selling flights at specific times, earning customer business on the basis of that schedule, and then reneging – not because they’re unable to operate the flights, but because they decide it’s cheaper not to deliver what customers purchased.
Selling flights and then cancelling them for reasons entirely within the airline’s control, for their own benefit, while 23% of rebooked customers are impacted by more than four hours is an unfair and deceptive practice. Customers whose travels are adversely affected to a significant degree should file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.