Update: Jason's flight made it out, so out of seven people who placed bets, 4.5 of them got it right.
Let’s hold a fun little competition today that has little to do with regular procurement issues, but everything to do with managing travel spend (and employee productivity) on a total cost basis. So far this year (37,500 PQM on United through February 11th), I’ve had multiple flights cancel prior to departure, including at least one already that looked suspiciously empty based on the online seating chart (and which became clear that the airline was able to entirely accommodate all passengers from on flights later that day, as well as the crew from that flight, a pilot told me).
Cancellations occur for lots of reasons. But a trend I first observed last year was that if a plane was less than half full, the chance of United cancelling it (unless it was a major “hub to hub” flight), was significant indeed. Of course the routing changes for a cancellation need to work as well (e.g., the load level on the originating flight into a city also must be low and easily accommodated). But generally speaking, the bar to cancel a flight seems to be getting lower and lower.
So let’s play a game. I’ve got a flight tomorrow from New Orleans to Chicago. It’s the first morning flight out (I’m returning from a giving a speech and having some meetings and a dinner the day before). It’s important that I get back to my office in Chicago this morning for various reasons (hence the reason for booking the first flight out in the morning). The flight is United 517. You can see, below, from the online seat map taken at 5:25 AM the day before departure, that the flight is almost entirely empty (at least in the front half of the plane).
In addition, the “inbound” flight that gets in the night before is quite empty as well.
So the game I pose to readers today is to vote in the comments section on whether my flight is cancelled or not.
Given the games that the airlines appear to be playing more and more of these days – United is by no means the only one – I think the odds make this a toss up.
Comment below (“depart” or “cancelled”) and we’ll tally up the votes and report back tomorrow on what happened! I’ll also let everyone know if it is cancelled the reason that United gave for the cancellation.