Real Answers from Real Pilots

Few passengers

Hello,

This question is more in the regional level (I’m guessing), but I saw a picture that someone took and looked like only few people were on the plane. Did you ever experience taking on a few passengers? If so, would airline ever cancel flight if only a few were on it? Probably is rare but was curious and did it feel weird not having more than half plane full of people?

Jesse,

It actually isn’t that rare at the Regionals or the Majors. Flights are scheduled well in advance and may not fill up for any number of reasons. The flight won’t cancel because every aircraft is scheduled for a number of flights in a day. While the one leg might be light, chances are the airline still needs that plane at that destination for the next one it’s scheduled for. Really not a concern or something that effects us as pilots other than you’ll probably get out early due to the quick boarding and your performance will be stellar due to the light weight.

Adam

Jesse,

Empty airplanes can happen at the major level, too. Usually this is because a flight was extremely delayed due to mechanical concerns or sometimes weather issues. Typically the airlines will not cancel a flight just because the passenger count is low. While that one flight might not have a lot of people, the next flight in the aircraft routing might be full, or the airplane is simply needed somewhere down the road to make up another flight. In addition to this, it just isn’t a good look to cancel a flight just because the load is low on it, that is a very quick way to make disgruntled passengers.

As far as the pilots are concerned, it really doesn’t matter to us if the flight is completely full or completely empty, once that cockpit door closes, we conduct ourselves in the same manner no matter what. The airplanes obviously weigh less when they are empty and sometimes have a tendency to want to leap off the ground on takeoff or float on landing. Pilots of course anticipate this and respond accordingly.

Chris

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Thanks guys!