How Airlines Schedule Flights


This video was made possible by Clear. The first 200 people to sign up at clearme.com/wendover
get three free months of speeding through airport security with Clear. Airlines are notoriously difficult businesses
to run. Each and every flight operated is a multi-thousand
dollar gamble on whether or not passengers will buy tickets. Aside from cost, the strongest factor for
customers on which flight they will take is often the overall travel time so airlines
put enormous effort into properly assembling their puzzle of flights so they can offer
the shortest connection time possible. With so many destinations all across the world,
it’s just natural that most routes require connections so airlines need to attract connecting
passengers in order to stay in business. Now, most flight connections for traditional
airlines happen out of their hub airports. American Airlines, for example, has 10 across
the United States and every single one of their flights either begins or ends at these
airports, but not all hubs are created equal. Charlotte Douglas, Reagan National, and Laguardia
are largely built for north-south traffic and terminating traffic. Miami is for connecting North American travelers
to flights to the Caribbean and South America. Philadelphia is a bit of a hybrid hub connecting
both north-south traffic and North American traffic onto flights to Europe. JFK is the major hub for connecting North
American traffic to European flights. And the Los Angeles hub’s main purpose is
to connect North American traffic to Asia and Oceania bound flights, but then there
are these three—Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, and Phoenix Sky Harbor airports. These three airports are the truly important
connection airports since they lie between the coasts and their schedules reflect this. The east-west routes are the most competitive
in the United States so American has to offer short connections in order to dominate the
market. So what American Airlines has done is that
they’ve banked their hubs. What this means is that, for the most part,
all their flights arrive and depart at roughly the same time. For example, on any given Wednesday in the
fall the Philadelphia flight will arrive at 11:14 am, then the Atlanta flight at 11:17,
the DC one at 11:29, and the Nashville flight at 11:45. Then, at 12:40 the flight to Denver leaves,
at 12:45 the one to Las Vegas, at 1:00 the one to San Francisco, and at 1:10 the flight
to Los Angeles. This way, nobody has to wait longer than two
hours to connect. Almost every flight American operates in and
out of DFW falls into one of their 10 daily banks. This is how the airline gets those connecting
passengers—by offering shorter connection times. Nearby Dallas Love Field is Southwest Airlines’
main hub but it operates in an entirely different way. It just has planes arriving and leaving at
a consistent average of about 8-12 flights per hour all day long and there’s a good
reason for this—Southwest is a budget airline. Banked hubs are significantly more expensive
to run because they require more resources. The airline needs to have enough equipment,
people, and gates to turn around all their planes at the same time. If the planes came in at a smooth pace all
the people and equipment could be used continuously but at a banked hub, the airline still needs
to pay for their people and equipment during the down-time between the banks. If a plane leaves Philadelphia bound for DC
at 9:30 with the 9-10 am bank it will arrive around 10 am but it will have to wait to leave
until about 11:15 to time its arrival with the 11:45-12:45 bank. Planes cost money whether they’re in the
air or sitting on the ground so having planes wait around to time with banks costs money
too. This is why a budget airline will never schedule
their planes to sit on the ground during the day for more than an hour. Once a plane lands, it immediately loads up
and takes off again as soon as possible. For this reason, the planes of a budget airline
like Spirit Airlines are in the air for an average of 11 hours per day while American
airlines only uses their planes for an average of 8.5 hours per day. Banked hubs can also make delays more probable. When there are so many planes going out at
once an airport might just not be able to cope with the surge in activity. If a thunderstorm hits the airport, for example,
a whole bank of flights might be delayed or cancelled which would create a knock-on effect
all across the country. These banking systems are essentially higher
risk, higher reward in terms of delays, but some airlines have taken the banked hub concept
to an extreme. Etihad Airways’s hub in Abu Dhabi essentially
operates with just two big banks a day. Almost all their fights from the west arrive
between 7:00 and 8:30 pm then eastbound flights depart between 9:30 and 10:30 pm. Flights coming in from the east land between
about 11:30 pm and 12:30 am and then the final bank of westbound flights departs between
2:00 and 3:30 am. With this system, almost every flight from
Europe or the US can connect to a flight to Asia or Australia in no more than three hours. The whole operation also takes about eight
and a half hours—perfectly timed for one work shift. But of course, however, this leads to a lot
of planes sitting around. Their flight to Hong Kong, for example, departs
at 9:50 pm Abu Dhabi time and arrives at 10:05 am Hong Kong time. The plane then has to sit around until 6:55
pm in order to time it’s arrival with the rest of the westbound bank. That’s almost nine hours of waiting, but
in order to schedule flights correctly, its fairly typical for planes to sit around. Flights from North to South America are notoriously
tricky to schedule. Sao Paolo, Brazil is only one hour ahead of
New York during daylight saving time so southbound flights tend to leave in the evening and arrive
10 hours later in the morning. But the tricky part is when the flight should
return. If the flight left at 7 pm and arrived the
following morning at 6 am it could turn around and fly back at 9 am and arrive at 6 pm but
the airline doesn’t want to do that. The problem is that airlines rely heavily
on connecting traffic to fill their flights and by the time arriving travelers got off
the plane and make it through customs it would be 7:30 pm at best by which time the majority
of flights have left for the night. Airlines therefore almost universally decide
to leave their planes on the ground in South America all day to fly back overnight so travelers
can connect onwards to their final destination on morning flights. This is likely part of the reason why flights
from North to South America are so expensive. But some of the airlines have found a way
to take advantage of the time on the ground. Labor is significantly cheaper in South America
so airlines have started to perform maintenance work on planes while they’re waiting around
for the evening flight back. American Airlines, for example, recently started
building an $100 million hanger in Sao Paolo to support their maintenance operations there. Qantas made a similar move to take advantage
of time on the ground by opening up an a380 sized maintenance hanger in Los Angeles for
their planes that sometimes sit there for up to 14 hours, but that’s not the only
trick Qantas has up its sleeves. Australia is just so isolated that no plane
can currently fly non-stop from the country to the US east coast. The US west coast, however, is close enough
that a plane can make it in a 12-14 hour flight so Qantas has non-stop flights from Melbourne,
Sydney, and Brisbane to Los Angeles. The trick is that they are all scheduled to
arrive between about 6:00 and 6:30 am then, at 8:20 AM one of the planes continues on
to New York with the passengers booked through. This is known as a scissor hub. WestJet airlines operates an even more advanced
one in St John’s Canada. They have flights arriving from Orlando, Toronto,
and Ottawa all around 9:30-10:00 pm then just past 11:00 pm their flights to Dublin and
London leave. This way they can fly six routes with just
three planes and, even better for them, since it’s only a 4.5 hour flight from St John’s
to the British Isles they can fly small, inexpensive single aisle planes transatlantic. All of these scheduling patterns and tricks
serve to help an airline achieve it’s ultimate goal—to maximize revenue. In this industry, time truly is money since
planes cost money and people pay more to fly faster so few aspects of the business are
as important as properly scheduling flights. If you like spending less time at airports
one way is to fly with shorter connections, but perhaps the easiest way is to use Clear. I tried them out for myself on a recent trip
and the footage speaks for itself. CLEAR uses biometrics to replace the TSA id
check so you always go straight to to either the PreCheck or regular screening without
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few people in wheelchairs when I went through but that’s actually a good thing because what
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clear will be. I put my camera in my bag during the screening
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I went from walking through the door to the gate in seven minutes. The good news is that the first 200 people
to sign up over at clearme.com/wendover get to speed through airports security at Clear’s
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it’s worth signing up while it’s available. Once again, that’s clearme.com/wendover
for three free months of faster airport security. Aside from that, please be sure to check out
my podcast Showmakers and subscribe to this channel to get all my future videos right
when they come out. Thanks again for watching and I’ll see you
in two weeks for another Wendover Productions video.

100 Replies to “How Airlines Schedule Flights”

  1. This is a really good channel Love it. One question though, you said flights coming from the west landing in Abu Dhabi typically arrive between 11:30 pm and 12:30 am, but I recently traveled from Australia to london via connection in Abu Dhabi and we arrived in Abu Dhabi somewhere between 6:30 am and departed to London at 8:00am

  2. If Airlines would buy fuel contracts every quarter. Instead of every 12 months. They would make a profit. As American bought fuel for one year contract at 60% more then it was 2 months later. But they had to pay 2x what it would have really cost for the full year!

  3. Don't know how this relates to your title. "How airlines schedule flights". This has nothing to do with scheduling.

  4. Emirates has alot of flights to Australia and New Zealand, they have some New Zealand flight stop over in some Australian cities. Emirates once used to have a Dubai-Brisbane-Auckland-Brisbane-Dubai route. But now Emirates has cut the Auckland leg of the flight, they replaced it with a direct flight to Auckland. Meanwhile Emirates only finishes and starts the Dubai-Brisbane-Dubai flight. The thing is that Dubai leaves the A380 aircraft that operates that Brisbane route, sitting at Brisbane from 6am to 9pmish. Pretty crazy how long it sits especially considering the aircraft being the world's largest passenger plane.

  5. 7:11, it’s actually pronounced Brisbon, like how you’d sound the end of Lisbon. I’m not mad, it’s just one of my peevs😂😂😂

  6. You missed mentioning the best part of the Qantas LA-NYC flight–it's a foreign airline operating within the US between two domestic points, essentially an rare 8th Aviation Freedom flight. I believe however that they are unable to sell tickets to passengers who are only getting on or off the plane at LAX–they need to be continuing on to Australia.

  7. 7:42 that's a lot more than six routes. You have six routes for end to end passengers (Toronto to Dublin, Toronto to London, Ottawa to Dublin, Ottawa to London, Orlando to Dublin, and Orlando to London). Then you have passengers who are only going to St. John's (Toronto to St. John's, Ottawa to St. John's, and Orlando to St. John's). Lastly you have passengers who boarded in St. John's going to Europe (St. John's to Dublin, and St. John's to London). That's 11 routes, not 6.

  8. How to fly faster between North America and South America?
    just do not fly with Delta Airlines!!!
    that fucking airline really sucks

  9. in the video for the promo when the camera goes through the xray you can for a split second see the radiation exiting the camera sensors

  10. I was intrigued by the title of this video because I work for SWA. Thank you for doing your research! You hit everything exactly right! This was by far the best and truest look at the airline business and not only how we operate the way that we do, but why! People very rarely understand that, and from someone on the front lines with passengers……Thank You!!!!!! I’ll be looking forward to more videos! ✈️✈️✈️

  11. One of my favorite thing to do at c lt is to sit by American's service desk. It's always packed by people who miss the 30 minute layover American scheduled for them.

  12. How can qantas fly from LAX to JFK. Ant that against the law being that it's a international airline. Air china has to come from PEK to IAH and then to PTY and go back to IAH and then go back to PEK. Because that's what the laws say. It makes sense.

  13. It seems there are lot of inefficiency in the airline industry. Lot of variables can be optimized for better cost and lesser time.

  14. Why are planes landing at my airport at 1am almost 2am(not delayed, actually scheduled), what passengers would want to fly those?

  15. Clear sucks, complete waste of money. They’re in like six airports nationwide. TSA precheck is the most reliable way to quickly navigate through security.

  16. I didn't know about WestJet's St. John's connections, that's really neat! I've flown Ottawa-London before and it was a direct flight, and it was sooo long to be on a plane. If I ever go to the UK again/Ireland, I just might stop in St. John's for a day or two in between since I haven't been to the east coast since I was a kid.

  17. When I’ve flown to Japan, the scheduling out of Dulles was more or less the same between UA and ANA, but the flights back to Dulles were obviously scheduled based on the fact that Narita was ANA’s hub (and not so much UA’s anymore), and Dulles was UA’s. ANA’s return flight arrived in the mid-morning, with my mom navigating rush hour traffic to grab me. But if I had taken UA’s flight back, we’d be stuck in the evening rush… but connecting passengers going to Florida or whatever wouldn’t care.

  18. Nice video, but I have to disagree with you on Clear – you only go ahead of a few people, most of the time that line is fairly short anyway. Unlike Global Entry, which is cheaper, it does not allow you to go through the TSA Pre line. To add insult to injury they charge $179 a year whereas Global Entry is $100 for 5 years.
    I get it that they are sponsoring your video but Clear is a massive ripoff.

  19. Am I the odd man out? I don’t mind long connections. I don’t have to run, and can plane spot, get food, etc. definitely prefer them.

  20. I have Clear and Pre. For the amount of air travel I do, it's worth the money. It used to be that Clear would get you right up to the x-ray belt and the body scanner. Now it simply skips the line up to the first TSA agent. Still worth it. 🙂

  21. How are you gonna mention airline hubs and leave off the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and the main Delta Hub.

  22. 8:30 sorry I'm sure you have that figured out but I sware that illigal your not allowed cameras in security also that seems scetchy to me you could of have taken out your camera walking into the commercial area

  23. I learned this in a hard in "air tycoon online 2" because I crammed all my flights in 1 airport and costing me 500k each turn

  24. Amazing how American politics talks about American exceptionalism. Watching these videos, I see that prosperity approaches global. And I'M one of those making the sacrifice of 'world peace through sharing'. The jobs and wealth appears to be for someone else and I'll just gladly enjoy their good times.

  25. So with Global Warming projections of 5 feet of sea level rise by 2100, major hub airport like Miami, FL international airport which has an elevation of 7 feet above sea level could be in jeopardy of flooding, certainly during King Tides or Hurricane storm events. So AA using MIA as is Latin America hub airport might want to start looking for a new hub.

    I wonder if Jose Marti International, Havana Cuba at elevation 210 Feet Above Sea Level would be a good option with some facility and runway improvements. It is close to Miami, so distances are comparable. Labor Costs are probably lower. Then there is the Politico….issues. How to work on the Relations between USA and communist Cuba?

  26. i didnt know that about American Airlines thats interesting as well as Southwest and some of the airports in this video i know by name and code thanks for clarifying this i always wondered how airlines schedule flights.

  27. A “banked” hub or “wave” system places you at the mercy of the wankers who run ATC and airports. As a hub or operator gets more successful the likelihood of you being screwed over by incompetence, stupidity or greed increases. The problem starts at the beginning of the day when the first inbounds suffer a delay. If you are on that flight or one that will be flown by the delayed aircraft later in the day you are screwed. So do yourself a favour. Either stay where things are best ie. at home or if you really, really, really have to travel go by rail, walk, drive or cycle. Only fly when you want to be late, lose your cool to stress or waste your life.

  28. Just come from Europe and OMG checkpoints are so long and I have no problem going through all the checkpoint because it's for our safety but what's good about it when Democrats demand open borders?

    We would travel more often around the world especially to Europe if their prices are cheaper than $1000!

  29. I don't like the logic that Chicago, DFW, and Phoenix are THE important connection airports. Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Detroit are also big hubs that thousands of people fly through every day.

  30. 5:07 are you sure that the plane does not go from Hong Kong to Singapore then back to Hong Kong in those 9 hours or maybe it goes from Hong Kong to Singapore and then the plane waits and then the plane flies again to Abu dhabi

  31. You do realize the low wait time is only momentary until everyone is forced to use biometrics. Remember the VIP lines? You give up so much of your freedom for temporary convenience.

  32. ive really got to start charging more or sell some overpriced shit to suckers so i can travel. everyone on youtube sounds like they fly everywhere all the time. it would take me a year to work and save for one national flight just here in shithole nz, let alone out of this stinkhole country.

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