Just for research and curiousity I've been looking at flights to Europe from San Francisco airport and it seems like there are plenty of flights going to Europe right now, both non-stop and with connections from other US airports to Europe. My questions are, are these flights for real or do lots get cancelled at the last minute? How full can these flights be with so many travel restrictions? and just how profitable can it be to fly close to empty flights even with some cargo aboard?
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, gave a talk on The Points Guy on Tuesday. He said they are making money on cargo. He also said that a lot of people are paying for seats up front to have more room. I've been on two transAtlantics and can vouch that the front was pretty full. I don't know about economy, but you could probably pretty easily get poor-man's business, four middle seats all to yourself in the back to stretch out.
Airlines make a lot of money flying cargo, so many of them are probably flying with a handful of passengers and a lot of cargo.
Some will fly with a light load and cargo, some are cancelled. I had a Boston to Rome flight cancelled at the beginning of April, of course, I would not have been let in anyway, but Italy was all but shut down as well.. I imagine many flights have a good number of "hopeful" travelers, then as the day approaches, they have to drop out, if too few passengers remain, you cancel the flight. Maybe there are more "essential" travelers than I imagine,, but not a planeful. Although, I booked a flight from ATL to Rome back a month or two ago, the flight was mostly empty, now it is all but full.
Are changes in airfares going to be an indicator of seat availability?
Bets, I like the idea of buying four seats across. Can you do that? Or even three seats across on the aisle if two are travelling.
The process of purchasing extra seats varies by airline...however, generally requires a call-in, and on day of travel you'll want to make the gate agent aware that the empty seat is yours and not to fill it.
No need to buy extr seats right now: If the plane has a lot of empty seats, you can pretty much count on having the center row, especially in the back, all to yourself, ie.poor man’s business class. But in a few months, if travel picks up, you may need to purchase.
As a sample, per a recent earnings call: "American Airlines' Q1 FY 2021 load factor was 59.5%, down from 72.7% in the same quarter a year earlier." But that's system-wide, and I'm sure the 60% is lifted by a higher average for domestic flying.
A pretty chart w/ vague data: https://www.statista.com/statistics/234955/passenger-load-factor-plf-on-international-flights/
And re: getting a whole row to one's self, AKA "poor man's business class". That's not something people really book (Except on Air New Zealand, which sells it as a product. It's really just lucking out on a nearly empty flight.
Friend of mine just left for Zurich from Dulles last week on United as a stopover on their way to Turkey - the back was practically empty. At boarding time there were only about 15 seats booked in economy. Pretty sure everyone got a row.