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Who's Flying?

I am finally getting to return to Europe on Monday. I have a flight from JFK to LHR. For fun, I took a look at the seating chart for my flight to see how full it is.

Half of first class is sold. About 75% of business class is sold. But only about 25% of economy is sold. (And since it's a U.S. based carrier there is no need to wait until 24 hours before the flight to get a free seat.)

It makes me wonder.....who's flying? Tourists? Business people? People upgrading using miles--like me?

Posted by
146 posts

Curious what airline you are on. JFK-LHR sounds like Delta or partner, since United mostly flies out of EWR.

United's web site has an "expert" mode you can turn on (in your MileagePlus preferences). In "expert" mode when you look at a given flight details it will display the number of available seats in each possible fare bucket. For example, for DEN-LHR on May 19, I see:

Available fare classes
J9
JN9
C9
D9
Z7
ZN7
P0
PN0
PZ0
IN0
I0
Y9
YN9
B9
M9
E9
U9
H9
HN9
Q9
V9
W1
S1
T1
L1
K1
G1
N9
XN0
X0.
That would indicate 9 available Business (J9), but no business Mileage Upgrade Awards (PZ0). Of course you need the actual United fare chart to decode the whole mess.
That would show more accurately how full the flight is, since not all seats are assigned when the ticket is sold.

I wonder if the other airlines have an equivalent feature.

Posted by
103 posts

I think you have answered your own question - people who have miles to burn are booking and flying, and many others are flying on business, less so for tourism. The mass tourist crowd is still sitting it out, I think - people like me (tourists) who have no airline status or miles (at least not enough for a biz class ticket) are more wary of sinking money into a trip with all of the uncertainties.

Plus England is still dealing with a stubbornly high infection rate. And the government is flip flopping on requiring an NHS health pass for pubs and restaurants - after such a plan being roundly rejected as a possibility in September, it is evidently still "on the table" based on news reports I am seeing as govt fear of a winter spike of infections overwhelming the NHS looms (meaning more restrictions later in the year). With no mention of how an American tourist would get such a pass, it seems like a possible hurdle for some to commit to a trip to England in the next couple of months,

Posted by
1271 posts

I'm never convinced by the airline charts. And some flying will indeed be businessmen. But, I'd guess there are also a fair few frustrated tourists who've saved a goodly sum over the last year or so and are willing to splash the cash on a better seat now they can finally head off.

Posted by
10027 posts

It's American airlines. Between them and British Airways who codeshare with each other, I believe they dominate the JFK-LHR market.

Posted by
1886 posts

I read recently that risk for covid exposure on planes is highest when everyone takes off their masks to eat at the same time. Business and first-class seating were mentioned to be less risky, just because there is more space per person and fewer seats. So, maybe those who are flying are desiring to take less risk and opting for the "safer" seats (either thru $s or points). Or, as someone else said, just doing it nicer since there have been some missed trips. And, those who went into the pandemic with lots of money, for the most part, still have lots of money.....so what might be a splurge for most households, is no big deal for the truly wealthy (who may also be less tied to limited sick leave, docked pay issues, and medical evacuation issues, should a problem emerge).

Today (as the pandemic stands) I would NOT fly basic or preferred economy. And, if I HAD to travel, I would think long and hard even about business and first.....but I am admittedly being super cautious (for family risk reasons).

Using the same rationale as above (meal time risk), if 75% of economy truly remains unsold, that section may be where there actually winds up being less risk on that particular flight.......heck, you could have a seat with two empty rows in front and behind you :) Lots of social distancing :) and A LOT less worry about masks off during meal time.

Let us know how your flight shakes out and your thoughts afterward.

Posted by
12550 posts

Turkish Air requests that people in adjoining seats take turns eating and that people exit the plane by row and stay seated until their turn. Neither has happens in practice on the dozen or so flights that I have been on. I have a few more coming up, let's see if that changes.

My destinations In Europe this year have also shown very little caution re: COVID. More like Florida than California.

Posted by
12550 posts

On the other hand my last SW Airline flight they made an announcement if you didn't put your mask on between sips of water they would have you banned for life and turned into the Feds. Naturally that resulted on me taking my hated United today instead of SW.

All my flights to Europe have been sell outs or near sell outs.

Posted by
10027 posts

Maggie, I'm flying in business so I won't know what people in cattle class, I mean economy, are doing. LOL And I have a seat in the first row of BC, next to a window.

Posted by
24 posts

Data points:

Lufthansa SFO-FRA on 9/18 (overnight flight): Premium Economy essentially full, but Economy very, very sparse. I was able to find a vacant triple in row 43 to stretch out for much of the night. Other triples were similarly occupied. There had been quite a mob at boarding, but most of the people lined up for business-class boarding, so possibly that class was well-populated.

Lufthansa MUC-SFO on 10/7 (daytime flight): Premium Economy about one-third full (contrary to the chart of available seats available beforehand, which showed most seats unavailable). Economy over half full.

Such a refreshing change from the full-full-full trans-Atlantic flights of 2019 and prior! Of course, most European would-be tourists are not permitted to fly to the US until November.

Posted by
784 posts

After going nowhere since December, 2019, I’ve got three trips booked before the end of 2021. Watched fares fanatically until the Delta comfort seats started selling out, then bought. The good news - two sets of tickets dropped in price, one more than 50%. Since Delta isn’t charging change fees right now, they put the money back in my Delta account, which is as good as a refund to me. On the Rome tickets they’ve refunded me money twice!

I used to not look at ticket prices after I’d bought. Water under the bridge. But now with change fees waived I’m watching!

Posted by
5078 posts

British Airways kept cancelling Denver>Heathrow flights, day after day, so we switched to American for our September 21 flight, 2 1/2 weeks ago, and switched to Denver>Sallas>Rome, instead of Denver>London Heathrow>Bologna. I believe they resumed service from Denver the day after our American flight.

The American flight was 3/4 full in Coach, so the flight attendants spread passengers around, so there was more space between folks, compared to their actual seat assignments. Shorter waits to use the restrooms, a plus on the 787.

Posted by
1259 posts

Our flight to Paris looked from the seat selection chart like it was going to be somewhat empty but when we got there it was almost full. Just a smattering of empty seats. Alas not our row. The flight from Paris to Nice was completely sold out.