How many spare planes do airlines have?

I noticed both Super Bowl teams took chartered airliners to the game last weekend. Broncos took a United plane, Panthers took American.

How many planes do the big airlines have available for charters? ( On average, I know it might vary by day or time of year)

Based on the number of flight delays here in the U.S, I’d say each major airline has about 10 spare aircraft. All of them are currently undergoing 24/7 routine maintenance and are completely disassembled.

Thats just WAG … and it doesn’t make sense to say “completely disassembled”.
What do you do with a jumbo’s chassis then ? You don’t do that. They may rotate parts through but they put it back together not long after.
Here’s an article on actual airline procedure …

There were 100 stored during the northern winter… so 10 big airlines… about 10 each. I guess 10 is right, but they were stored as complete going aircraft.

There may be about 10 jumbo’s (larger than 737) in for repairs/service at a time too…Takes a while to go over the entire frame looking for cracks and so on…

I was asking about spare planes that are ready to fly , not under repair or sitting in a desert.

Let’s say an airline has a hundred flights every day, and it has 110 planes. I would say that none of the extra ten are spares. They’re all cycling through being used, repaired, maintained, upgraded, etc.

I can’t imagine that there’s a pool of planes just sitting unused waiting to replace one that breaks.

well they do charters so I guess those are not used 100% of the time.

In 2001, I took an Air Canada charter flight from Toronto to the Bahamas and someone told me that it was the plane the Raptors chartered when they traveled.

It was not an ordinary Air Canada Airbus A320 (or whatever) on the inside. There was no “economy class”; there were only 2 seats on each side of the aisle, and the distance between rows was HUGE. I’m 6’2" tall, and I couldn’t touch the seat ahead of me with my foot even when I slouched down as much as humanly possible in my seat. That’s easily the most comfortable flight I’ve taken in my life.

I’m pretty sure Air Canada doesn’t have 10 charter planes like that ready at any given time.

If they have a charter department that regularly charters flights they’re not spare aircraft. With that said, they will have enough aircraft and crew to support mechanical problems in their fleet and that’s based on expected failure rates. To muddy the waters they may also rely on chartered aircraft from other companies.

I flew to Grand Cayman years ago, on Cayman Air. There was a problem with the plane we were supposed to take back, so we ended up on a charter plane from a US airline. I don’t remember which one, but I remember being told the flight would be longer because the US-owned plane wasn’t allowed to fly over Cuba.

That whooshing noise could have been a low flying jet…

a few years back the FAA changed a rule about charters that impacted Canadian NHL teams that were using Air Canada for charter flights. The teams were trying to find replacement charters but the FAA relented and let Air Canada continue their charter flights.

I think Air Canada gets a waiver because normally non US airlines are not allowed to fly between 2 US cities. The FAA tried to remove that waiver which caused the problem.

Fleet planning is a deep topic. You’ve got a bunch of jets. Some percentage will be always be in overhaul, so you actually have fewer available to use. And another percentage will be broken (or break down) on any given day.

It’s useful to have spares at your hubs, at least within reason. You might choose to replace a broken model X with a model Y because you have more spare Ys sitting around that day at that station. Naturally types X & Y have different seat counts & layouts, so there can be chaos at boarding when everybody’s seat assignment is remapped or voided. It’s even more fun if the spare has fewer seats than the original.

Demand differs between winter & summer. Most carriers try to push the majority of the overhaul work into the winter months so as to have as close to 100% of the fleet as possible available for the summer.

And as somebody said upstream, if an airline can sell a steady stream of charters that becomes steady work for a few (not necessarily dedicated) aircraft. So they’re just one more demand on the fleet each day. Unlike the published schedule, the details of where they’re going & when is TBD until the day prior; but the fact they’ll be going somewhere is baked into the monthly & quarterly plan.

I used to do a lot of sports charters. Our carrier just used regular aircraft that were rotated in and out of the normal scheduled flow that day. After we got done with the charter it was cleaned, re-catered, loaded with regular pax, & sent off on a regular flight.
An outfit like United or American has ~700 jets. Prying one loose to fly a team for most of a day isn’t a strain on the total. The typical profile would be to have the crew meet the jet at a hub, cater it up, then ferry to the team’s pickup airport, fly them to the destination, then ferry the aircraft back to the hub where it started. If their home was one of our hubs, we’d load them up at their/our home city, fly them to the game, wait for them to play, hope like heck they won, then fly them home again.

You don’t want to know how un-nice some of those folks can be after losing. They often want to take it out on each other and anything nearby. But if they won the euphoria was a sight to behold.

“Pax.” Nice. This is pronounced as such, I take it?

How complicated is the schedule for a typical airliner? I can imagine that a particular plane might just go between JFK and LAX once a day, or between DAL and HOU multiple times a day. But are there planes that don’t repeat routes over the course of a week or month?

Yup. Rhymes with fax & tax.

Industry standard term meaning “passengers, plural”. e.g. “You have 127 pax on board.” Not unlike the Hx, Dx, Rx, etc. abbreviations the medical folks use.

It gets real complicated. The goal is to run each aircraft as hard as possible. If it’s not moving, it’s not making money.

For a domestic hub & spoke operation the airplane will thread in and out, in and out, in and out all day. It’ll probably go to a different out-station each time with the goal of filling the entire workday with the max number of hours. An airplane just shuttling between A & B & A & B over and over all day would be very unusual unless you’re talking about a small carrier with only a handful of destinations.
Each aircraft needs an overnight inspection every few days. Not every station is equipped to do that, and even the stations that are staffed for it will specialize in one aircraft type. So out of, say, 20 stations where a particular type overnights, only 3 can do the work on them.

So the maintenance department arranges a flow where each airplane cycles to sleep at a different station each night, passing through the desired inspection station once a week. So airplane A zigs & zags all day to & fro ending up at ABC for its inspection. The next five nights it sleeps at DEF, GHI, JKL, MNO, & PQR respectively. Finally the next day ( night 7 in the cycle) it does the same pattern as the first day, ending at ABC for its next weekly inspection. Meantime Airplane B is flying the very same weeklong pattern, just one day behind aircraft A. Airplanes C, D, E, & F follow along, each one day behind the previous.
Now mix in 3 or 4 or 8 hubs, hub-to-hub flying, international long haul, spares, malfunctions, diversions, weather, cancellations, etc., etc. The published schedule is also different on all 7 days of the week. M-F are usually pretty similar, but Sat & Sun are different from weekdays and different from each other.

And at least once a month the whole thing changes as we work through the seasons and holidays.

You can see why those scheduling departments run on Red Bull & Excedrin at work, and scotch after hours. :slight_smile:

OK, thanks. I imagine they must have special software for optimizing schedules for each plane.

Here’s some practical examples …

The long-haul airplane I flew today started 2 days ago at hub A, then went to hub B - overseas destination and overnight return to Hub B. Then yesterday it sat 24 hours at Hub B for inspection & repairs. Today starting early was Hub B - Hub C - back to Hub B then on to a different overseas destination on a different continent from the first one right now as I write this. Tomorrow it comes back to Hub B then it’s TBD. But it’ll do something, that’s for sure.

I just pulled up one of our narrowbody jets selected at random. From the 4th through today (= 4 workdays) it flew 14 flights. Touching one hub 5 times, a different hub 4 times, and 6 out-stations once each, plus two hub-hub flights.

It’s impractical for me to sleuth it out, but I would bet that involved 6 or 7 distinct crews of pilots and a different pattern of 7 or 8 sets of flight attendants. Which employees were based in at least 2 different hubs/bases. Each of whom had their own 3- or 4-day pattern of going to and fro.

That’s 4 days for 1 airplane. Multiply that by 700 to understand a big airline, plus by another 1000 for the express carriers’ RJs. Heck, we buy 10,000 hotel rooms every night of the year just to accommodate our mainline crews on the road. Planning that is a nightmare in itself.
ETA: Yeah, there’s some pretty heavy duty software to try to plan, ride heard on, and react to stuff happening. Meltdowns happen when you can’t re-plan faster than stuff is going wrong.

Southwest does not use hubs so they have a whole different way of scheduling their planes.

I don’t travel much but when I do travel the flights are always full. Which makes me wonder how they rebook people when they have bad weather that cancels a lot of flights.

Why hotel rooms?
I thought that the airlines own several homes or apartments for staff to use, adjacent to every airport they land in regularly.
I’ve heard [del]stewardes[/del]* flight attendants chatting among themselves referring to “the apartment”.

*yes, that’s how old I am :slight_smile: