This has been bugging my wife quite a bit so she asked me to post. She travels on business a lot and is very familiar with the Boston–>San Francisco route. Now, all four planes were headed for large metropolitan areas and were originating from same (Newark, I’m told, is often used as an alternative to JFK/La Guardia). Having checked the Boeing website, we see that, depending on the model, a 757 can hold anywhere from 194-289 passengers, and a 767 from 180-375.
Now, the combined passenger total for all four planes was only 233. My wife says that she’s never done an east-west coast run that wasn’t at least 75% full–even on a red-eye, let alone a weekday morning (she’s travelled at all different times). Even using the smallest model of each plane and putting them at 50% capacity, that would still total 374. These planes were running an average of 30% capacity! I don’t remember the last time I was on a plane that deserted (that’s barely one person every two rows in a single-aisle six-wide)
Also, given our extensive experience with United in the past year or two, they tend to overschedule popular routes and then cancel them, consolidating passengers from multiple planes onto single flights. Given all this, what are the odds that all four planes would be dramatically low in occupancy (especially if you subtract the hijackers, at least two per plane and possibly more)? I don’t think there’s any way they could have planned on this, but I can’t help but imagine how much easier the hijackers’ “job” was with so few passengers to contend with (especially since they apparently had no firearms, just close-quarter weapons).
Any thoughts or ideas?