Aircraft Flight Numbers

Alaska Airlines (ASA), for example, have 1, 2 and 3 digit flight numbers. Why are the flights numbered in this manner and what does this tell me about the flight.

At my former company;

1 digit numbered flights were MANAGEMENT

2 digit numbered flights were FLIGHT DEPARTMENT (with each instructor having his/her own number) or repositioning/extra lift flights

3 digit numbered flights were normally scheduled flights, but the numbers didn’t really me that much

Most airlines start at flight number 1 and just keep adding on as they add more flights. Some airlines use flight number 1 for their “premier” route. Sometimes airlines will retire a flight number after a particularly notable accident.

At one point Jetblue used 3 digit numbers for their A320 flights and 4 digit numbers starting with 1 for their E190 flights.

Many carriers will use higher numbers for their express (regional carrier) operations. AWE uses 4xxx for their Mesa flights and UAL uses 6xxx for their Skywest flights.

Special flights (maintenance, charters, etc.) are usually (but not always) numbered in the 9000 series. A couple of exceptions appear to be Continental which uses numbers around 1700 and Southwest which uses 4000 and 8000 series, the latter usually for ferry flights of new aircraft.

I’ve seen some 1900’s also.

Horizon, Alaska’s commuter starts with 1. Their first flight in 1981 was from Yakima (YKM) to SEA. Today their Yakima flights are 1-17. QXE17 actually flies YKM-SEA first thing in the morning as the return leg of QXE16 which arrives at 11 something pm SEA-YKM. Their next morning departure at about 9am is QXE1 YKM-SEA.

Often times an even or odd number indicates east/west bound or in/out of hub, etc…

Also the published number on the schedule is usually four digits representing the airline or code share numbering system. QXE1 is Horizon and Alaska 2001. It is also American 7463 and Northwest ???.