FlightAware Discussions

Delta Air Lines tail number incorrectly changing

There is a major issue with many DAL flights. I poll all the departures out of PHL every 10 minutes and for the last few weeks I’ve noticed that for most DAL flights, the tail number listed in the data changes to the wrong one at some point before departure. And some time later it will change back to the correct tail number. Sometimes it even changes back and forth a few times. As I work closely with the airlines, I can confirm, in these cases, that DAL did not actually do any aircraft swap and always intended to operate with the originally listed aircraft. Rightly so, as the “wrong aircraft” is typically in a completely different city and has no way of making it to PHL in time to operate the flight for the times listed.

Here is just one example: DAL2190 on 8/15/20, operating PHL-ATL scheduled at 1726L. At the beginning of today, the tail number was N3746H. This is what DAL confirmed the aircraft to be, and that is what the XML data listed as well. At around 1400L, the XML data changed the tail number to N388DA. DAL confirmed that they never swapped the aircraft. Then at around 1420L, the XML data changed again, back to N3746H. Then at around 1650L, it changed again to N388DA. Once again, DAL confirmed that no such swap had occurred on their end. And if you bring up N388DA right now on FA, you can see the odd routing that it is suggesting.

The aircraft is currently sitting in RIC, scheduled to go back to ATL at 1753L. And this is not part of any diversion, re-routing, or swap. That’s just the routing that N388DA was always scheduled to take today.

So here we are, just about at departure time for DAL2190, and the website and XML data both list its tail number incorrectly as N388DA. This only appears to be an issue with DAL at the moment. And it happens to at least 50% of their flights (at least in PHL). I brought up a similar issue last year regarding other airlines, and was told it simply was the data the FA has received from their sources. Well I urge you to please check into these sources. I don’t know where they are getting this bogus data from, but it’s creating lots of confusion for those of us who pay for it.

Edit: Now that the aircraft has just pushed back from the gate, the tail number has switched back to the correct one, N3746H. Maybe that will help someone figure out where the bogus data is coming from.

We’ve identified that this seems to be an instance of bad data coming from our direct feed and have an internal ticket open to try to identify the next steps with them.

We identified a bug causing this particular issue. It should be resolved in production in the next few days.

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