Dulles UAL Diversions


UAL seems off to a great? start trying to maintain summer IAD schedules, what with the seemingly nightly line of thunderstorms passing overhead around 4-6PM.

Its B772 DEN-IAD flight 902 diverted for the second time in 3 nights, today to Harrisburg [KMDT], Saturday to Richmond. A flight 967 diverted to BWI.

flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL9 … /KDEN/KMDT.

UAL doesn’t make it easy for anyone trying to figure out where these MDT, RIC, and BWI flights are actually coming from, as the to-IAD portion may or may not match the flight number used into the diversion city. Of course, I find UAL maddening the way it uses flight numbers anyway. Same plane DEN-IAD-MUC service, for example may or may not have one flight number into and out of IAD, yet, they often use the same flight number for a route where you clearly have to change planes. To me, where there is the same plane, keep the same flight number. But, never use a single flight number anytime you have to change planes. Otherwise, it is simply confusing.


Thanks for bringing this up. I was traveling home from work on the PA turnpike which cross the river close to the end of the runway (KMDT). I looked up and saw this plane and knew it looked out of place.


How would that confuse you? The flight begins in DEN makes a stop in IAD and continues to MUC…why would an a/c change to a larger bird make it difficult? They do the same on their ORD-IAD-KWI. IKt begins the trip as a 75 and goes to a 777 at IAD-KWI…same flight number.

Back in the day Pan Am would go to RIC or BGR all the time.


If I read the original poster correctly, what he is complaining about is that UAL will change the flight number for ATC purposes. As an example, flight 888 in the timetable may route A to B to C (with or without a change of aircraft) but for ATC purposes the flight from A to B may be 888W or 8999 and the flight from B to C is 888.


Agree…for ATC purposes they probably do have to file an amended flight number / plan to go from diversion city to IAD or where ever. I apologize if I sounded like a “D” I am still on my first cup of coffee.


Another point regarding flight numbers and the schedule. (all speculation on my part)
Months ago somebody in flight scheduling discovered that company X has a need to fly people between city A and city B which the airline can serve via hub H. With all good marketing intentions the same scheduler comes up with flight 123 routing A-H-B that can be flown with one aircraft. Then on the day of the flight, on a tactical basis, maintenance comes up with their needs and alters the schedule so the aircraft that normally flies flight 123 AHB is needed in M that night so there is an aircraft change at H. Likewise you wouldn’t schedule a 747 RIC-IAD-FRA, but for marketing reasons you may want to call those sectors by the same flight number.



For clarification concerning UAL flight numbers, using today’s [Tu 6-17] flights:

UA340, DEN-ORD-BWI, OAG listed as 763-ORD-733. Today’s gates into ORD, C19, out, B22. [different terminals!]

UA1569, LAS-IAD-MCO, 320. OAG listed as Chg plane at IAD. Today’s gates into IAD C17, out, C1. [a very long walk!]

UA83, IAD-LAX-HNL, OAG listed as 320-LAX-763. Today’s gates into LAX, 71B, out, 68B. [different terminals!]

UA902, DEN-IAD-MUC, 777. Nothing special shown in OAG. Today’s gates into IAD, C27, out C8. [again, a long walk!]

UA 946, LAX-IAD-AMS, 763. Nothing special shown in OAG. Today’s gates into IAD, D7, out C-6. [different ends of the same terminal!]

In the first 3 instances, I think using one flight number for the whole flight is deceptive, even though the OAG tells the public of change of plane.

In the latter 2, I doubt seriously that the entire flight is used with the same plane, evidence the gates, and I believe it is also deceptive to the traveling public.

In all 5 cases, I would suggest each segment have its own flight number.


There’s nothing deceptive about the practice of changing aircraft enroute. One of the reasons it is done is for placement in the direct flight portion of reservations systems.

Direct and nonstop flights are listed first in the systems followed by connecting services. A direct flight in the USA is a flight that operates with one or more stops enroute. It can be one of the following:

  1. no change of aircraft, no change of flight number. Example: ZZZ123 operates with a 737 from A to B to C

  2. change of aircraft, no change of flight number. Example: ZZZ234 operates from A to B to C. The aircraft used is a 727 from A to B and a 737 from B to C

  3. no change of aircraft, change of flight number. Example: A 727 is used on a routing of A to B to C. The OAG would show in the remarks section for the flight something similar to ZZZ345 - B - ZZZ346

Delta used to do a lot of #2 above. If you looked in their timetable for flights from London, you’d think they had a lot of flights. In reality, they had one flight a day to Atlanta. The timetable routing section showed something like this:

2 L10 LHR-ATL (the actual flight)
(all flight numbers have been changed to protect the innocent)


Using UA340 in my example, do you think most passengers would feel it operates as a direct Denver to BWI flight?

  "Hello, United, is 340 a direct flight to BWI?  Yes, it is.  Why do you ask?  Well, I see I have to change planes in Chicago.  And, if I understand your web site correctly, I have to walk all the way from C terminal to the B terminal.  That's right.  It's what we call a direct flight as we define direct flights.  You see, our res screens...!  Good bye!"


I flew from IAD to SFO thru PHX on America West 1st leg IAD- PHX A320, 2nd leg gate chg a/c chg B733. On the way back through LAS the trip started in SFO B733, a/c chg to A320 to IAD.

one of the postings above listed a/c rotation…aircraft like crew members move around within a system. The mx cntrl. may have an aircraft scheduled to over night in a particular station for work…

It isn’t deceptive. It is normal. I strongly doubt any seasoned traveler is going to question a gate change or even an a/c swap where long haul service is concerened.


The passenger who is not a frequent flier would probably say it is not a direct flight. But to the frequent flier, those who are airline enthusiasts, and the airlines themselves it is a direct flight.

Remember that one of the definitions of a direct flight in the USA means no change of flight number even if their is a change of gauge (the airline term for change of aircraft).

As an aside, a direct flight in most of the rest of the world means a nonstop flight. What is a direct flight here in the USA is called a through flight.