I was listening to Reno approach today and noticed that one of the AWE flights has a “P” after their flight number and they were using “Cactus 522 Papa” as their call sign on the radio. To track it in Flightaware required the “P” as well… flightaware.com/live/flight/AWE522P
I’ve never seen this before, was there something special about this flight that required the “papa” designation, similar to Lifeguard, etc… Or is this simply the choice of US Airways to number their flight this way?
I’m not familiar with the use of “P”, but I worked ramp for Great Lakes way back when, and we had an MX and crew base here. We also flew to Chicago Meigs downtown from here.(and no one will beleive this one ) There were several occasions, where there was so much demand, that we operated two aircraft under the same “flight number”. Now admittantly I don’t know whether we used this just on the marketing side, or on the ATC side as well, but our flight numbers were 6700A and 6700B.
Again, I guess I can’t fully explain what you saw, as I’m unsure as to how ATC handled this, but at least as far as a the PAX were concerned we operated like this in these very rare occasions. I can say I’ve never seen an airline marketed flight number that wasn’t the ATC callsign as well, but I may be mistaken.
It usually happens when there are scheduling hiccups (maint, weather, etc.) and there are two flights operating under the same number in an attempt to get things back on track. When this happens one of the flights gets an alpha character added to its number. The letters can be random or in sequence. There can be times that there are multiple flight continuations (not unheard of with an airline operating several thousand flights a day) requiring the whole alphabet.
In today’s case you can see that the original AWE522, for what ever reason hasn’t left MKE yet. So they sent another aircraft to RNO to get the 522 flight schedule back on track.
Some airlines do this routinely even when the flights are on time; UAL comes to mind, with a lot of flights with international and domestic legs adding an J, L, or T to the domestic leg every day even if it’s the first leg.