Multi-Segment flight


I have noticed that some multi-segment flight use a different aircraft for each of the flights sectors, how can this be? Example, AA 169


Plane lands, crew moves to new plane…


Let me elaborate if I may on the preceding (cough) explanation.

It allows the airlines to advertise through or directsic] service between two points when it is in fact nothing but a connection.

TWA used to be notorious for this with several 8xx domestic flights converging on JFK where they were combined onto a few 747s for onward flight to Europe. Those 747s then had 2,3 or 4 separate flight numbers although only 1 was used for ATC.

Northwest was arguably the worst offender offering NRT-MCO to unsuspecting Japanese tourists without telling them they transferred from a 747 to a 757 at SEA. After a 5-hour wait :open_mouth: .

Oughta be a law…


Right, direct flights get priority in GDS reservation systems and are more likely to be booked by travel agents so the airline gains an advantage. It is sneaky and deceptive and agree it should be banned, same flight number should mean same plane. CO use to have a flight 4 that was MSY-IAH-LHR with the MSY-IAH leg on a 738 and the IAH-LHR on a 772.


“My dear young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”

I err on the side of only using the notes necessary…


There’s nothing wrong with this if you understand the definition of direct and nonstop flights. It’s a great way to make sure the airline has an advantage over competitors.

A direct flight is a flight that operates from Point A to Point B via one or more points that meets one of the follow criteria:

  • a change of aircraft (“gauge”) but the flight number remains the same. Delta had many of these flights from the southeast to London right after they started ATL/LHR service. The aircraft would be a 727 or DC-9 to Atlanta and 747 or L-1011 to London.

  • a change of flight number but no change of aircraft. Often this would happen when the flight was a round robin such as JFK-STT-STX-JFK. The flight number could be ZZ101 from JFK to STX then ZZ101A from STX to JFK.

It’s no different than what the railroads have done for years. They’ll have a train originate from Points A and B to Point C. At Point C the train is combined to go to Point D.


Accuracy is usually a prerequisite though.


I answered basic question. There was nothing incorrect with what I said.


Let’s see…
Plane lands, crew moves to new plane…

When a change of equipment type is made at an intermediate stop, the original crew does not continue the flight.

  1. Unlikely they are cross-qualified on both types
  2. Likely they would be out of hours if they continued

As far as the airline is concerned these are separate flights albeit with the same “number” and thus each would be subject to different individual crew bids.



Can’t tell you the number of flights I’ve been on that have arrived at a “hub” for said airline and we’ve moved to a different aircraft and kept the flight number and the crew. Matter of fact I did it last week ALB-PHL-STL. I’ve even been on flight where we shift ships and get a different crew. Imagine that…

  1. Land at the airport
  2. Move to the new plane

As I said, nothing incorrect in what I said.


EONS ago I did this on United, Flying out of Spokane to various places for the Navy usually had me flying through Chicago. I flew on 1 flight number that left GEG went to Denver then continued on to Chicago via a plane change with the same flight number (back then it was a 727 to a Stretch 8). If I remember that same flight number then departed Chicago for a destination in Europe with the Stretch 8 flight that leg.


Not to dwell too much on this, but the original question was about a change of plane type. The example being 738 to 772.

Since it was just last week perhaps you remember this hypothetical single flight number? I can’t find any which meet the criteria, which is not to say there aren’t any of course.


Yes, I see what I missed. You are correct. Different types, not just different aircraft. My mistake for missing the word “type.”

My pleasure providing you with “proof.” US/AWE/Republic 3242. My apologies… it was DTW-PHL-ALB. While it was a “direct” aircraft, we (crew included), moved to another 170. Now Flightaware doesn’t show that fact, so I guess you’ll just have to take my word. Or not.


No reason to doubt you. Unfortunately that flight doesn’t appear on the acars or radar sites I use, so I don’t know if the plane swap is regular or just a one-time thing due mechanical. Not that it matters.


My experience with swaps have centered mainly on maintenance issues. Most notorious was a Saab switch at LGA some number of years ago. Aircraft that was to be used for the continuation canceled and one we came in on was leaving for maintenance base and couldn’t be in the air past midnight due to outstanding issue that had been deferred for too long.


United still does this. I’ve seen several flights where the flight is, say, a 737 from A to B and A319 from B to C. Sorry, I can’t remember particular flight numbers right now. I’ll make note of them the next time I see it.


Actually this in particular can’t happen since 737’s are sCO and A319’s are sUA, which use different flight number ranges.

What could happen is 737->753 or A319->772.

I used to frequently take a UA flight that was an A319 or A320 ATL-ORD and then a B744 ORD-PVG. There usually would be a fair amount of ATL-PVG passengers on the flight (like 10-15). It’s called a change of gauge and is done to both make the flight appear more attractive in GDSes but also to conserve flight numbers. With all the codeshares and contract carriers and special flights like charters and ferries all requiring their own flight number ranges, an airline actually doesn’t have all that many flight numbers left to work with, so re-using them this way helps.