During these weeks many flights had been cancelled because of the COVID-19.

Why do some airlines and air travel agencies send confirmation emails even if the flight has been cancelled?


  • LATAM: Flights from Peru were cancelled because of the state of emergency. However, one day before the flight, my flight was still appearing as SCHEDULED.

    I called LATAM to ask if the flight is indeed scheduled and not cancelled. They told me that so far they do not have that specific flight marked as cancelled in their systems and they recommended to check the next day (the day of the flight). They mentioned a refund can't be done because the flight is not cancelled.

    Obviously, during the night, SCHEDULED turned into CANCELLED.

  • Delta Airlines: Flight cancelled, but they send emails how to prepare for the flight and how to reach the airport and buy seats.

  • Kiwi.com and Opodo.com.uk: Flight cancelled, but they send notifications via email and push notifications to prepare for the flight and prepare my bags etc.

Apart from technical issues, is there any strategy in this scenario (e.g. marketing, whatever)?

I am a programmer and I can imagine that in the source code they can simply have an if condition checking if the flight was cancelled to not send any notifications anymore related to how to prepare for the flight.

  • 2
    For large systems serving large customer bases, some types of generic notifications are often queued up and scheduled for sending on an event early on in the booking process - it saves having to go check a million users to see if you should generate a notification now on a regular basis, and you can save those costly processes for non-generic notifications.
    – user29788
    Apr 3, 2020 at 21:26
  • 1
    Airline ticketing and reservation systems are enormously complex beasts with 60 years of cruft. Yes, there is still code from the 1960s out there, though the mainframes are mostly long replaced with newer mainframes that still can run the ancient stuff (virtualized or emulated). And you can't burn any of it down and start over unless everyone agrees, and they generally won't. Apr 3, 2020 at 23:16
  • Keep in mind that in normal times, a cancelled flight often meant "contact the airline and get booked on a different one." Instructions about getting to the airport and baggage policies and such would still apply to whatever flight you're booked on. If there was a bad storm or you were taking a short trip, a cancelled flight might mean cancelling your whole trip, but for many travelers, having one segment on their itinerary cancelled meant still traveling with some delay.. So I can see why it made sense for them to send the notifications anyway. The circumstances now are different though. Apr 4, 2020 at 3:41

1 Answer 1


'I'm a programmer...'

International airline ticketing systems are huge, complex systems requiring interaction with the public, the staff, and other huge complex ticketing systems. Ensuring an accurate and timely flow of information through such a structure is no mean feat.

These systems were built for an environment where most flights departed on or fairly close to schedued time. In a matter of weeks the world has gone from that to an environment where most flights are now cancelled.

Your 'simple "if"' may not be simple at all, but assuming the change was to be made, the process of approval, development, testing, staging and deployment could easily take weeks. There simply hasn't been time for such development to take place, even assuming that the developers consider that it's worthwhile.

I suggest that with the chaos currently reigning in the air travel industry, receiving an email with directions to the airport has been considered unimportant.

Airlines have bigger fish to fry.

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