Is it possible to know how many seats on a particular flight have been booked? If not, is it possible to know in which months of a year the flights usually are not fully booked?
6Don't forget that there's only a loose mapping between seats booked in advance and seats in use at takeoff. Overbooking, missed connections, flexible tickets, staff on standby, no-shows etc!– GagravarrSep 2, 2014 at 8:26
As far as I know it's not possible for free, but you can buy a subscription to a tool like KVS that can look up availability on any flight:
The numbers in the "Availability" column represent free seats in each fare class: in this case, Business class (buckets J C D) on LH401 is wide open (9 or more seats), while the same flight codeshared as UA8840 has only 4 seats per bucket free. As Doc points out, these don't map 1:1 to empty seats, but the general trends will be pretty obvious: all 0s is packed, all 9s is empty.
The obvious caveat is that, if you look at a flight far in advance and it's still empty, it doesn't necessarily mean it will still be empty on the day of the flight.
Alternatively, you can use any of a number of travel sites with fare prediction capabilities to figure out when you should travel, since cheap fares tend to correlate fairly directly with the number of free seats. The original, Farecast (bought by Microsoft and rebranded as Bing Travel) is now gone, but Kayak now offers something similar.
1Your own example shows how unreliable fare buckets can be - the two flights mentioned are the same flight yet one shows 9 and the other only 4. Even showing 9 does NOT mean there's 9 seats available in business - F6 means there's 6 seats in First, so there could be as few as 3 in business, and the airline is willing to oversell business and move people to first if required.– DocSep 1, 2014 at 23:22
3Sure, fare buckets aren't an exact map of free seats (did I claim they are?), but a flight where availability is all 9s is still going to be far less full than a flight that's zeroed out. And if the airline is willing to give you a first-class seat at a business class price, even better ;) Sep 2, 2014 at 1:20
When checking availability for a flight using an access portal other than the airline's, you will only get the maximum of 9 seats even if there are more than that available. That's kinda universal, I do not know the reasons behind it I totally forgot but it must be related to competition or something like that. Anyway I have seen professional reservation agents do some tricks to know an estimate, something about making a fake reservation for 9 and doing that few times till the system refuse then deleting all, not really sure how. Sep 2, 2014 at 1:42
And IIRC some older CRSes (was it Galileo?) will show a maximum of 4, which might be the case in the
UA/LHflight in the screenshot. Sep 2, 2014 at 12:07
I read that as "you can buy a subscription to be on terrorist watch lists"..– OJFordSep 2, 2014 at 18:46
There are two different things in aviation business:
You can know if the flight has a seat for you to be booked. You can simply know this by visiting any flight booking site, for example: Kayak.com.
This is to know how many seats are available in a given flight for each class, this information is usually available only from the airline's system and NOT from the GDS. I have an access to a system that shows seat availability for the airlines I work for (Amadeus Altea), it will show me detailed information such as this:
Not only that, it is accurate to the point I can see the overbooked seats!
If I use the same system to check other airline's seat availability, I won't be able to get the same full details as above, I will just get a general view of the classes and a simple availability where it will only shows 9 as the maximum number of available seats even if there are much more available seats, for reasons I do not really remember:
When doing the same search on Kayak.com, I got the same results showing 9 seats available:
Bottom line, you will not be able to know the exact number of available seats unless they are 9 or less available seats, and even that is not accurate as mentioned in Doc's comment, unless you have an access to the specific airline's system.
1I gather with kayak's one, though, it's simply the number of seats available at that price, not necessarily the number left on the flight. Sep 2, 2014 at 2:28
1That's right, I'm fairly sure Kayak's seat count corresponds to the fare availability buckets discussed above. Sep 2, 2014 at 10:47
@MarkMayo the number of seats corresponds to each class and subclass, and price is determined by the class or subclass.. so you are somehow right. Sep 2, 2014 at 10:51
@jpatokal , I am not the expert in reservations and prices, I have taken a course once out of curiosity but it was a basic one, if I get you right then we are talking about the same point it is just I can't put it in words :) Sep 2, 2014 at 10:53
@HeidelBerGensis , out of curiousity, which course ? and please take my name if you answer so stackexchange will alert me, thanx.– shirishJun 9, 2016 at 16:10