As airlines struggle to stay competitive, scheduling changes mean that consumers will see fewer planes and higher fares, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the coming Thanksgiving season, US Airways is flying 40% fewer flights than a year ago. Delta and United have both reduced Thanksgiving flights by more than 20%. And thanks to more efficient scheduling programs, cheap off-peak flights will be harder to find.
Flight scheduling is immensely complex, so most airlines fly similar schedules every day, regardless of consumer demand. Airlines use pricing to compensate—that's why Tuesday flights are cheaper than those on Friday. Computer models designed to optimize scheduling enable airlines to change schedules day to day, so unprofitable flights will be eliminated, not priced down.