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Why Is There No One on This Plane That I Am on Right Now?

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I am writing this on an airplane, somewhere over Nebraska, traveling from Los Angeles to New York. What a world. Anyway, I took this same flight four weeks ago—Virgin America, 3:30 p.m. from LAX to JFK—and it was close to full, which seems to make sense: a pre-weekend summer flight between two of the busiest airports in the country.

Here's what my view from the aisle seat looks like today:

Almost no rows on the plane are full and the last couple on each side of the plane are completely empty—except for one guy who pushed the arm rests up and is sleeping across all three seats. My first thought: Could this be related to yesterday's Malaysia Airlines crash? According to a group of researchers from the University of Colorado-Denver and Virginia Tech who analyzed market reactions to domestic, commercial plane crashes, maybe. They found evidence for both of the following effects:

First, consumers concerned with the crash airline's safety may switch to rival airlines. Second, a crash may raise concerns with other elements of the commercial air system, implying a “negative spillover” that would reduce demand for all airlines.

This doesn't account for non-domestic flights, and it doesn't have any specific passenger data for day-after flights—and on top of that, while this flight is super-empty, the airport certainly wasn't—so ... yeah. Completely inconclusive!

I asked one of the flight attendants about the lack of passengers—she was the flight attendant on my previous flight; she did not remember me—and she said: Probably because it's so close to the Fourth of July. People just want to relax. —Ryan O'Hanlon