How do airlines determine flight numbers?

4 replies


Member since 07 Oct 2012

Total posts 771

Random question which someone may know the answer too... how do airlines determine flight numbers?

Do they just pick them out of the hat or is there some method to it?



Member since 06 Jun 2014

Total posts 56

Hi hutch


not sure about the accuracy of the information, but read this article on a while ago


Member since 12 Jun 2013

Total posts 216

Different airlines use different schemes. Often there's some kind of method to it, but sometimes they just pick numbers out of a hat. For instance, there are obvious things like Qantas reserves 1-399 for international flights and 400+ for domestic flights. Many airlines reserve the low numbers, especially flight 1, for prestigious and high-profile routes, like QF1 has been SYD-LHR for a long time. Airlines often also like to use successive numbers for the forward and reverse routes, like NZ7 and NZ8 are AKL-SFO and SFO-AKL respectively.

Then you've got groups of similar flights grouped with similar numbers. For instance, Virgin's SYD-MEL flights are all eight hundred and something, SYD-BNE are all nine hundred and something, and so forth. 


Member since 07 Oct 2012

Total posts 771


Andrew Barkery

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

Member since 21 Mar 2011

Total posts 433

Also for NZ (Air NZ), if its an NZ1**, its a wide body from SYD/MEL/PER/BNE to NZ, and if its a NZ7** or NZ8**, its a small 320.

Also, 4 digits tend to be code shares, ie, you might fly with an airline, but your ticket is issued by another airline in the alliance, VA and SQ, VA and NZ, VA and EY, QF and EK etc.

Sometimes, QF8*** with the asterix replaced by EK's code, can be used to earn QF FF points and QF SC, where as if you flew solely with EK code, you only get QF FF and no SC. 

SQ5*** will be a code share linkage with VA.

QF3** can also be a JQ flight, but you have to buy a bundle to get the full worth of QF FF points and SC for it. is a good one to see what flight numbers are currently used, 99% accuracy and the routings on a map.

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