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I was browsing FlightAware and saw the following:

jfkewr

This is an American 767 flying from JFK to Newark (EWR). Surely this isn't a passenger flight...this isn't one of American's normal routes. Why might an AA 767 be making this flight?

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  • $\begingroup$ Its listed as one on American Airlines website, Flight 9743, 40 minute flight JFK to EWR, if it were a positioning or charter flight I don't believe it would appear on a search, FlightAware may have the aircraft type wrong though, its known to happen. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Aug 13 '16 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ I looked up AA flights from KJKF to KEWK. To do that on AA, you have to do KJFK=>KBWI=>KPHI=>KEWR $\endgroup$ – user3344003 Aug 13 '16 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ I can't find it on ITA Matrix, so most likely it's going to be a repositioning flight. Since it's not bookable, and only appears to have happened once, the purpose of the flight was most likely to serve as a replacement aircraft for one that went out of service at Newark for unscheduled maintenance. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton Aug 13 '16 at 8:28
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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_number#Number_of_digits suggests that 9xxx codes are usually positioning/ferry flights. I have no idea how generally applicable that is, but it does seem to be consistent with the circumstances here. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Aug 13 '16 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrew I saw that statement as well. It's unsourced, and I was able to find "regular" codeshares using 9xxx flight numbers with little difficulty. So I'm sure it's not true in all cases. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hampton Aug 14 '16 at 1:51
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It's a positioning ferry, to move the aircraft from where it "is" to where it "needs to be" for its next revenue leg (or maintenance, in some cases). These sorts of legs are uncommon because they're expensive; ideally an aircraft is never out of position this way, but sometimes "stuff happens" and you fly an empty plane to get it where it needs to be.

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  • $\begingroup$ This sounds like a reasonable explanation. Weather can be a reason in such scenarios when an airplane is diverted to close by airports. $\endgroup$ – Farhan Aug 13 '16 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ But why fly an empty plane. Why not service the route with some extra passengers. The only reason I can think, that it was a last minute decision. $\endgroup$ – Firee Aug 15 '16 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Firee Normally the airline would do that - they tend to plan their network so that each aircraft ends the day in the place it needs to start the next one. Sometimes though (weather, maintenance, staff issues, cancelled flights) the aircraft is in the wrong place and they have to just send it where it needs to be on fairly short notice. They might know about it a few weeks before or only an hour or two, but that's not long enough to arrange and market a commercial flight. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Aug 15 '16 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Firee: You only need ferry pilots for an empty plane, no cabin crew. And with an unscheduled one-way flight, you have to find a return flight for the entire crew so it makes sense to fly with the smallest crew possible. $\endgroup$ – MSalters Aug 16 '16 at 7:01

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