Typically, when an airline has a flagship route, it assigns it flight number 1. The reasoning generally varies by airline.
British Airways BA1 was historically the morning London – New York service operated by Concorde. These days, BA1 is still applied to the airlines’ London – New York service. However, it’s the all business class Airbus A318 flight between London City airport and New York that has taken over the flight number.
Fellow UK carrier Virgin Atlantic also has applied VS1 to its London – New York service. However, this is operated by a more conventional aircraft. Their reasoning is that their very first route was between the two cities.
Moving away from the UK, Qantas Airlines applies QF1 to their kangaroo route between Sydney-Singapore-London. Air New Zealand similarly applies NZ1 to their Auckland-Los Angeles-London route. Although with the airline announcing that they will be pulling that route later this year, it’s unknown whether that flight number will be reused or not.
In the US, American Airlines use AA1 for their flagship route between New York and Los Angeles. United Airlines flight UA1 operated between San Francisco and Singapore. Delta Airlines save their flagship flight number for the New York-London route. Much like their partner, Virgin Atlantic.
When it comes to the low cost carriers, less importance seems to be placed on the number 1 flight number. With EasyJet, it appears that the flight U21 is reserved for training flights.
In the US, the low cost carriers are a little more sentimental when it comes to their flagship flight numbers. Spirit flight 1 operates between Ft. Lauderdale and Chicago. JetBlue operate flight B61 between New York and Ft. Lauderdale. Southwest flight WN1 routes between Houston-Los Angeles-Oakland.
Its a similar case with FlyBe.
Not All Airlines Operate Flight 1 On Regular Services
The most high profile airlines to reserve its flight number 1 for positioning flights are Air France, TAP, Swiss, South African Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Iberia. Although Iberia have a somewhat interesting flight number system anyway. Their flight between Madrid and New York carries the flight number IB6253. A number of other airlines use flight 1 either to or from the city. Flight numbers that high up are more often than not reserved for code shares.
There are likely more, but if I’m honest I cant be bothered to search every single airline on FlightRadar24!
Ryanair or Norwegian International don’t have any flight 1, either positioning or passenger.
It would appear that Frontier are similar to both Ryanair and Norwegian in not having a regularly scheduled flight 1 either. The same goes for the Dutch carrier KLM. There’s no record of flight KL1 taking place in the past 180 days.
When The Most Prestigious Routes Aren’t Flight 1
It could be argued that some airlines dont assign flight number 1 to their flagship route. It’s safe to say that Virgin Atlantic’s flights to New York JFK hold far more prestige over their flight to Newark.
The same applies to JetBlue. Their most prestigious routes are their East-West coast USA flights, featuring their Mint product.
In the case of the above however, the number 1 flights are given to the airlines first routes. Similar is likely when it comes to Lufthansa.
There are a couple of cases where flight 1 is seemingly applied at random – neither on the airlines first route, nor the most prestigious. SAS first flew between Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen to New York. Yet flight SK1 is is between Lulea in the North of Sweden to Stockholm.
Alitalia used flight number AZ1 on a handful of flights between Casablanca and Rome in January 2020.
Airlines flagship number 1 routes:
|Aeromexico||Mexico City - Madrid
|Air Canada||Toronto - Tokyo|
|Air New Zealand||London - Los Angeles - Auckland|
|Air Tahiti Nui||Los Angeles - Tahiti|
|Air Asia Japan||Nagoya - Chitose|
|Air Asia X||Kuala Lumpur - Osaka - Honolulu|
|Alaska Airlines||Washington - Seattle|
|All Nippon||Washington - Tokyo|
|American Airlines||New York - Los Angeles|
|Biman Bangladesh||Dhaka - London|
|British Airways||London - New York|
|China Airlines||Honolulu - Taipei|
|Delta Airlines||New York - London|
|ElAl||Tel Aviv - New York|
|Emirates||Dubai - London|
|Etihad||Abu Dhabi - Frankfurt|
|Finnair||Helsinki - Los Angeles|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Los Angeles - Honolulu|
|Japan Airlines||San Francisco- Tokyo|
|JetBlue||New York - Ft. Lauderdale|
|Jin Air||Seoul - Bangkok|
|Korean Air||Seoul - Tokyo - Honolulu|
|LATAM||Santiago - Puerto Bories|
|LOT Polish||Warsaw - Chicago|
|Lufthansa||Hamburg - Frankfurt|
|Malaysia Airlines||London - Kuala Lumpur|
|Peach||Osaka - Seoul|
|Qantas||Sydney - Singapore -London|
|Qatar Airways||Doha - London|
|SAS||Lulea - Stockholm|
|Singapore Airlines||San Francisco - Hong Kong - Singapore|
|Skymark||Tokyo - Naha|
|Southwest||Houston - Los Angeles - Oakland|
|SpiceJet||Chennai - Colombo|
|Spirit||Ft. Lauderdale - Chicago|
|Turkish Airlines||Istanbul - New York|
|United Airlines||San Francisco - Singapore|
|Virgin Atlantic||London - Newark|
|Virgin Australia||Sydney - Los Angeles|
|WestJet||Calgary - London|
*The above list is purely what I could find online. There could be more flights with flight number 1 out there.