This Article from the daily mail makes some interesting (and rather ludicrous) claims, but one stuck out to me specifically. The article argues that higher cancellation rates/lower occupancy on transportation involved in accidents could be evidence that humans have some sort of 6th sense forewarning them of disaster.

...One famous study from the Fifties found that trains involved in accidents often had fewer passengers than the same service the week before. The theory is that commuters have some sense of an approaching accident and alter their travel plans.


Interestingly, the vacancy rate on all four flights that crashed on September 11, 2001, was high. On the Boeing 757 that crashed into the Pentagon, only 64 of 289 seats were taken. Meanwhile, the planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre's North and South Towers were 74 and 81 per cent empty. Indeed, the occupancy rate of all four doomed planes that day was a mere 21 per cent - despite being commuter services.

regardless of whether or not this is related to some sort of "sixth sense", do these claims check out? Does transportation involved in accidents have a lower occupancy? If so, is the data statistically significant enough to show something is going on?

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    The first claim (about trains) is interesting. The second quote about vacancy rates on airplanes is vacuous unless we know the mean vacancy rate and its standard deviation.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 15 '16 at 18:46
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    I'd be willing to do the math if I could find the data. 21% occupancy seems low, but I'd be interested to see what the usual occupancy of those flights around those times are. I just don't know where to find the data.
    – Kwuz
    Jun 15 '16 at 18:54
  • A simpler explanation in the case of the planes might be that the terrorists were only able to get seats on planes that weren't full. Realize that they usually cancel flights that are mostly empty--unless they need the plane or crew somewhere. The mean occupancy rate was about 80% in 2007. I couldn't find variance information.
    – Brythan
    Jun 15 '16 at 21:35
  • I also had the thought that maybe terrorists would purposefully choose flights that were less full, since there would be fewer people to potentially fight against them. But, with something that would take as much planning as an attack, choosing an empty flight that could get canceled would be just as risky. I wish I could find data somehwere about how many seats were sold, but left empty on transportation that later crashes. that would probably be the best statistic to use.
    – Kwuz
    Jun 15 '16 at 22:13
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    @Brythan I believe that also terrorists are on a budget. The suicide bombers didn't care where the plane would go, and their handler would book them onto the cheapest outbound flight from the chosen airport. The cheapest flights usually are those with lower occupancy.
    – Alexander
    Jun 16 '16 at 9:54

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