Causes of Flight Delays

Imagine being at the airport, ready to board your first flight since 2024 and checking in with your bags, only to discover that your flight is running late.

“How frustrating, ugh!” You question why it happened to you and ponder the cause of the plane delay.

It is actually rather normal for most airlines to have daily flight delays. It might go on for hours or for as little as five minutes. Don’t worry if you’re a nervous or first-time traveller! Not every aviation safety issue results in a delay in a flight. Air travel is actually the safest kind of transportation available.

For peace of mind, let’s dive straight into the reasons behind flight delays.

Limitations on Air Traffic Control

Did you know that in 2017, there were, on average, 9,728 aircraft in the skies, transporting more than 1.2 million passengers? Even if there are more people in the skies, air traffic controllers still prioritise safety above all else.

There are instances when planes are delayed just because there is too much traffic in the airspace and landing sequences must be prioritised while preserving aircraft separation. You might thus be travelling in circles while waiting to land or patiently waiting for takeoff on the tarmac rather than making your way to the runway for landing or takeoff.

It’s possible that your plane arrived ahead of schedule and before the conclusion of the night curfew.

waiting for bags or other passengers to connect

Many connecting travellers are transiting at crowded airports like London Heathrow Airport (LHR), Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), and Dubai International Airport (DXB) in preparation for their next trip. Some of these passengers may be boarding your flight.

Most airlines have to leave within their slot time, therefore they won’t wait for connecting passengers. The airline may continue wait for connecting passengers even if their luggage has already been loaded aboard the aircraft; however, this will be determined case-by-case.

The same holds true for connecting baggage; delays may occur if ground handling staff require more time to get the items onto the flight. To be fair, you wouldn’t want to depart without your luggage either, would you?

These delays, however, often don’t last longer than a few hours because aircraft that arrive late risk paying a large charge.

Strikes

Because workers in the aviation sector are unionised and actively defend their rights, strikes are a possibility in this sector as well as any other. Flights are routinely cancelled when strikes occur. However, you’re one of the fortunate ones among all the passengers on the airline if your flight is just delayed.

Despite how annoying it may be, the airline is required to provide you with assistance, such as food, drinks, or even lodging, if strikes force your flight to be delayed. Thus, always check with the airline and become familiar with their offerings.

Bird Strikes

Now that we’ve discussed the infrequent instances in which turtles create delays, let’s discuss about another animal that frequents the airport more frequently: birds.

In the aviation business, bird hits are somewhat more frequent and can pose a risk to aircraft safety, particularly if the bird gets inside the engine. But don’t panic if it does occur—the majority of contemporary aeroplanes are built to run on a single engine.

The majority of airports employ a bird control crew that specialised in using pest and bird noise management methods to scatter birds and keep them from congregating on the airfield. The grassland at the airport can draw a lot of birds even though they do a fantastic job of keeping them away, which makes bird strikes somewhat more frequent.

Bad weather conditions

You name it: hurricane, typhoon, snowfall, etc. Your flight may be delayed or cancelled as a result of these severe weather conditions. As an illustration, on October 10, 2021, a British Airways flight to Hong Kong took a total of 36 hours after three attempts at landing were unsuccessful and the flight had to be redirected to Manila for the night owing to a storm in Hong Kong.

The aircraft may be too unsafe for the ground handling agents to prepare for takeoff, therefore your flight may still be delayed even if it is parked at the gate. Depending on how severe the weather is, delays caused by it can linger for hours.

Aircraft delay

Maintaining a large fleet of aircraft in the air to maximise income generation is the top goal for airlines. This implies that they have strict time constraints all the time. The delay of the aeroplane will affect not just your flight but also the aircraft’s arrival at the airport.

Best advice: For further information on what to do in the event that your flight is delayed, refer to our guide on flight delays.

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