Picture yourself checking in at an airport with your bags, excited to board your first flight since 2022.
“How frustrating!” You wonder why this happened and what the cause is.
It is pretty standard for airlines to experience flight delays. This could take as little as five minutes or several hours. Don’t be nervous if you are a first or anxious flyer. Safety issues on an aircraft are not always the cause of flight delays. Air transport is actually the safest form of transport.
Let’s dive into the causes and solutions to flight delays so you can have peace of mind.
Air Traffic Control Restrictions
Did you know that there were an average of 9,728 planes in flight at any given moment in 2017 carrying more than 1.2 million passengers? Safety is the number one priority of air traffic controllers, even though the sky is becoming more crowded.
Sometimes, delays can occur because of airspace congestion. They need to prioritize landing sequences and maintain aircraft separation. Instead of waiting for your turn to take off or landing on the runway, you might be waiting in circles or waiting patiently on the tarmac to take off.
Sometimes, your plane may have arrived before the midnight curfew.
Waiting for connecting passengers/ bags
Many connecting passengers transiting to their onward journeys are found at busy airports like London Heathrow Airport, Dubai International, and Hong Kong International Airport (DXB).
Many airlines will not wait for connecting passengers, as they need to leave within their slot time. The airline might still accept connecting passengers’ baggage if they are already on board the aircraft. However, this will be determined individually.
This applies to connecting bags as well. Delays can occur because ground handling agents take longer to get the luggage to the aircraft. You wouldn’t leave your bags behind, would you?
These delays are usually short-lived, and airlines may be fined for being late.
As employees are unionized and fighting for their rights, strikes can occur in the aviation industry. Flights are often canceled when there is a strike. If your flight is delayed but not canceled, you are among the fortunate few who fly with the airline.
It doesn’t matter how frustrating it might seem. Even if your flight is delayed due to strikes, the airline will offer assistance, including food and accommodation. Always ask the airline for clarification and help.
We’ve already talked about the rare case when turtles can cause delays. Now let’s discuss another animal that frequents the airport: birds.
Bird strikes are more common in aviation and can threaten aircraft safety, especially if the bird gets into the engine. Don’t be alarmed if this happens because most modern aircraft can fly with one machine.
Bird control teams are usually found at airports. They specialize in dispersing birds and controlling pests. They do an excellent job keeping birds away, but the airport’s grassland can attract many birds, making bird strikes more common.
Turtle on the asphalt
Although this may seem surprising to you, it happens occasionally!
In September 2021, a turtle measuring 30 cm (12″) in length was found on the runway of Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan. This caused a 15-minute standstill and delayed 5 planes from taking off.
The turtles of Jamaica Bay can often be seen at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to lay their eggs. They were spotted by the wildlife control team, who had to be on the lookout for them to avoid flight delays.
Preparing an aircraft
Several procedures must be completed after an aircraft has landed at the airport to ensure it is ready for its next flight. These include cleaning the aircraft and preparing for the catering arrival, refueling, security checks, etc.
The boarding process can’t begin once the aircraft is ready to be boarded, the boarding process can’t begin. Delays can occur if the plane arrives later than anticipated.
As mentioned, the crew must prepare the aircraft for takeoff. This includes making sure that the coffee machine is ready and all safety equipment is in place.
If you are running late, please wait at the boarding gate until you can board the plane.
Weather conditions that are not favorable
Typhoons, hurricanes, snowstorms, you name them. Extreme weather conditions can cause your flight to be canceled or delayed. For example, the British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong on October 10, 2021, took 36 hours. It had failed to land three times and was diverted to Manila to spend the night because of a Typhoon in Hong Kong.
Even if your aircraft is not parked at the gate, it can still cause delays as ground handling agents might find it too dangerous to prepare the plane for takeoff. Weather-related delays can cause delays that last hours, depending on how severe it is.
Airlines aim to keep as many planes in the air as possible to generate as much revenue as possible. Airlines are always on a tight schedule. It could harm your flight if the aircraft arrives late at the airport.