Delayed, cancelled flight blog

Why is My Flight Delayed? The 20 Main Reasons for Flight Delays

Why is My Flight Delayed?

Have you ever experienced this scenario? You wake up at dawn to get to the airport for your 10 am flight and you get there 4 hours ahead of schedule only to find out after waking early and waiting 4 hours that your flight will be delayed? This is not a rare occurrence. This happens pretty often and ticks people off constantly as well.

While you do have a right to get mad at such a thing happening, you should also understand that some of the main reasons why these delays happen are unavoidable. You can also rest assured that if you are flying from the European Union, you have the EU261 compensation regulations to help you get your just compensation for the trouble this situation caused.

So, what are the reasons why you find yourself stuck at the airport and not flying to your destination? Here are some of the common and not-so-common reasons why:

1. Bad weather

This is not something that you or the airline can predict. When a sudden thunderstorm or snowstorm happens and flights are grounded, nothing gets off the ground. Each airport has its own set guidelines for choosing to ground flights due to adverse weather conditions. Some may ground a flight because of a reported tornado while others might delay flights due to reported strong winds that can affect the performance of any flight leaving from the said airport. Whatever the case may be, if you haven’t taken off at the set time for your departure, you might be entitled to flight delay compensation.

2. ATC (Air Traffic Control) Restrictions

If there is one reason that people cannot file a flight delay claim for, it is this one. Considered an extraordinary circumstance by EC261 regulation, being delayed due to ATC restrictions does not entitle you to EU flight delay compensation. The reasons why the ATC grounds a flight, which causes delays not only in that flight but in all other flights after it, are varied. Some are due to the infrastructure of specific airports that require longer prep time before takeoff. Others are due to the need to comply with more restrictions and regulations because of the length of the flight.

3. Domino effect due to late flights

This is actually called a knock-on effect in aviation terms and what this means is your flight is delayed due to a previous delay in its earlier flight. There are many reasons why this can happen, which is why claiming airline delay compensation might be a bit tricky with this. A rotational delay can be caused by ATC restrictions or by extraordinary circumstances that are listed in the exemptions to the EC261 regulation.

4. Problems caused by a bird strike

With the sky so big, you will tend to wonder how a bird can cause an airplane to go back to their airport of origin immediately after takeoff. This is not a rare occurrence and is one of the most common reasons for delays. Bird strikes actually happen thousands of times in a year and when it happens, the aircraft needs to turn back for regulatory and safety checks. While a bird may seem like too small an object for you to worry about when it hits your plane, there may be serious damage that may cause a plane to crash midway into the flight. This is why flights need to return for a thorough check before being allowed to depart again.

5. Problems caused by employee strike

Another reason why flights are delayed at your chosen airport is due to striking workers that disrupt the regular flow of work at such an airport. While some strikes may not impact an airline and their operations that much, there are some that actually cause huge delays and issues that can cost a company huge amounts in lost revenue and even in-flight compensation claims.

6. Delay with connecting passengers

If a passenger is listed on the plane’s manifesto and they are not yet onboard, the flight will have to wait until they are there before they can depart. There are certain situations however where connecting passengers who are late will not be given due consideration. This is when some of those who are already onboard will need to catch a connecting flight at the next airport and will suffer from such a delay.

7. Delay with connecting baggage

This is in connection with the previous cause of delay, which is connecting passengers. Since their baggage needs to be checked out of the previous flight and checked in to the next flight, any delays that come with this task or even with the flight they just came on will also cause a domino effect by causing delays with their connecting flight.

8. Crew delays

Yes, crew members of your flight can also cause delays. If you notice that your boarding time has been delayed even when the plane is already on the tarmac, it can mean that the flight has not yet met the required headcount of 1 flight attendant for every 50 passengers. This usually happens in very busy airports and in locations that are prone to heavy traffic, like London or Paris. If you are delayed due to this reason, you might have a claim for EU flight compensation.

9. Flight crew scheduling problems

Flights can also be delayed when an airline is short-staffed and they overschedule their crew beyond their maximum allowable work hours. When this happens, members of the crew that are noted to have exceeded their daily hours have to be replaced. This is when delays can happen. Such a delay entitles you to a flight claim since it is a situation that could have been better handled by the airline.

10. Catering delays

If you’ve watched those documentaries on how food is prepared for a flight, you can see that the process runs like clockwork. When this process hits a snag however, like a supplier is delayed or specific ingredients are contaminated, delays are likely to occur. With all the aspects that go into the preparation of the food for each flight, this is sometimes one of the most common causes of flight delay.

Other causes of flight delay, or even flight cancellation which can entitle you to flight cancellation compensation by as much as €600, include the following:

11. Aircraft preparation delays

This can include lack of staff, faulty equipment, and other similar issues.

12. Security clearance delays

This is in the hands of the ATC and delays can be caused due to problems on the runway, routing issues, and the like.

13. Waiting for cargo

Flights don’t only carry passengers. They can also carry cargo. If a specific cargo is delayed in being loaded and has already been listed as part of the flight, delays are likely to occur.

14. Flight weight restriction issues

When a flight has exceeded its MTOW or maximum takeoff weight, it is grounded until this issue is resolved. This may involve the offloading of passengers or even the reduction of the number of passengers that can get on the flight.

15. Mechanical issue

This is another common problem that can cause longer waits at the airport for departure or even cancellation of flights.

16. Overbooking of flights

Sometimes, an airline can overbook a specific flight. This is due to their desire to fill a flight and the addition of passengers just in case some of those who have booked are a no-show. When this happens, some passengers will be asked to take a later flight with additional compensation for their trouble.

17. Security issues

This is not as common as the other reasons but it does happen every now and then. A flight that is ready to take the runway may be asked to wait awhile before takeoff. This is sometimes due to reports that a person of interest is onboard and needs to be offloaded or arrested.

18. Tarmac problems

Yes, just like the roads your cars run on, tarmacs and runways can suffer from damage. When this happens, fewer runways and tarmac space will be available, which can cause delays in both the arrival and departure of flights. This can then cause the knock-on effect that was earlier mentioned.

19. Looking for missing passengers on the manifesto

If you are a frequent flyer, then you will have experienced this at least once or twice on your flights. A passenger may have dozed off in the airport while waiting for their flight and has already checked in. They may have also lost track of the time and is wandering the airport. Whatever the case may be, when a passenger is on the manifesto, the plane cannot take off until every single person that checked in for the flight is accounted for.

20. Airport traffic

Yes, airports are prone to traffic problems as well. This is usually caused by delayed flights from other airports arriving at the wrong time, causing other flights that are supposed to be on time to wait for the runway or the tarmac to clear. This can also cause the knock-off effect and can delay other flights in the same airport.