Why do flights get delayed? 6 top reasons

Why do flights get delayed? What are the top reasons?

Can you get flight compensation from airline when that happens? These are the questions we will answer in this guide. Because it is a problem. It was a big problem already before the pandemic. The number of flight delays doubled in Germany in 2018. And with the number of air passengers continuing to grow, it's clear that the existing capacity fails to match the growth.

As a result, the number of those affected by flight delays and cancellations continues to grow as well, and by 2040 this number is expected to be 9 times bigger than it is now, a report by Eurocontrol has warned.

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Why do flights get delayed?

Why are flights delayed? What causes flight delays?

Here are some of the most common reasons for flight delays.

1. Weather conditions

Why do flights get delayed?

One of the top reasons -- because of the weather conditions. It can be due to bad weather at the departure airport, on the way to your destination or at the destination. Weather is one of the top reasons why flights get delayed.

The most important thing to understand here is that your flight may get delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, even if it’s a perfect weather outside the window. And you may be even thinking why is my flight delayed, if the weather is so nice? But that’s because the airline looks at the whole journey and makes sure that there isn’t something along the way that could endanger the airplane, crew or passengers.

Since flight delays due to weather conditions are out of the airline's control, it isn't considered their responsibility, if that causes any problems. And if your flight gets delayed or cancelled due to bad and unpredictable, severe weather patterns, you can't get compensation from the airline.

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2. Security issues

There is a lot of things going on at the airport.

A lot of things you and I don’t know about, all to make the airports as safe place as possible. And when the security personnel find out that something is possibly wrong, with for example, a piece of luggage loaded on your plane, they will demand it being unloaded.

And your flight may get delayed because of that.

In these situations you can’t get flight compensation.

You can't get compensation as it isn't airline's fault.

3. Technical issues with the aircraft

Things like these happen very often.

If during pre-flight inspection engineers find out that it isn’t safe for the particular aircraft to fly, your flight may get delayed or cancelled. What you should know is that mostly it doesn't fall under the term “extraordinary circumstances” and isn't considered something out of airline’s control. Quite the opposite - in most situations technical problems are considered airline’s fault.

And, often you can get compensation from airline.

If in the last 3 years your flight has ever been delayed due to technicals issues of the aircraft, or cancelled up to 2 weeks before the flight, you might be entitled to flight compensation. File a claim for compensation - you may be entitled to compensation of up to €600.

You can file a claim for your family and kids as well.

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4. Employee strikes

Strikes happen a lot in Europe.

In fact, airport and airline employee strikes is one of the top reasons why flights get delayed and cancelled in Europe. A few years ago Ryanair experienced its biggest employee strike to the day, tens of flights were cancelled affecting tens of thousands of passengers. In 2022 summer alone, there have been several similar strikes.

Compensation-wise airport employee strikes often are considered “extraordinary circumstances” and you can’t get compensation. But there is a "but". Not all airport staff strikes are the same. If it's an airport employee strike, mostly you can't get compensation. But if it's an airline employee strike -- very often you can get compensation.

Often you can get both compensation and full refund.

Register your flight and we'll do the investigation.

5. Waiting for connecting passengers

It's something most travellers have experienced.

Mostly it causes only insignificant flight delays, like 20 or 30 minute delays. Unless you are travelling at peak times, when it may also cause a long flight delay. And if it's a long delay, you may also get compensation from airline.

Why do planes get delayed because of things like that? Don't they have to be running on time? It's up to your airline and the captain of the airplane to decide, whether it's worth waiting or not. If you are flying to or from Europe, or with a European airline, and if you reach your destination 3 or more hours later, then you may be entitled to flight delay compensation.

With non-European airlines it applies to flights departing from Europe.

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Find out if you are eligible for EU / UK flight delay compensation Check your flight

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6. Airport congestion, or not enough staff

Yes, that's a thing lately.

With the number of air passengers and flights growing, airport congestion is a worldwide trend nowadays. And, if for example, captain of the plane decides to wait for connecting passengers during peak hours, it may lead to a rather long delay in the end. Simply because it may not be possible to leave the airport that fast, when all the passengers have arrived. Because of other planes coming in and leaving the airport at the same time.

Can you get compensation if this case?

It depends.

If the delay was 3 or more hours, file a claim with us and we’ll take a closer look at the situation. You may be entitled to EU / UK flight delay compensation.

Had an issue with a flight recently? You might be eligible for up to 600€ compensation Check your compensation

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How often do flights get delayed?

Flights get delayed every single day.

Of course, not all of them are significant and cause troubles. But if you open a website of any big European airport, let's say London Heathrow or Amsterdam Schiphol, there is always at least one delay. You don't have to worry about that, but it's a good idea to take this into account when planning a trip.

  • Self transfers are risky. If you are about to book two or more separate flights, choose flights with enough time between them. Don't risk with super short layovers.
  • You may get delayed, it's happening. If the delay is more than 3 hours long, you may be eligible to right to care from airline. In some situations you will be eligible to EU flight delay compensation. Don't forget about that! And, speaking of compensation, don't forget to file a compensation claim with the airline.
  • Your flight may get cancelled. Sometimes delays end up being flight cancellations. Then it's good to know about your rights. For example, in Europe you often will have a right to new flight for free, EU flight cancellation compensation and right to care.

How to find out why a flight is delayed?

When you check your flight status online, you only see the status.

You can see that it's delayed or cancelled, but not the reason.

The only way to learn about the reason is to contact your airline.

However, there's one important thing to remember. You can't fully trust your airline. Especially when it comes to flight compensations. If you might be entitled to EU flight delay compensation because of this delay, there's a chance, that your airline will make it look worse than it actually is. They may lie to you about the reasons behind the delay.

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You can't fully trust airlines in 2022

As our experience shows, even the best airlines do so.

They, occasionally, lie about the reasons behind the delay.

That's why we always do our own investigation.

For example, if the airline says, that the delay was due to bad weather, we ask for more information, check the weather tables ourselves, and check what did other airlines do at the same time in the same airport, did they land or not, did they operate flights or not, etc.

When it's about late flights, always double-check the information.

Or contact us, and we'll do that on your behalf.

*By Europe and EU we mean all EU Member States, the United Kingdom (UK), Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

*See the Eurocontrol report here.