Flight Delayed? The Weather’s to Blame Less Than 1% of the Time
August 27, 2016
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  • Weather isn’t what’s delaying most of our flights. In fact, when a plane is more than 15 minutes late, it’s mostly due to system glitches. Weather only accounted for less than one percent (.68%) of airline delays, compared to other causes, such as aircraft arriving late (7.91%), air carrier delays (6.1%) and National Aviation System delays (5.85%), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ June data.

    Reasons for the top but very vague category of “aircraft arriving late,” are specified in the report as caused when “a previous flight with same aircraft arrived late, causing the present flight to depart late.”

    It is often caused by antiquated air traffic control systems, according to Vaughn Jennings, a spokesperson for the Washington trade group Airlines for America, which represents most airlines.

    “Right now, relying on antiquated air traffic control technology is costing passengers and airlines $30 billion annually in delays and cancellations,” Jennings said.

    “The FAA is making significant progress modernizing the world’s most complex aviation system,” Tammy L. Jones, a spokesperson for the Federal Airline Administration (FAA), said. According to the FAA website, its NextGen modernization program is making upgrades, including shifting from radar to GPS, or satellite-tracking systems, for air traffic control.

    Interestingly, the FAA is also offering $500 to help private planes upgrade, if they’re going to be flying in controlled airspace to meet a conversion mandate by 2020.

    The good news is that most flights (80%) arrived on time, up 5% from last June, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. But it’s air carriers that are on the hook for the second largest reason for delays, meaning the delays are “due to circumstances within the airline’s control,” such as maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning, baggage loading, fueling, etc.

    The third biggest reason for those draggy wait times are due to the National Aviation System’s glitches stemming from non-extreme weather conditions, airport operations, heavy traffic volume and air traffic control.

    It’s usually no fun to wade through crowds, lugging your baggage like a ball and chain around the airport while waiting for your delayed flight. But you can make travel easier on yourself and your travel budget by flying on less popular days, such as Mondays and Thursdays, and picking less crowded fringe airports, like Long Island MacArthur instead of JFK. And you can make wait times much more interesting for yourself if you download books or movies, and bring magazines that you’ve been meaning to read.

    Before booking travel, it’s also important to check travel alerts about the country you’re considering. When booking travel, you may consider using credit cards that offer travel perks, as these cards may offer you access to exclusive airline lounges that you can enjoy while waiting for your flight. The best travel credit cards generally require you have good credit to qualify, so it may be a good idea to review your credit before you apply for one of these credit cards to get an idea of whether you’re eligible. You can see an overview of your free credit report, updated monthly, on