Why Planes Actually Get Delayed

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You know this feeling of frustration when
you’re about to fly to some exotic country for an unforgettable vacation, and then suddenly
see that your flight is delayed? Or worse, you’re going to an extremely important
business meeting, and a delay in your flight ruins it! I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda
interested in why this happens sometimes. And although it’s never pleasant, it seems
there are pretty good reasons for delays. First, to be fair, about 80% of all flights
are ON time — that is, within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. The other 20% are delayed, and it might seem
a huge number, but consider this: a commercial flight is not like hopping into a car and
driving away. It’s an extremely serious operation that
requires lots of coordinated work from hundreds of people. Just recall how many steps do you, as a passenger,
need to take to get on board! It’s a wonder how flights even take off
on time at all! But still, I perfectly understand how upset
a delay can make you, so here are the most frequent reasons for that. 1. Security
It’s no secret that airports have lots of security procedures in place, and although
they can sometimes seem ridiculous (like that rule where you’re only allowed small bottles
in your carry-on baggage), they’re absolutely necessary. But what you probably don’t know is that
passenger security check isn’t the only thing airports have to do to ensure your safety. First, an airplane must get clearance to depart
from its home airport. Then, after arrival to another country, issues
have to be solved to get clearance to depart from there once again. As you may guess, all of this requires time,
and delays are sometimes inevitable. 2. Weather conditions
Despite what most people think, weather isn’t the top reason for flight delays. It’s an important factor, of course, but
most of the time flights still go on time even in bad weather. That’s because modern airplanes are designed
to withstand a lot of things — even thunderstorms! In fact, even a direct lightning strike can’t
do much harm to a plane, and it happens more often than you think! However, nobody would risk hundreds of lives
and an expensive aircraft for no good reason, and weather delays do occur. Still, they only happen when the conditions
are completely out of the ordinary and the risk is too high. By the way, it’s not only about the weather
around the airport of departure; it’s also the conditions en route and around the airport
of arrival too. If there’s a severe storm forecast at your
destination, your flight will almost certainly be delayed. 3. Technical troubleshooting
This one might seem the most outrageous: the airplane has a clearance to fly, the weather
is perfect, but then some technical issue emerges that hasn’t been noticed until now. I mean, why not earlier? You see, pilots run final checks right before
the flight, and if they see something’s off, they call the ground crew and fix things
together. If they don’t succeed on time, then you
see the “Flight delayed” message on the board — or even hear that you must go back
to the gate again. But you know, I think you’ll agree with
me that it’s better if they find problems and solve them while still on the ground. 4. Preparations for the flight
Preparing an airplane is a serious business, and any mistake here can cost much more than
just money or time. Usually, though, the plane is ready on time,
and it’s a rare thing when it’s not. Such delays are mostly connected with things
like fuel being late or cleaning not done in due time, to name a few. I know, it doesn’t seem like a big deal,
but every small detail matters — after all, it’s your safety and comfort in flight. 5. Waiting for connecting passengers and their
baggage Connecting flights are the most difficult
to handle for obvious reasons: there are two different airplanes that need to adjust their
schedules to each other. It gets even more complicated when connecting
flights are close in time: one must arrive precisely on schedule not to delay the other. And still that sometimes happens. If the delay is not too big, the second flight
can be held, and the captain will tell their passengers why. This way, passengers from the first flight
can have some time to get on board the second airplane. On top of that, there’s the issue of getting
their bags from one plane to the other, and that can take even more time — I’m sure
you’ve noticed that baggage doesn’t arrive to the reclaim immediately; there’s at least
10-15 minutes of waiting before that. Well, at least it’s understandable — I
guess anyone would appreciate an airplane waiting for them, and you could find yourself
in such a situation like anyone else. 6. Waiting for and loading the cargo
You might not realize it, but commercial aircraft carry not only passengers and their stuff,
but also some cargo. In most cases it’s air mail: yes, packages
you send off to other cities or countries are basically delivered by passenger airplanes. It can be other things, though, and it may
take time for such cargo to be delivered to the airport, checked, and then loaded onto
the aircraft. Luckily, delays caused by cargo are usually
not too long, so you won’t be asked to return to the gate while waiting and loading is in
process. Still, it can take up to an hour, so you’ll
have to be patient. 7. Waiting for the crew
Often, the crew for your flight arrives from another one that has just landed in your airport. And it sometimes happens that their previous
flight is not exactly on schedule for some reason. If this is the case, then your flight might
be delayed — there’s simply no one to man your airplane. Flying without a pilot isn’t going to happen,
you know. However, this situation usually only arises
in local airports, while in large hubs there’s always a crew on standby, waiting to be called
in case of an unexpected delay. Everyone knows emergencies do occur, so extra
measures are always taken in advance. 8. Weight overload
Many airplanes have precise weight restrictions, and if they’re violated, the flight is not
allowed. These restrictions include all of it: the
weight of passengers and crew on board, the baggage, the cargo, and even the fuel. Weight check is performed at the last minute,
so that the crew knows how much exactly the airplane is going to weigh in the air, and
if it’s too much, some passengers or baggage are to be pulled off the flight. That’s where a delay may happen. If you worry it might be you at some point,
though, don’t fret: airlines normally pull their own staff that are traveling on such
planes. 9. Food
Airplane food might not be the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted, but it must be
there all the same. And it’s not cooked on board, of course:
it’s provided by special airline catering services. If you’re at a busy airport, you just might
get delayed because your service hasn’t delivered the food for your airplane on time. It sometimes happens that caterers simply
can’t find your aircraft among others. And since catering is a mandatory service
on a flight, you won’t take off until the food is on board and ready to serve. 10. Strikes
Airport employees go on strikes almost every year, and it’s among the top reasons for
flight delays in Europe. It’s perfectly understandable why they do
that: airport staff have lots of responsibilities and often they’re severely underpaid. Every time, they demand different things,
from more vacation days to more humane working conditions, but the result (at least for passengers)
is the same: dozens of flights are delayed or even cancelled, and thousands of people
don’t get to their destinations on schedule. 11. Airport congestion
It might seem weird, but flight traffic is getting heavier with every passing year, and
airlines keep getting in trouble with that. Busy hubs are the most concerned: more and
more airplanes arrive and depart all at the same time, and your aircraft might have to
wait in line for a long time before finally proceeding to the runway. Usually, the flight captain would just say
it out loud: “Dear passengers, our flight is delayed because of the heavy traffic.” Basically, we’re coming to a time when traffic
jams aren’t just the car drivers’ problem. 12. Air traffic control
Like I just said, the number of flights keeps growing, and it’s getting harder and harder
to keep track of all of them, especially since the ATC equipment is not really up-to-date. That’s not an issue to worry about, though:
even with the old technology, air traffic control can ensure that your flight is safe. It’s just that such a large number of flights
as there is today requires the ATC to delay some of them in order to get a clearer picture
and avoid confusion. When this happens, it’s best to just patiently
wait — it’s your safety that’s at stake, and you can’t do anything about it anyway. What about you? How do you usually cope with flight delays,
if you’ve ever experienced one? Share your solutions down in the comments! Hey, if you learned something new today, then
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