Why do Flights Get Delayed?

You get to the airport, an hour and a half before your flight.  You get checked in, through security and to your gate.  As you are sitting there, waiting for your boarding call you find out the plane is delayed.  Your first reaction is anger.  You are upset that you did everything right and now because of the plane and everyone else, you will be late getting to your arrival city, late to your connection flight, late to your cruise, your vacation, your family and so on…

But, there are many things that could cause a delay and it is not always within the control of one person.  

Rest assured, at the Destin – Fort Walton Beach Airport, our number one priority is YOU.  Our staff wants to ensure the safety of the plane, the crew, and everyone involved to ensure that YOU get to your point safely.  Although there may be frustrations, we wanted to share with you some of the most common reasons airline flights get delayed so that you understand how much goes into getting you to wherever you may be headed.

The most common issue is weather. Weather is probably the most obvious, and most common cause for delayed flights. There are three areas where weather affects flight schedules: at the origin airport, in-flight, and at the destination airport.  If there is a passing thunderstorm, lightning, snow or de-icing, the scheduled flight may not be able to leave on time, land on time or even fly.  Usually it is temporary, but can and usually will affect the later scheduled flights throughout the day.  A backlog is created due to the spacing between takeoffs and landings.  This causes a “traffic jam” within the runway.  

Another issue is traffic. Many factors can cause air traffic, and all impact both flight arrival and departure times. Congestion isn’t only a problem when you’re driving to the airport. It affects aircraft as well and ultimately scheduled flight arrivals. Weather delays cause disruptions in normal air traffic patterns. Flights normally scheduled to arrive on time might have to ‘cirlce’ around the airport area as congestion requires air traffic controllers to hold some flights in a prescibed pattern before they are cleared to land.

Make sure to check on the flight status of your flight within 30 minutes of the scheduled arrival time, you may find a discrepancy, as aircraft placed in holding patterns around the airport may be reported as having arrived, even though the flight is still in the air.

A third issue is Go-Arounds. A go-around occurs when an aircraft is just about to land at an airport and the pilot decides it is not safe to land. So you will see (or feel) the plane suddenly increasing altitude, as if it were taking off again. Of course this affects the arrival time for that flight, as it could take up to 30 mins for the aircraft to return and land again.

And of course, the fourth issue are the dreaded mechanical problems Mechanical problems affect not only the travelor, but the arrival schedules and thus the departure schedules for the rest of the day. If a scheduled flight has a mechanical problem while at the origin airport, the airlines and FAA will update the flight status so travelers know when a particular flight should land at an airport. This is by far the greatest majority of cases – on-ground mechanical problems. However, if the flight experiences a significant mechanical problem while in the air, the flight might be re-routed to another airport. Unfortunately, the FAA might not send updates fast enough to inform travelers and service providers (such as this site) of the change.  When this happens, the flight arrival status could indicate all is well while the flight actually landed in another airport.

Rest assured, that with all of these potential issues, we are here to ensure that you get to where you need to go safely.  If any issues do arise, our staff in all areas are well trained to handle any of the above problems.  It is not just YOU the passenger that is affected.  But, we will always do our BEST to inform you as quickly as we can and get you on the plane and to your destination.