Just a couple of hours of bad weather in New York City can cause delays and cancellations that last for days. But if you aren’t flying into NYC why would this matter to you?
Flying can bring some interesting challenges. One of the biggest challenges when flying is flight delays. We all want to get where we are going and arrive on time, especially if you are flying with kids. But flight delays are a rather common occurrence. From delayed plane to no crew, maintenance issues on the plane to no plane at all, from problems on the airport ramp to problems in the air traffic control tower. However, it seems the most common delay we all experience is a flight delay due to bad weather.
- I am sure we can all understand if there is a thunderstorm outside our airport. We might just need to grab a cup of coffee, snag an outlet for charging our devices and be ready to wait awhile. If you are waiting around one of these airports with kids, you are golden. When a storm is approaching our destination airport, again… it’s perfectly understandable why we will be delayed taking off.
- If your crew is stuck in the weather and they are delayed this means they are flying longer. Pilots and flight attendants may only fly so many hours in a day, and in a 7 day period. If this delay adds too much time they may not be legal to take your flight. (Who would want to fly with an exhausted overworked crew? No one. Its not safe so the FAA forbids it. Its not a choice for the crew, it is the law.) If your crew “times out” your small weather delay could turn into a much longer delay.
- If your inbound airplane is stuck in the weather your crew could be in the airport waiting with you. They are wishing they could also get on a plane and get going. Just know they are also inconvenienced by this delay and could be missing their son’s first t-ball game.
- When some of the larger cities with big airline hubs (ATL, NYC, ORD) experience bad weather they will have a ripple effect throughout the US. Each airport can only handle so many take-offs and landings at a time. When weather comes in and stops or even slows this down the problems can last into the next day. A weather delay in Atlanta can delay the planes and the crews going into or out of Atlanta. As the biggest airport in the world this has a lasting downhill effect.
- If you are in the air heading to an airport when the weather hits you may have to hold a safe distance from the weather and wait for it to pass. Or you may “divert”, land at a different airport to re-fuel and wait for the weather to pass so that you can in fact land at your destination airport. Having to divert takes a lot of time. You have to refuel, pilots need new paperwork, and you wait to see if the airport is clear of weather and doesn’t have too much traffic going in. It can take awhile. Please be patient with your crew. This is a highly stressful situation for them and they are taking all precautions to ensure your safety first.
- If you are heading into a city that has weather that could potentially go downhill fast, your crew will possibly call for more fuel before take off. They want to ensure enough to “circle” in a holding pattern or to divert to a different airport. When flights are planned the person fueling the plane has been told how much fuel to put on board. If the crew decides weather necessitates more fuel you may have to wait for the fuel truck to come back out to add more. I can’t imagine anyone would mind waiting to make sure you have as much as your pilot wants on board.
- Your flight route may have you traveling over some nasty weather. Sometimes it is possible to fly over weather and have no problem. However it isn’t always an option. You may also fly around the weather, taking you on a different path than the normal most direct path. This will take extra time.
- The weather could look amazing on the radar and you could still experience delays. Winds are a big deal to airplanes. When the winds are too high you can expect delays. If you have ever been about to land and heard the gear come back up and felt the plane begin to accelerate just before touch down, you can blame the winds. Wind Shear will cause pilots to jump into action and work to get their plane back up in the air. Wind shear will result in a “go-around”. The crew is crazy busy during this procedure so it will be a bit before they can tell you what is going on. Be patient. They will always place the priority of operating that plane safely above letting you know what time you will be home for dinner. (That may sound crass, but I am just being honest.)
- You could look at the weather and see if it should clear up by the time you arrive at your destination. You may still experience a “flow” delay into the airport. As we discussed earlier the airport is only capable of so much traffic at a time. Those planes already in the air will of course get priority to the landing sequence. If you have ever been in the Merry-go-round called a holding pattern waiting to land, you are thankful for this.
- There are many ways weather can cause problems in your air travel. Please know your crew doesn’t like delays either. They are working as hard as they can to minimize the delay. Don’t forget this delay is causing them huge inconveniences as well. A smile and a kind word will go a long way with your tired crew.
What was your worst flight delay?