Flight delays are among the dreaded travel ordeal both new and and veteran travelers experience. Whether you fly on cheap flight deals or bought business class seats, you’re not spared when flight delays strike.

So what are the top reasons why flights are delayed?

Air traffic congestion

Not only more airlines are now in operation, 265 or 83% of whom are members of International Air Transport Association, airlines continue to add more flight destinations and flight frequencies as air travel has become more affordable — not to mention the more convenient — way to travel for regional and long-distance trips.

The growth of airport capabilities such as runway expansion could not cope up with the growth so on peak travel seasons arriving and departing flights have to wait longer for clearance from the control tower. Adding to air traffic congestion is when visibility is low due to bad weather, prompting traffic controllers to be extra mindful of incoming and outgoing flights to avoid accidents.

Extreme weather

If you’re scared of air packets, then you should be aware that extreme weather conditions can bring worse experience than that. As a safety precaution, flights are delayed or deliberately cancelled by airlines. Not only this saves lives at risk of danger, it’s also cheaper to provide free accommodation and food to stranded passengers than account for damage to life and property by not heeding to the weatherman’s call.


Technical problems

From malfunctioning computer systems to mechanical breakdowns, airline glitches is considered the top cause of flight delays. These issues come in various situations relating to airline personnel, airport facilities or airline policies such as longer than expected refueling or airline matters such as industrial action like staff on strike or shortage of available pilots and cabin crew.

One of the more common excuses airlines announce to passengers is the late arrival of turnaround flight: the aircraft to be used for the onward flight was delayed and thus must take time to disembark the arriving passengers, unloading of luggage, refueling, and cabin cleanup. The delay of departure could eventually impact the succeeding flights using the same aircraft.

Security issues

There are also instances when flights are delayed due to security issues. This includes passengers not allowed to board or asked to leave the aircraft for security purposes, evacuation of a terminal or concourse, re-boarding of aircraft because of security breach, or screening equipment malfunction.

Air traffic restrictions

There are plenty of variables that are in play with every single flight. Long-haul ones are more prone as last minute changes need to be made to adjust with weather patterns and jet streams. This comes as airlines are more conscious about fuel efficiency.

Also, not all countries adopt the same radar coverage so take offs and landings require longer periods of time to ensure safety.

Flight crew rest

As much as proper maintenance is needed before every flight commences, human resources that make flights possible — pilots and flight attendants — are also well rested before the flight. Prior flight delays cause repercussion towards onward flight schedules and result in scheduling/rotational difficulties.

It might impact your travel plans (missed onward train schedules, late for business meetings, etc), but it’s always safe than sorry.


Passengers can easily cause flight delays. There are travelers who have checked in but failed to show up at the passenger gate. The airline is being kind to give them chance not to miss their flights.

There are also passengers who get removed from their seats due to certain circumstances (rowdy behavior, intoxication, visa or luggage problems). Such incidents can contribute to flights getting delayed.


The usual drawback of having more flight choices and cheaper airlines to pick is that they cause crowding on airports and hence, flight delays happen. Understanding the rationale behind such delays or even cancellations can help ease the anxiety of passengers and assert their rights if applicable.