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Airport Flight Delays

It would be nice if airline flights were always on time, but that is not the way the real world operates. Inclement weather, equipment failure and a variety of other problems can all result in flight delays for an individual flight, flights of a single carrier, or flights departing from or arriving at a specific airport or region.

Avoiding Flight Delays

While individual flight delays are unpredictable, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of encountering a flight delay.
  • If you have a choice, fly early in the day. Local and regional flight delays can become cumulative as the day progresses, impacting flights nationwide. Thunderstorms, a significant cause of summer flight delays, usually erupt during late afternoon and persist into the evening hours. Nationwide flight delays are ordinarily resolved by day’s end or overnight as normal flight operations cease and air carriers redeploy aircraft and resources to get ready for the following day’s flight schedules.

    EXCEPTION:    Extensive regional flight cancellations, such as those induced by a large winter storm or tropical system, result in next-day early flight delays as stranded passengers add to normal passenger load; these early delays may be compounded by air carrier inability to redeploy aircraft during the prior overnight period due to airport closures.

  • Book flights with as few stopovers as possible. Each stopover on a flight represents an opportunity for an unexpected flight delay to occur.

  • Compare the on-time performance record of the airline you are considering against that of some competitors. Once you decide upon an air carrier, compare individual flights. Some flights have a history of chronic lateness. To access flight delays history, go to the Flight Delays at-a-Glance section of Airlines and Airports from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

When weather or airport traffic management issues create airport flight delays, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disseminates that information through its Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) to airports and air traffic control centers throughout the U.S. and to international flight agencies. Doing so enables proper flight coordination, traffic rerouting (when necessary), and equipment reallocation to assure that the flight system within the United States remains at peak efficiency.

The FAA ATCSCC, hyperlinked on this page, displays a map showing commercial flight delay status at major U.S. airports. Text-only data is also available. You can view additional airports by selecting a particular region of the country from the top menu. Clicking on an airport location provides more detailed information for that airport in plain text format. Use this information as a guideline, but not as a substitute for checking with your own airline on the status of your specific flight. Remember that this FAA map reflects airport flight delay status, NOT status of any individual flight.

Authored by Kenneth L. Anderson.  Original article published 12 November 2003, updated 8 August 2013.

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