How to Manage Air Travel Delays & Cancellations

By Boston Chauffeur
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Since May, airline delays and cancellations throughout the country have frustrated travelers who want to know why. In this article, we examine the disruption causes, how to handle air travel delays and cancellations, and what to expect as flight demand continues.

Why are there so many flight cancellations?

Airline industry experts agree that there are a number of reasons why flights have been canceled this summer, with staffing and weather topping the list.

  • Staffing issues for both airlines and airports continue. From baggage handlers to pilots, labor is still in short supply because some employees were encouraged to accept buyouts or early retirements to help cut costs during the pandemic. However, the pilot shortage is most notable—airlines typically hire pilots from the U.S. military, but the military itself doesn’t have enough pilots. Additionally, aircraft maintenance technicians, the ones who make sure an aircraft is safe and ready to fly, are also in short supply.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not been spared from staffing issues but claims they are not the main cause of flight delays and cancellations. Yet airline executives claim FAA staffing issues are the cause. In turn, FAA leaders claim it’s the pilot shortage. Air traffic control may impact flights at a few hubs. In a statement to USA TODAY, the FAA states, “While there have been staffing issues for a few hours at a few facilities due to COVID-19 and other factors, there is not a system-wide air traffic controller staffing shortage.”
  • Other than staffing, the weather is the greatest unknown factor to cause air travel disruptions. Thunderstorms, high winds, snow and ice storms, and other weather events can result in unexpected delays and cancelations. Even if the weather is clear where you are or where you’re going, domestic flight schedules can be impacted by weather in other parts of the country. For example, it’s peak hurricane season from mid-August to mid-October in the Northeast—NOAA forecasters report that this year will be an unusually active season for tropical storms and hurricanes on the east coast—if a storm hits, airline flight schedules could be affected.
  • High demand by pandemic weary travelers is overwhelming airline carriers. The staffing shortage results in fewer flights to meet the demand.

Highest Flight Cancellations by Airport

The chart below from Forbes lists the top ten airports with the highest number of flight cancellations.

Airports had the highest percentage of disrupted flights (canceled or delayed) in the previous week (June 10-18, 2022) Source: Forbes

Source: Forbes

Can flight cancellations be avoided?

Flight delays and cancellations could be avoided if you choose an early morning flight, according to booking experts, although there’s no guarantee that strategy will work. The following are some ways you might avoid flight disruptions:

  • Conde Nast Traveler reports that flight cancellations for U.S. departures tend to experience a major increase in flight cancellations from about 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., with spikes between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, there are more cancellations during the weekends.
  • The day of the week may affect cancellations. According to a 2022 FlightAware report, the highest rate of flight cancellations was on Fridays, and the lowest was on Tuesdays. Weekend flights trended towards higher cancellations. (Read more about the best time to fly in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler.)
  • Try to book non-stop flights and choose an airline that has the most flights to your destination.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), “most airlines will rebook you on their first flight to your destination on which space is available, at no additional charge. If this involves a significant delay, find out if another carrier has space and ask the first airline if they will endorse your ticket to the other carrier.”  Holiday and other peak travel times may affect the number of available seats.

Planning Ahead for Flight Delays

The U.S. DOT website features A Consumer Guide to Air Travel to answer many of your questions about air travel. The Delayed and Cancelled Flights section recommends the following:

If the purpose of your trip is to close a potentially lucrative business deal, give a speech or lecture, attend a family function, or connect to a cruise, you might want to allow a little extra leeway and take an earlier flight. In other words, airline delays aren’t unusual, and defensive planning is a good idea when time is your most important consideration.

— The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)

Check flights before you leave for the airport

Airlines are required to provide passengers with information about a change in the status of the flight if the flight is scheduled to depart within 7 days, Airlines are required to give these status updates 30 minutes (or sooner) after the airline becomes aware of a status change. The flight status information must, at a minimum, be provided on the airline’s website and via the airline’s telephone reservation system.

USDOT

While airline apps and notifications may help, you might not receive up-to-the-minute flight status details before you leave for the airport. Stay informed about your flight with Flight Aware, which offers live daily flight delay and cancellation statistics. Flight delay and cancellation statistics are available by airline, departing airport, and destination airport. Begin checking your flight status at least the day before your flight as well as the day of your flight.

What to Do if Your Flight is Canceled or Delayed

The Department of Transportation says that “if your flight is canceled — no matter the reason — you are entitled to a full refund back to your original form of payment for the unused portion of your itinerary.” For more information, visit the DOT website. Additionally, The PointsGuy guide to refunds for canceled flights is also helpful.

If your flight is listed as delayed in the airline app, it could be subject to change. It’s best to arrive at the airport at the originally scheduled time to prevent missing a rescheduled flight.

If your flight is delayed rather than canceled, check with your airline for rebooking options.

Looking Ahead at Flight Delays

Industry experts warn that staffing shortages will continue to cause flight disruptions. Although airlines and airports have increased hiring, many new employees must complete training which delays new hire scheduling.

Staffing woes have made it tougher for the industry to ramp up its capacity. U.S. airlines have slashed 15% of their summer schedules, according to Airlines for America, a trade group.

Reuters

Plan Ahead if Your Plan to Fly

It’s not enough to book tickets in advance at this time, particularly for the busy holiday travel season. The following tips could help you plan ahead.

  • Book your flight with an airline carrier that has flexible policies.
  • Choose a direct flight to your destination if that’s an option for you.
  • Allow yourself extra travel days to prevent missed connections if your schedule allows for the additional time.
  • Track your flight status at least the day before and the day of your flight.
  • Monitor the weather at your departure and destination airports to determine if you should reschedule your flight.

When you reserve your airport ride with us to Boston Logan Airport or any other major airport, we work with you to keep track of your upcoming flight schedule. Call us to book your next stress-free limo ride to and from the airport.

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Sources:

Market Watch

USA TODAY

NOAA

Forbes

Conde Nast

Business Insider

Flight Aware

USDOT

The Points Guy

Reuters

 

 

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