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Why Are Airlines Cancelling Flights – Top 10 Reasons

Anton Radchenko
Written By Anton Radchenko
7 minutes read
Last Updated:

The aviation industry often faces challenges that force airlines to cancel flights. These cancellations can cause significant disruptions to travel plans, resulting in frustration and inconvenience for passengers. While some reasons for flight cancellations are within the airline's control, others are beyond their control.

To answer the question "why are airlines cancelling flights?", we'll explore the top 10 reasons and the impact they have on the industry and passengers. Understanding these reasons can help you better prepare for unexpected flight disruptions and help airlines take measures to minimize cancellations.

image of an airplane with the text cancelled written over it

1. Bad Weather

Bad weather can lead to cancellations. Conditions like thunderstorms, snowstorms, heavy rain, strong winds, and fog can significantly impact the safety of air travel. These weather conditions can affect a pilot's ability to take off, navigate, and land the aircraft safely. For instance, low visibility due to fog or heavy rain blurs the runway and impairs the pilot's sight.

In such situations, airlines may choose to cancel flights to ensure passengers' safety. As the winter season peaked in 2022 with temperature falling below -10C, the authorities at Stansted Airport had every flight cancelled due to weather.

2. Security

Airline security is a top priority for airlines and regulatory authorities around the world. Various security measures are in place to ensure passengers' and crew members' safety, but these measures can sometimes lead to flight cancellations.

Enhanced security screenings are a major cause of flight disruptions. For example, if a passenger's bag triggers an alarm during the security screening process, the bag may need to be searched manually.

Another way security can cause flight disruptions is through security threats. If there is a credible threat to the safety of an airline, authorities may choose to cancel the flight altogether until the threat has been neutralized.

Flight gets cancelled due to cabin crew strike

3. Tight flight schedule

Tight flight schedules refer to the scheduling of flights with very little time between arrivals and departures. One of the most common reasons why tight flight schedules can cause flight disruptions is because of the knock-on effect of delays.

If one flight is delayed due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather, mechanical issues, or crew scheduling conflicts, it can impact the entire schedule for the day. Passengers may miss their connections or have to be rebooked onto other flights, which can lead to cancellations.

Additionally, crew scheduling conflicts can also cause issues with tight flight schedules.

If your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to €600 ($650) in compensation.Check Your Flight

4. Lack of airplane

Aircraft undergo regular maintenance and safety checks to ensure that they are safe to operate, but unforeseen mechanical issues can still occur. If an aircraft is grounded due to maintenance issues, it can lead to a shortage of available aircraft and cause flight cancellations.

Moreover, a high demand for air travel during peak travel periods can also lead to airlines cancelling flights. They typically have a set number of aircraft in their fleet, and during peak travel periods, such as holidays or summer vacation, the demand for air travel can exceed the number of available aircraft. And when this situation occurs, it can lead to flight cancellations.

5. Lack of passengers

Passengers shortages often occur due to several reasons including seasonal demand and economic conditions.

When an airline doesn't have enough passengers for a particular flight, they may consider canceling it or consolidating it with another flight. Airlines operate on tight schedules and have to maintain a certain level of profitability to remain operational.

So, operating a flight with too few passengers can lead to a financial loss for the airline, as the cost of operating the flight, such as fuel, crew salaries, and airport fees, may exceed the revenue generated by the passengers.

6. Air traffic restrictions

Delays caused by air traffic control and staff shortages significantly impact an airline operations, leading to flight cancellations. Air traffic control is responsible for managing the flow of aircraft in the airspace, and when the number of flights exceeds the capacity of the airspace, they impose restrictions on the number of flights that can operate.

When they impose this restriction, airlines must adjust their flight schedules to comply with them. This adjustment typically involves rerouting flights, changing departure times, or canceling flights altogether.

what to do if your flight is cancelled

7. Mechanical issues

Mechanical issues can cause significant disruptions to flight schedules. While airlines regularly maintain and service their aircraft to ensure safety and reliability, unforeseen mechanical problems can still occur.

These issues can range from minor technical glitches to more serious problems that require extensive repairs.

Airlines may need to take out a malfunctioning aircraft for maintenance. And they may need to cancel the flight if they cannot find a replacement aircraft or if the repairs will take a long time to complete.

8. Lack of pilots or staff

Airlines rely on a large number of personnel to operate their flights, including pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, and maintenance staff. If there are not enough personnel available, it can lead to airlines cancelling flights.

Staff shortages can occur due to various reasons, such as illness, strikes, or unexpected absences. With airline personnel stretched thin, fatigue and decreased productivity can further exacerbate the problem.

Moreover, if there are not enough maintenance staff available, airlines may have to cancel flights and reschedule.

Disrupted flight? You might have a right to compensation - up to €600 ($650).Check Your Flight

9. Pilot unfit to fly

If a pilot is deemed unfit to fly, it can sometimes lead to flight cancellations, especially if there are no available replacement pilots qualified to fly the aircraft.

A pilot may be deemed unfit to fly for several reasons, including illness, fatigue, or substance abuse. Inadequate training or experience with a specific type of aircraft can also disqualify a pilot from flying.

10. Bird strike

Bird strike is a common occurrence in the aviation industry, and it can lead to flight cancellations. A bird strike occurs when an airplane collides with a bird during takeoff or landing or while in flight. This collision can cause significant damage to the airplane, and the severity of the damage can vary depending on the size of the bird and the speed of the airplane.

Bird strikes can lead to flight cancellations as the airline may need to inspect the airplane for damage before allowing it to fly again. If the damage caused by the bird strike is significant, it can affect the structural integrity of the airplane and its ability to fly safely.

In such cases, the airplane may need to undergo repairs, which can take a significant period. And the airline may have to cancel the flight if they fail to fix the problem or find a replacement airplane in time.

Lufthansa flight is cancelled

What to Do if Your Flight Was Cancelled

In most cases, if your flight is canceled, you have several rights under the law, including the right to compensation. The compensation for cancelled flight varies depending on the circumstances of the cancellation.

Generally, if your flight is canceled due to reasons within the airline's control, such as a lack of staff or a mechanical issue, you may be entitled to compensation for the inconvenience caused. This compensation can include a refund for the cost of the flight or alternative transportation to your destination.

If you believe you are entitled to compensation, you can send a flight cancellation compensation letter to the airline to request it. It's essential to know your rights when it comes to flight cancellations, and to be proactive in seeking compensation if you believe you are entitled to it. The compensation can help alleviate the stress and inconvenience caused by a canceled flight and make the situation more manageable.

Figuring out how much you are owed for a disrupted flight can be complicated. We're here to help. Let us assess your compensation for you.Check Your Flight

Frequently asked questions

Why are lots of flights being cancelled?

There are several reasons why flights may be canceled, including bad weather, air traffic restrictions, lack of airplane or staff, technical problems, and low passenger numbers.

Why do airlines just cancel flights?

Airlines may cancel flights due to various reasons, such as safety concerns, technical issues with the airplane, or labor shortages.

What happens if an airline cancels your flight?

If an airline cancels your flight, they are usually required to provide you with an alternative flight or a refund for the cost of the flight. In some cases, the airline may also provide compensation for the inconvenience caused.

Why do airlines keep cancelling flights UK?

There are several reasons why airlines may be canceling flights in the UK, including labor shortages, air traffic restrictions, and bad weather. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on the airline industry, leading to many flight cancellations and disruptions.

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