Flight delays. We hear these words more and more often and, although we are not surprised, we still ask: why? Despite considerable technological progress, flight delays remain a frequent phenomenon in the aviation world. A recent analysis revealed that around 20% of all flights are delayed. And, more surprisingly, this figure is rising. [1]

But what causes these delays? In this article you can discover the 10 most common causes of flight delays. Plus, we’ll tell you which of these delays can be compensated, which can’t, and what you can do if your flight arrives late.

1. Adverse weather conditions

Storms, fog, high winds and other extreme weather conditions
can cause both delays and complete flight cancellations. Low visibility during flight can make navigation difficult and strong winds can affect the stability of the aircraft. Storms can also cause dangerous turbulence.

Your safety is always the number one priority for airlines. Where weather conditions may endanger the safety of passengers, airlines have a duty to cancel or delay flights.

If a flight is delayed or cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, such as storms, an ash cloud from a volcano eruption or heavy snowfall, airlines are usually exempt from paying compensation to passengers. This is because such conditions are considered extraordinary circumstances, i.e. events that cannot be controlled or anticipated by the airlines.

However, keep in mind that if a flight is delayed due to weather conditions, airlines
are responsible for informing you as soon as possible
. It must also provide you with
depending on the length of the delay. Even if they cannot offer financial compensation, airlines must ensure passenger comfort in such situations.

Flight delayed

2. Technical issues

whether related to the aircraft’s engine, navigation or communication systems, may be a reason for delay. All you can do in this situation is wait for hours in the airport, without much detail about what is going on.

In such situations, airlines have clear procedures. If the problem cannot be solved quickly,
you’ll be transferred to another flight.
Sometimes, if the delay is significant, you are offered accommodation and meals until the situation is resolved. You should know that you are entitled to these services, it is not a favour that the airline is doing you. In addition, if your flight is delayed by more than three hours due to technical problems, you are entitled to financial compensation for the delayed flight.

3. Employee strikes

There are a multitude of reasons why employees may feel that striking is their only option. Perhaps they face unsatisfactory working conditions, low wages, or perhaps there are disputes over their employment contracts. Whatever the cause, when employees are unhappy, they can choose to express their frustrations by striking.

What is the impact of strikes on flights? These can lead to significant delays or even flight cancellations.

Even though strikes are considered exceptional circumstances, which means that airlines are not obliged to offer compensation for delays or cancellations, you still have some rights. According to
Regulation (EC) No 261/2004
you have the right to assistance (such as meals and accommodation) and rescheduling of your flight at no extra cost.

4. Crowded air traffic

Crowded air traffic refers to
the large number of aircraft flying at the same time in the same geographical area
, or which
land and take off from a given airport within a short period of time
. Not only can this cause stress and frustration for travellers, but more seriously, it can also lead to flight delays. If there are too many planes in the air at the same time, they may have to wait in the air until the runway is clear for landing.

This is where the aviation authorities come in. Their role is to manage air traffic so as to ensure safe and efficient flight for all aircraft. They use various techniques and technologies, such as radars and air traffic control systems, to monitor and coordinate aircraft movements.

5. Security issues

Security issues are one of the most common causes of flight delays and can range from
bomb threats, terrorist incidents, to problems with passengers
. Inevitably, these problems can cause significant delays or even cancellation of flights. At the airport, no threat is treated lightly, and any suspicion can lead to significant delays.

Airports around the world have implemented a number of security measures to prevent incidents. These include security checks, baggage screening and identity checks. But these security measures can also cause delays.

Passenger rights in the event of delays caused by security problems are regulated by law. Depending on the length of the delay and the distance travelled, passengers can claim compensation from the airline. In addition, in the event of a flight cancellation, passengers are offered the choice between an alternative flight or a full refund of the ticket costs. If you’ve had problems like this with Wizz Air, fill in the Wizz Air compensation form and claim your rights!

6. Late arrival of aircraft

Why is the flight delayed

You’ve probably wondered countless times why your plane arrived late. One of the most common causes of this is the late arrival of the aircraft. The reasons can be diverse and include technical control, refuelling and large numbers of aircraft landing and taking off from the same airport. If you happen to have a delayed flight
3 hours
you already know how frustrating it can be.

In particular, companies offering low-cost flights often face delays. Because of the large number of flights operated and the short time between landings and take-offs, any small delay can have a domino effect, causing delays across the entire flight network. In general, if your flight arrives at your destination 3 hours or more late, you have the right to claim financial compensation.

To claim compensation for a delayed flight, follow these steps:

  1. Keep all travel documents
    your flight ticket and any other proof of delay.

  2. Fill in our online form
    where you will need to provide details about your flight and any inconveniences you encountered.

  3. Relax, we’ll take care of the rest.
    . Our team of experts will review your request and contact the airline. We will represent your interests in all communications and fight for your rights.

  4. If your claim is accepted, you will receive the compensation directly into your bank account
    . We operate on a “No win, no fee” policy, so you only pay us a commission if we are successful in getting compensation for you.

7. Fuel supply

The process of fuelling an aircraft is not as simple as it seems. First, the aircraft must be prepared. This involves checking the fuel tank to ensure it is clean and in good working order. Then the refuelling is actually carried out, which can take up to 2 hours for large aircraft, which can be extended if technical problems occur. Inclement weather or a malfunctioning feed pump can considerably delay this process.

The impact of this process on the flight schedule can be major. Small delays accumulated over the course of a day can create a domino effect, affecting the entire flight schedule. These delays can have a significant impact on long flights or transoceanic flights, where flight times are already long enough.

8. Operation of the national aviation system with delay

Often, flight delays are caused by a series of airport operations that need to take place in a specific order and within a limited timeframe.
Boarding and disembarking passengers, baggage handling, cleaning and refuelling aircraft
are all essential operations. A delay in one of these activities may inevitably lead to a delay in the departure of the flight.

Airspace control is another essential component of the national aviation system. It is responsible for coordinating flights in and out of a country’s airspace. When air traffic is congested or there are bad weather conditions, air traffic controllers may have to delay flights to ensure everyone’s safety.

9. Loading luggage

Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to sit in the check-in queue to hand in your baggage. Depending on congestion, this process may take longer than you expect. Then your baggage is transported on a conveyor belt to the aircraft’s loading area. Here, workers must handle each piece of luggage carefully to avoid damage to it or the aircraft. In addition, unforeseen problems can occur that can prolong the process, such as equipment failure or the need to reorganise baggage on the aircraft.

A delay in baggage loading can have a major impact on your flight schedule. If the aircraft cannot take off on time, this can cause disruption to the entire flight schedule. Don’t forget, if the delay exceeds 3 hours, you are entitled to compensation under EU law.

10. Errors and blunders in the management system

Errors and blunders in the management system can have devastating effects on your flight schedule. Most of the time, a small error made by an operator on a computer can lead to massive delays and even cancellations of many airlines. Information about all flights is stored in a common database, and a mistake in one entry can affect the whole system.

What does this mean for you as a passenger? First, you need to understand that a flight can be delayed whether you are travelling to or from the destination where the mistake was made. This means that it is essential to plan your trip carefully.

Compensable and non-compensable delays

Compensation for delayed flights is your right. However, it is essential to understand when you are entitled to compensation and when you are not.

If your flight delay is caused by the following, you are entitled to compensation:

  • general preparation of the aircraft for flight;
  • late arrival of the aircraft;
  • fuel supply;
  • air traffic congestion;
  • operation of the delayed national aviation system;
  • loading luggage;
  • airport security measures;
  • errors and mistakes in the management system.

There are situations where you will not be able to get compensation. This happens in the case of bad weather and employee strikes. The reason these situations are exempted from compensation is that they are considered extraordinary circumstances over which airlines have no control.

What’s your solution if your flight arrives late?

If the delay exceeds three hours and it is the fault of the airline, you can claim compensation under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004. According to it, you have the right to file a claim for flights that took place within the last 6 years. Of course, the deadline may vary depending on the country in which the airline is based. So, even if your flight was a few years ago, you still have a chance to get your money back for the delayed flight.

It is important to know and assert your rights. Don’t let flight delays or cancellations spoil your trip. If you’re not sure how to proceed, you can call Airclaim! We’ll make it easy for you to get your money back and make sure your rights are respected.


[1] Busson, Thomas. “Why Is My Flight Delayed: 20 Reasons for Flight Delays.” The ClaimCompass Blog, The ClaimCompass Blog, 13 Sept. 2023, www.claimcompass.eu/blog/en/why-is-my-flight-delayed/. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.