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CMAC - Survey Reveals: Top 5 Reasons Flights are Delayed

Posted Jun 21, 2024

CMAC Survey Reveals Top 5 Reasons Flights are Delayed


Disruption has adversely shaped the aviation industry. With the pressurising demand for travel, the sector is operationally challenged when consistently faced with the complications of delays, cancellations, and rescheduling.

Survey data conducted from 1,100 UK residents, collected by CMAC Group, illustrated that 71% of respondents stated they had experienced disruption to flights ‘at some time in the past’ and a significant majority of passengers (66%) perceive the levels of disruption have increased over the past couple of years.

In this blog, we delve into the 5 top causes of delays, their subsequent repercussions, and how airlines can promote passenger satisfaction and efficient operations during disruption.

1. Staff Shortages

The COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to feel like a distant memory. However, for the aviation industry, its legacy lives on. In 2019, when universally all travel suddenly stopped, airlines and airports were forced into a difficult predicament and executed redundancies to financially navigate this unpredictable juncture. When travel restrictions became procedure, an analysis by Oxford Economics estimated that there were 2.3 million fewer jobs in the global aviation industry in September 2021 compared to pre-COVID levels.

Since restrictions have diminished, the need for travel has not only returned but increased, imposing an elevated strain on the aviation industry to recruit and train employees to meet recovery demands, proving to be a continuous challenge. In addition, standard background and security checks can take from several weeks to months to be approved before an individual is granted an airside pass, prolonging the recruitment process further and, as you can imagine, the reputation of aviation has been tarnished due to these notions, evoking workers to seek security in less volatile careers.

Manpower is requisite within the aviation sector, ranging from ground handlers, air traffic control officers, cabin crew, check-in assistance and so on, meaning to achieve efficient operations, all departments must be more than adequately staffed; otherwise, flight cancellations and delays transpire. Flight delays have a domino effect throughout the aviation supply chain as each department co-depends on the resourcefulness of another to attain performance of operations, demonstrating if one department simply cannot meet demands in time the consequences are hours of delay and in turn, detrimental financial and reputational costs to the airline.

2. Strikes & Industrial Action

Another cause for delays and other irregular operations within the aviation industry is industrial action, where various unions provide a platform for employees to stop working in response to grievances experienced; usually regarding pay disputes, long working hours and unjust working conditions. Although pre-arranged by their own workforce, striking makes advance flight planning and schedules difficult for airlines to maintain, especially when affected by external strikes in other airports.

Furthermore, striking workers do not promote a positive work environment or project a good impression on those looking for employment within the aviation sector affiliated with the underlying issue, as mentioned previously, of being understaffed.

Subsequently, this action could be considered to cause the most amount of disruption over a short period of time, as cancellations and delays are inevitable without a workforce. The damage inflicted because of delays ripples through the entire aviation ecosystem, crippling airlines financially and leaving a lasting impression on disgruntled passengers.

3. Overbooked Flights

Overselling flights is a common practice within the aviation industry to maximize profits in the event of travellers being denied boarding or of no shows; the theory behind this is to recover the costs of empty seats.

However, on many occasions this strategy can backfire, issuing operational delays when airlines will have to deny boarding to travellers because there are no more seats available. Although compensation is offered to those denied boarding, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is accepted harmoniously, usually resulting in prolonged delays whilst any conflict is addressed.

This legal measure guarantees financial security for an airline to ensure each flight is flown at full capacity. However, especially during peak seasons, this approach will leave delayed passengers feeling undervalued and looking to fly with alternative airlines in the future.

4. Technical Issues

A commonly used phrase within the aviation industry is when an aircraft ‘goes tech’, this refers to when an aircraft encounters a technical issue that prevents it from taking off or continuing its flight path. Due to this type of malfunction the most cause for concern is delays as the aircraft requires immediate attention and is not deemed safe to operate until the issue is resolved resulting in hour-long waiting times.

With millions of flights taking place globally every year, it comes as no surprise that technical issues will be a regular occurrence. However, the effects of an aircraft that ‘goes tech’ can also lead to its cabin and flight crew becoming ‘out of hours’. This term is used when the aircraft crew exceeds the legal maximum working hours to operate a flight, resulting in substituting for an alternative crew on standby, pro-longing delays or, in the worst-case scenario, cancellations. Therefore, technical difficulties must be actioned and resolved quickly as this type of disruption can leak into other areas of the aviation supply chain.

5. Adverse Weather Conditions

External factors such as adverse weather conditions impose a significant amount of pressure on aviation schedules as it is unattainable to mitigate flight disruptions. The two main culprits, high winds and fog, delay operations due to low visibility enforcing pilots and air traffic control to wait until better visibility is established to determine when it would be safe to take off and land.

With global warming on the rise, climate change is proving to influence extreme weather anomalies, including severe variations of storms, wildfires and, in more recent events, flash floods. During April this year, severe disruption occurred in Dubai at the UAE, one of the world's busiest airports, due to hazardous flash floods, which prevented the use of submerged runways, significantly impacting flight schedules, reporting a total of 832 cancellations and 100s more delayed.

Unprecedented weather conditions are unfeasible to ease, sending the aviation industry into turmoil as it will take time and resources to recover operations and return to regular functions. In this time, millions of travellers are left stranded with heavy restrictions imposed, limiting their options of onward travel further losing confidence in their once trusted airline.

Why Choose CMAC?

At CMAC, we understand airlines are bound to face external and internal challenges to ensure customer satisfaction when faced with the inevitability of flight delays, diversions, re-scheduling and cancellations. Our driven technology and reliable supplier network, operating in over 100 countries, have allowed us to advance all travel-related solutions when supporting airlines to re-accommodate and handle passenger transport operations seamlessly.

We pride ourselves on leading the industry with a 99% satisfaction rate, with our dedicated team of experts working round the clock to efficiently manage time-crunching, intricate operations whilst delivering exceptional customer service – even when experiencing disruption.

For further insight into how CMAC can reinforce your operations, reach out to and revolutionise your business objectives.

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