Flight delays are frustrating, no matter what’s causing them. However, it’s important to find out the reason behind your delayed flights, as it can impact what compensation (if any) you’ll receive from the airline, as well as help you to decide if you should wait it out or try to get on a new flight.
If a flight is delayed due to weather at your departure or arrival airport, trying to get on a new flight likely won’t work, especially if a ground stop has been issued (meaning no flights are allowed to take off or land.)
However, if a flight is delayed due to a mechanical issue with an aircraft, crew shortage, or delay of incoming aircraft, you may want to try to swap to a different flight if you can.
The compensation rules around delayed flights hinge on the reason for the delay. If a flight is delayed or canceled due to a “controllable issue,” an airline is generally required to compensate passengers by providing meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, or even refunds. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), “A controllable flight cancellation or delay is essentially a delay or cancellation caused by the airline. Examples include maintenance or crew problems; cabin cleaning; baggage loading; and fueling.”
Delays due to bad weather or unexpected mechanical issues are generally considered to be out of an airline’s control and, therefore, do not require reimbursement.
To see what your airline is required to provide in the event of a controllable cancellation or delay, visit the DOT’s Airline Cancellation and Delays Dashboard.
How to Find Out the Reason for a Flight Delay
If you’re already at the airport when the delay is announced, a gate agent will usually be able to tell you why your flight is running late. Here are some other good ways to find out the reason for a flight delay.
Check Airport Alerts
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has a webpage that shows “active airport events” like ground delays, ground stops, and delays in real-time.
This site will also show how long delays are likely to last along with other helpful information, including:
- The timeframe a ground stop/delay is issued for
- The probability a ground stop/delay would be extended
- What departure airports the ground stop/delay is relevant for
- The average length of delay
Track the Inbound Flight
If your flight is scheduled to take off at 3 pm and the aircraft is still on the ground in another city at 2:30 pm, it’s unlikely your flight will depart on time. Find out where your plane is by checking your flight on FlightAware. This site has an option for “track inbound plane” that will show you where your aircraft is coming from and the status of that flight.
Check With the Airline
Although most airlines won’t show an explanation for a delayed flight on their website, some will offer the reason for the delay in their app. Calling the airline’s customer service number can also help you find out why your flight is delayed.
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