Flight cancellation and delay

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One of the flights shown here is delayed

A flight delay is when an airline flight takes off and/or lands later than its scheduled time. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considers a flight to be delayed when it is 15 minutes later than its scheduled time. A cancellation occurs when the airline does not operate the flight at all for a certain reason.

In the European Union, Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 states that flight delays for over three hours, cancellations and denied boarding entitles passengers to a compensation from €250 up to €600 per passenger from the airline.[1]

In the United States, when flights are canceled or delayed, passengers may be entitled to compensation due to rules obeyed by every flight company, usually Rule 240, or Rule 218 in certain locations. This rule usually specifies that passengers may be entitled to certain reimbursements, including a free room if the next flight is the day after the canceled one, a choice of reimbursement, rerouting, phone calls, and refreshments. When a flight is delayed, the FAA allocates slots for takeoffs and landings based on which flight is scheduled first.[2] The Transportation Department imposes a fine of up to $27,500 per passenger for planes left on the tarmac for more than three hours without taking off (four hours for international flights).[3] In the United States, passengers are not entitled to compensation when a delay occurs, not even a cut of fees airlines must pay federal authorities for long delays. Airlines are required to pay for lodging costs of passengers if the delay or a cancellation is through their own fault, but not if the cause is beyond their control, such as weather.[4]


Since 2003, the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics has been keeping track of the causes of flight delays.[5] The number of flight delays has increased as staff has been cut back as a result of the financial woes following the September 11 attacks.[6]

Some of the causes of flight delays or cancellation include:


Cost to airlines[edit]

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that flight delays cost airlines $22 billion yearly.[8] Airlines are forced to pay federal authorities when they hold planes on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights or more than four hours for international flights.[4]

Cost to passengers[edit]

Flight delays are an inconvenience to passengers. A delayed flight can be costly to passengers by making them late to their personal scheduled events and commitments. A passenger who is delayed on a multi-plane trip could miss a connecting flight. Anger, frustration and even Air rage can occur in delayed passengers.[2]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ EC Regulation 261/2004
  2. ^ a b Hanna, Julia (August 31, 2011). "Improving Fairness in Flight Delays". HBS Working Knowledge.
  3. ^ Yu, Roger (August 21, 2011). "New rules for airlines kick in this week to protect fliers". USA Today. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b Choi, Candice (August 31, 2011). "When it comes to weather-related flight cancellations, airlines are off the hook". Boston.com. AP. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Airline On-Time Statistics and Delay Causes". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Levin, Alan (December 22, 2007). "Airline glitches top cause of delays". USA Today. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Understanding the Reporting of Causes of Flight Delays and Cancellations". Bureau of Transportation.
  8. ^ Rapajic, Jasenka. Beyond airline disruptions. p. 16.