If you’ve ever experienced a flight delay, it was likely due to heavy rains, fog, snow, or another weather condition. For decades, the most common cause of flight delays was the weather, however, that’s not so much the case anymore.
Today, airlines themselves are responsible for most of the delays that travelers experience. According to the Chicago Tribune, “late arrivals triggered by mechanical breakdowns, a lack of flight crews and other factors attributed to the airlines were the largest category of delay last year for just the second time, and by the widest margin, since the government began collecting such data in 2003.”
A delayed flight is one that reaches the gate at least 15 minutes later than it’s scheduled arrival time, and many of these flights have things like maintenance, aircraft cleaning, late pilots, system issues, or baggage loading to blame. In fact, last year alone saw 323,454 delayed flights due to airlines (a number that exceeds the one attributed to the FAA by 6,770.
To put things into the perspective of how that affects travelers: those 323,454 delayed flights caused consumers an extra 20.2 million minutes of travel time, while weather-related incidents, congested airports, and air-traffic system issues all together caused a total of 17.5 million minutes – that’s a full 2.7 million minutes less than delays caused just by airlines.
While weather was once to blame, the U.S. aviation system has gotten better at adapting to weather conditions that can slow down flights. As a result, the number of weather-related delays has dropped from nearly 600,000 to around 317,000 in the last nine years.