Travel plans can often be disrupted by flight delays and cancellations, causing inconvenience and frustration for passengers. Understanding the most common reasons behind these disruptions can help travellers manage their expectations and seek appropriate solutions, such as compensation or rebooking. Companies like Flightright provide services to help passengers navigate these situations and claim compensation where due. 

Here are the top reasons why flights are often delayed or cancelled:

1. Weather Conditions

Reason: Weather plays a significant role in the operation of flights. Adverse weather conditions such as fog, thunderstorms, heavy snow, or hurricanes can lead to delays or cancellations. These conditions can affect not only the flights scheduled to fly into or out of areas experiencing bad weather but also those in other regions due to the ripple effects on the schedules.

Impact: Weather-related delays are considered beyond the control of airlines, so while passengers might not be eligible for compensation, airlines typically offer rebooking options.

2. Technical Issues

Reason: Safety is important in aviation. Technical problems, ranging from minor issues like sensor malfunctions to major concerns such as engine failure, can prevent a plane from departing. Such issues must be resolved before the aircraft is deemed safe to fly.

Impact: If a delay or cancellation is caused by technical issues, passengers may be entitled to compensation under the UK261 Regulation, as these are considered to be within the airline’s control.

3. Air Traffic Control Restrictions

Reason: Air Traffic Control (ATC) plays a crucial role in the safe operation of all flights. Restrictions can be imposed by ATC for several reasons, including poor weather, traffic congestion, and other logistical challenges in the airspace. These restrictions can delay flights or, in extreme cases, lead to cancellations.

Impact: Delays caused by ATC restrictions generally fall under the category of extraordinary circumstances. Therefore, compensation may not be available, but airlines usually offer rebooking without additional charges.

4. Strikes

Reason: Strikes by airport staff, airline crews, or air traffic controllers can significantly disrupt flight schedules. Strikes are a form of industrial action where employees refuse to work due to disputes over conditions, pay, or other employment issues.

Impact: Strikes are not extraordinary circumstances outside the airline’s direct control. Passengers in this situation are entitled to compensation.

5. Operational Issues

Reason: Operational challenges, such as crew shortages or delays in getting the aircraft to the gate, can also cause flight delays and cancellations. Airlines must manage their crew’s work schedules strictly, as exceeding work hours can lead to mandatory rest periods, which delay flights.

Impact: Anything that might cause operational issues is considered to be within the airline’s control and you should be duly compensated.

6. Security Concerns

Reason: Increased security alerts or threats can cause delays and cancellations. Additional security screenings or emergencies at the airport can also lead to significant disruptions.

Impact: Typically classified as extraordinary circumstances, security-related delays often do not qualify for compensation, although passengers should still receive care and assistance, such as meals and accommodation.


Understanding these common reasons for flight disruptions and knowing how to handle them can make your travel experience less stressful. With the right information and support, you can navigate through these inconveniences more effectively.

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