“Your flight has been delayed” over the airport PA system is the last announcement any business traveler wants to hear, but flight delays might not be going away. In the early days in June, American Airlines was forced to cancel more than 40 flights at its Phoenix hub. The reason? Extremely high temperatures.
Aviation is Big Business
2.2 million passengers fly daily, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and in 2016 over 30% of aviation delay minutes were caused by weather delays. Delays cause untold inconvenience – not to mention missed meetings and impacted productivity for business people and are often blamed on things like airline mismanagement and airport disturbances. In fact, rarely do passengers consider the weather during the summer. However, with close to a third of delays across the board being weather-related and with incidences of heat delays rising, it’s worth taking note and checking with your travel insurance provider as to whether you’d be covered in this scenario.
While we’re accustomed to flights being grounded or delayed for major storms or winter conditions like blizzards, sleet, and ice, passengers also have to contend with heat. Heat, as it turns out, can cause just as many problems for flyers as a bad storm.
Hot air is thinner and less dense and impacts the output of jet engines. It also disrupts aerodynamic features of planes and can increase the required runway distance and reduce a plane’s ability climb. When faced with the kinds of high temperatures found in Phoenix or during record heat waves, pilots must either fly with less cargo and fewer passengers or wait till the day cools.
In the summer, when more people are already flying, and there are fewer empty seats, heat disruptions can cause significant issues for huge numbers of travelers. More passengers mean more inconvenience when things start to get hot, but it’s not just inconvenience; airline flight delays cost everyone.
Economic Impact of Flight Delays
A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, and commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration found that the direct cost to passengers based on passenger time lost, delayed flights, flight cancellations, and missed flight connections on multi-leg flights were over $16 billion. Whether absorbed by the business person or the individual’s company, the impact is staggering.
Thinner air during the summer thanks to heat is an unavoidable factor in flight delays. While little can be done by individual passengers to avoid these types of delays, business travelers can leverage schedule changes to anticipate flight schedule changes during the summer, minimizing if not altogether avoiding losses in productivity and time.