What Factors Can Change Arrival and Departure Times of Planes?


Quick Answer

The arrival and departure schedules of planes are often changed by inclement weather, slow turn around times, security and mechanical issues. Peak travel periods, such as during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, bring more passengers, which sometimes slows down check-in and boarding procedures.

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Full Answer

Inclement weather, such as severe snow or electrical storms, can shut an airport down due to safety concerns. Planes must be de-iced before they can take-off, and sometimes the ground crew can't keep up with the falling snow. Visibility is also an issue. A plane can fly on auto-pilot, but the pilot must have runway visibility to take off.

Lightning strikes are a safety issue for the ground crews and the planes. The standard procedure is to pull everyone off the tarmac until the storm passes. Then, the runway must be checked for signs of damage before flights resume. A lightning strike can put a gaping hole in runway tarmac.

Since airline schedules are based on available planes being on time, if a flight takes off late from one airport, it could affect flight schedules in other areas. If Chicago is shut down for a snowstorm, and a flight heading for Los Angeles is cancelled or delayed, passengers in Los Angeles bound for Hawaii may be affected.

A slow turn around time could also affect flights at other airports. Turn around time is the allotted time on the ground to deplane passengers, clean the plane, stock food and beverages and take on new passengers. If more time is taken it creates a domino effect.

Mechanical issues can cause a plane to be delayed for repairs, or the plane can be taken out of service and passengers rebooked on other flights. Most security issues don't result in plane delays. Occasionally, a suspicious package is found and the terminal must be evacuated, or an unruly passenger causes a plane to land at a different airport, playing havoc with the airline's arrival and departure schedules.

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