How Severe Weather Can Impact Air Travel

Many people use air travel as a means of getting from one place to another. However, few may wonder what issues can impact the flow of air traffic. One such matter is severe weather. Adverse weather conditions can influence air travel significantly, which is as inconvenient for airlines and pilots as it is for passengers.

Between 2008 and 2013, OPSNET (Operations Network), a branch of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that monitors air traffic operations in the United States compiled data that shows adverse weather conditions were responsible for 69% of all air traffic delays.

The Deterioration Of Runway Conditions

Obviously, clear and safe runway conditions are vital to a plane’s ability to take off and land. That said, severely wet, icy, windy or lightning conditions can threaten this safety and have serious consequences on the flow of air travel. Most importantly, these weather phenomena make arrival and departure procedures more difficult for flight crews. However, such conditions also significantly slow an airport ground crew’s ability to perform their tasks. For example, baggage handlers and individuals who refuel aircrafts are less efficient when they must battle the weather to do their job.

The Rerouting Of Flights

In certain severe weather conditions, such as thunderstorms or major winter snow storms, conditions at some airports might be so bad that incoming flights must be rerouted to other nearby or relatively close airfields. Rerouting necessitates that passengers be taken out of their way, causing said individuals potentially countless hours returning to their intended destination.

Delays Are Costly

A flight that is delayed for as little as one hour could have a major financial impact on the airliner in question. Information compiled by the FAA concluded that a one hour delay for a single flight can cost the impacted airline anywhere from more than $1,000 to as much as $4,500. Should an airline lose money at that significant a rate, the cumulative impact could be fewer flights and higher passenger fees for tickets and other amenities.

Improving The Situation

While it is difficult to predict and impossible to prevent adverse weather conditions, the airline industry is working on methods of curtailing delays through initiatives such as traffic flow management. This endeavor is geared towards improving the industry’s ability to strategize methods that enable pertinent members of the industry (ex: air traffic controllers, airline flight crews and airport ground crews) to work around adverse weather conditions.