Airline Advice: Air Traffic Control Matters


Have you ever been ready to board an on-time flight or maybe been on a plane pre-departure only to be notified of an unexpected delay? Not maintenance, no bad weather in sight, and the airline is not holding for connecting passengers. So why the delay? Air Traffic Control (ATC) delay programs are one of the more obscure situations that cause delays in the airline industry, and that could be the issue.

ATC delays can be caused by a number of factors and can cause delays ranging from just a few minutes to several hours. This situation can be quite frustrating. Unfortunately, when ATC programs are in effect the airlines are beholden to the FAA to determine when they will be able to take off and land in specific airports.

What Causes ATC Delays?

ATC delays basically create a traffic jam of aircraft waiting to take off and land at the airport where the delay program is in effect. Several factors can create an ATC delay. General weather issues such as low clouds and high winds are often the culprit of ATC conditions. When weather is unfavorable for air travel the FAA will institute an ATC delay program at the affected airport to limit the flow of aircraft to that air field.

Other issues that can create ATC delays are airport/runway construction, airspace restrictions due to VIPs flying into and out of the airport, (think Air Force One) power outages, and emergency situations impacting the airport.

You can certainly research the the weather forecast for all airports you will be flying into on a trip, but it is difficult to know if you will be facing an ATC delay for many of the other circumstances. These things are not usually well advertised before passengers find out about them. ATC delays are quite frustrating for passengers, but there are a couple of things that you can do to prepare for a possible ATC issue on your trip.

Planning For ATC

-Check the Weather
Weather issues are the predominant cause of ATC delays. Check out a forecast for all of your airports on a scheduled trip. Thunderstorms, fog, snow, and high winds could all cause your flight to be delayed.

-Check Airport Websites for Construction/Runway Closures
Airport websites will often have information about scheduled and ongoing projects at their facility. Runway closures can often create long inbound and outbound delays regardless of weather conditions.

-ATC Delays APP
Download the ATC delays APP on your smart phone for real time delay information. This APP provides updates on ATC delays and notes the cause of the program and a proposed time for the program to end. ATC delay programs are always changing, this APP keeps travelers up to date


If you are in danger of missing a connecting flight or want to avoid a long delay due to ATC programs then the airline you booked with will be able to assist you with adjusting your flight if there are other options available. The earlier you recognize a potential delay, the easier time you will have getting re-accommodated on a better option.

Check out these links for info about getting flights changed in delay and misconnect situations:
Rebooking Options-
Dealing with Tight Connections-

Have you been impacted by ATC delays in the past? How well did the airline handle the issue? I'd love to hear your experiences with ATC delays and any other airline issues you may have! Leave me a comment below.

All images are from my personal collection and were taken by me.

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10.03.2020 21:19