With high-season travels heading into its peak, flight delays might be a big problem, but here are things you can do to try to avoid it. Indeed, airlines’ timetables are jam-packed, leaving minimal time for turnarounds and for unscheduled maintenance. In addition, the summer climate rhymes with thunderstorms which can cause ripple effects that can last for days.
Here’s what you can do to greatly increase your chances of arriving on time, even though the sources for flight delays are out of your control.
Flight Delays - Why do they happen?
Before we tackle what you can do to improve your odds of reaching your destination on time, here’s a little review of what most flight delays occur:
Thunderstorms and snowstorms can cause flight delays for various reasons, from take-off/landing safety to prompting a halt in essential ground operations. Indeed, if there is a heavy storm, your flight may be delayed because the fuelling and baggage handling crew can’t venture out on the tarmac.
During peak summertime and winter (holidays, spring break), there are a lot of scheduled flights as it’s the high season for travelling. Therefore, you may face a delay because your plane is waiting on the tarmac for a gate to park.
Also, you could be dealing with some metering procedures from immigration as they will ask the airlines to hold the passengers on the plane if they cannot accommodate the crowd in the lines for customs.
All kinds of staff shortages can cause flight delays, from the lack of customs officers, grooming teams, and baggage handlers to crew. For example, if a flight attendant calls in sick at the last minute, the company can contact those on reserve, but they will need time to get to the airport.
Planes often have unscheduled maintenance because they fly so much. Indeed, planes are always in the air, and the odds of something breaking are constantly present. Also, there are a lot of different things that can break on a plane.
Therefore, during that tight turnaround time they spend on the ground, technicians have to fix them, and it can occasionally cause flight delays because some problems may take longer to repair than others.
Flight delays - What can you do?
When scheduled for early morning, flights tend to leave on time because the plane may have been sitting on the tarmac for hours, if not overnight. Crew operating those flights are usually already on the ground and not being positioned from another base; maintenance had a bit more time to go over the aircraft’s hiccups, the sky is normally calmer, etc.
Flight delays are also more likely to happen later in the day because they will tally up. Indeed, your plane might be flying the Montreal to Toronto route all day back and forth, so every shred of delay will add up throughout the day as they might not be able to recover.
Therefore, by booking early flights or by choosing to standby on an earlier departure, especially if you have a connecting flight, can help avoid delays even if it means that you must wake up at, or actually before, the crack of dawn.
Monitor weather patterns
Most flight delays will be related to weather, and before you accuse the airline of lying to you because the sun is shining above you, there may be a thunderstorm where your plane is coming from.
Weather predictions are fairly accurate, and airlines may even offer you free change in advance, such as the snowmageddon that occurred last year, two days before Christmas. This can happen at any time, even if there are no snow or thunderstorms in sight.
Even if it’s impossible to do it without a fee, think about modifying your travel plans (day and or route) when the elements might have high chance of delaying your flights. If there is one, the fee can be considered as the cost for some peace of mind and assurance that you will make it on time.
Air Canada’s app allows you to track where your plane is arriving from, and you can go to a couple of flights back. Therefore, if you see that the incoming flight is delayed, chances are that yours will be too. You can also use FlightAware tools for this kind of information for all companies.
When you are at one of their hubs, be aware that the airline can change aircraft assignments. So, if you are planning to get to the airport later because your flight was delayed, don’t because they can shuffle planes around to minimize delays and recover.
That being said, it is always advised to be at the airport on time for your flight in case something changes, even if you are not at their hubs. For example, there may be three Air Canada flights leaving Tokyo-Narita that evening (to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal), and they could switch them depending on what will make more sense for their operations as they will evaluate ongoing connections, crew scheduling issues, etc.
If you see that your flight is delayed and that it will cause additional problems, such as a missed connection, quickly get in line to speak with an agent and get on your phone. Customer service agents will start to rebook people that are affected by delays and cancellations, so you will want one of those coveted free spots on available flights before the other passengers concerned!
Flight Delays - Your rights
When you face a flight delay, it is a good thing to know what your rights are. You cannot ask for compensation if the cause is out of their control, as with the weather. However, if it’s because of crew constraints, the odds are in your favour.
You can read all about the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) in Canada here.
Flight Delays - Travel insurance
Compensation is what you are owed by the airline, while reimbursement of unexpected costs is what you need Travel Insurance for.
Indeed, if a severe thunderstorm causes your flight delay, you will not be able to ask for any compensation because it is out of the airlines’ control. However, if that implies a lost hotel night, an additional hotel night where you were delayed, meals, etc., you can claim those fees from your insurance.
Most credit cards will ask you to charge the entire cost of the trip on the card for you to be eligible for flight delay insurance.
It’s important to carefully read your insurance certificate to purchase your trip ‘‘properly’’ and be adequately insured.
What happens when you pay with points, then?
In short, most co-branded credit cards will offer flight delay coverage for their respective rewards program. For example, if you use your TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card to pay your Aeroplan award flight’s taxes and fees, you will be covered.
In summary, flight delays are common during busy travel seasons, but there are ways to reduce the risk. Understanding the causes of delays, like weather and airport constraints, can help you plan better.
Booking early morning flights and monitoring weather patterns can increase your chances of timely departure. Employing tools to track your aircraft and taking prompt action if delays occur can improve your options for rebooking.
Knowing your passenger rights and having travel insurance can also provide peace of mind. By being proactive and prepared, you can navigate flight delays more effectively and escalate your chances of reaching your destination on time.