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Understanding Delayed Flights

We all hate delayed flights. As passengers, we do have a schedule also to follow when we get to our destination and a delayed flight would ruin everything. Of course, this is something we do not like. Guess what, airlines hate delays too. Pilots hate delays. Flight attendants hate delays. Ground crew hate delays. In most cases, this is something beyond their control and they are also under strict instructions to follow certain protocol for the safety and security of all passengers.


We are not saying that flight delays are okay, we just want to educate you what causes them at most times.

Cabin crew and ground crew members usually take the heat from passengers during delayed flights. They get blamed, they get scolded, and for some, they get cursed, all for things which are beyond their control. Honestly, this is beyond their control and we have to also understand what causes a delay and why we should take it easy and know the real issue  before we go curse and berate  these people.

Second, let us first understand the causes of delays. ​As much as airlines would love to minimize delays because a delay can cost them money, there are things also beyond their control.
  1. Airport Facilities. In the case of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport which is basically the Philippine's main airport and the primary gateway to the country, it is beyond operating capacity. First, NAIA only has 4 active runways which are runway 06/24 and 13/31, both perpendicular runways. Runway 06/24 can take all kinds of aircraft and 13/31 can only take narrow bodied jets and turboprops. NAIA cannot send two airplanes taking off from runway 06 and 13 at the same time as this may cause a mid-air collission. Second, air tower control and radar equipment. Though the Philippines Civil Aviation Authority is fast tracking the upgrading of radars and airport equipment to be able to accomodate more take-offs and landings, the present airport can just take 40 take-offs and landing per hour. Increasing this without the proper equipment can be catastrophic. Not the fault of the cabin crew.
  2. Airport slots. NAIA now has four operating terminals but with the increase of demand in air travel, the airlines needed to fill in by ordering more aircraft, increasing frequency, and increasing destinations. Yes this is good for the country's tourism and economy that more flights are coming in and out but this would need proper slot scheduling. When an aircraft leaves a certain slot or gate, another scheduled flight takes over. So one slight delay can result to a domino effect in delays. Not the fault of the cabin crew.
  3. Missing checked-in passengers. Contrary to what that TV host said, the airline will NOT take-off until all checked-in passengers are on board. So that means the passenger has to have a boarding pass already. Sadly, there are some passenger who wander around without consideration of the boarding time until they are fetched by airport personel to board the aircraft. Yes, this is also a reason for delay. Not the fault of the cabin crew.
  4. Technical problems. An aircraft is a flying machine, a life support system in the air. Any small problem can be fatal! No matter how well maintained or brand new it is, problems may still arise. At most, a thourough check is done and if the aircraft is deemed unsafe to fly at that moment, they either cancel the flight or delay it for another aircraft. Better than pushing it to fly on time but standing a huge risk to not even make it to its destination safely. There was even an incident about a piece of tape as big as your thumb that brought down an aircraft and killed everyone on board! So when a technical problem arises, be thankful that the airline has taken precautionary measures by delaying it for a thorough check or by totally cancelling the flight. It's for the safety of the passengers at the end of the day. Not the fault of the cabin crew.
  5. Weather Conditions. There are times that extreme weather conditions may make take-off and landing unsafe. There are many stories of air crashes due to flying in unfavorable weather conditions. So if it is deemed not safe to fly, then the airline will most likely cancel or delay your flight. It's for your safety. Not the fault of the cabon crew.
  6. No Fly Zones. There are times our government will declare a no-fly zone within the airport vicinity particularly during a huge international convention when world leaders would arrive. For the safety and security of these VIPs, our government would declare a no-fly zone for a certain time until a particular world leader arrives or leaves, hence, no commercial flight can land nor take-off. Again, not the fault of the cabin crew.
  7. Runway damage. There was once an incident when flights in NAIA were diverted due to a damaged portion on runway 06/24. Continuing to operate flights on the said runway may damage the aircraft and can be fatal to all on board. The runway then has to be closed and repaired while flights leaving NAIA were delayed and cancelled and arriving flights were diverted. Not the fault of the cabin crew.
  8. Offloading of a cabin crew due to injury. Now this is the very reason why almost all airlines around the world does not oblige their flight attendants to lift hand carry luggage to the overhead bins, instead, the cabin crew members are encouraged to lend assistance to the passenger in lifting luggage when the passenger is a PWD, a senior citizen, or someone physically challenged. The successive lifting of 7 to 10kg of 50+ passengers per flight attendant into the overhead bins leads to back problems which would disallow these cabin crew members to do their job properly as safety professionals during an emergency situation. Airlines make sure that all flight attendants are fully prepared physically incase an emergency evacuation is needed and may even entail carrying injured passengers. So please, if you are not a PWD or physically challenged, please do lift your bags unto the overhead bins yourself. If you can't lift your bag, having them checked-in is free. Offloading a flight attendant and calling a new one to duty will definitely cause a delay. Aside from this, it is a huge embarrassment for people to see you asking the flight attendant to lift your luggage into the bin but you are the first to get it right after the aircraft lands.
  9. Late arrival of turnaround aircraft.  Several factors may cause this. Flight was delayed at origin airport may be due to a technical problem, airport problem, checked-in passenger nowhere to be found during boarding, and weather conditions. A flight may also be delayed on transit if a rerouting is needed due to a technical problem on an aircraft, a certain passenger undergoing some medical condition that he or she needs to be rushed right away to a hospital, or weather conditions. We have to understand that every life on board is important and airlines may request permission at a nearby airport to land if a specific passenger needs medical attention right away.
  10. Hijacks. No need for an explanation. 
  11. Air traffic. This has been a problem with NAIA as our airport and runways were built during the 1950s. Sad to say, it was not foresighted that air travel will grow this big and there is no other way to add additional runways on the present facility. Hence, aircraft take-off and land only one by one at certain time intervals only. There is a minimum time between two jets to take off to avoid any accident caused by wake turbulence. Same goes for landing, NAIA cannot handle two aircraft landing at the same time even if there is a second runway. This is to avoid any accidents like collissions. So even if an aircraft departs from a certain airport within the Philippines on time, it may still be delayed if the landing sequence line is long. Not flight attendant's fault.
  12. Emergency landing. If a pilot from one of the aircraft makes a distress call and requests for emergency landing, that certain flight is right away given priority by air traffic control. So even if there are plenty of other aircraft on landing sequence, the troubled aircraft is given priority to land right away, hence, everything is cleared for it to land. In the case of NAIA, there are times that those in sequence are requested to divert to Clark Airport if the aircraft making an emergency landing is going through some technical problem that it may not clear the runway right away. This may cause delays for other aircraft about to take-off and land. Bird strikes also usually happens during take-off and landing, and the pilot normally declares an emergency landing when this happens. Not the fault of the cabin crew. 
  13. Unruly passenger and security reasons. There are times that some passengers may become too unruly that they physically assault the crew or other passengers. This right away needs security attention. A flight with such passenger may return to its airport origin if it hasn't flown too far yet. 
  14. Diversions. A diverted flight is usually caused by weather conditions that usually leads to congestion then to fuel issues then to diversions. Rare cases are emergency landing wherein an aircraft cannot clear the runway right away or runway damage.

May we also add that there are times flights are diverted and the cabin crew does not allow you to get off the aircraft. Before cabin crew members opens the door during a divertion, they request permission first from the captain. At most times during a divertion, passengers are not allowed to disembark at a the airport of divertion as that was not the original destination. So if the flight attendants do not allow you to disembark, they are just following orders and laws.

So there you have it, possible reasons for your flight delays. Everything may vary per airline, per country, and per airport. We hope that before we do rant about delays, let us first understand the situation behind them. If the flight was delayed or cancelled for your own security and safety, let us thank the airline and authorities. 

Delays will cost money for the airlines. That means additional payment for the employees affected, gate expenses, penalties, fuel expenses, and more. Hence, airlines abhors delays because once flight schedules are disrupted, profits per day are no longer maximized.

Sometimes though, delays save lives. The airline would rather ground or delay a flight due to technical issues rather than letting it go while putting the lives of a hundred passengers at risk. In the airline industry, safety is paramount.

So when you board a delayed flight, take it easy with the crew. Understand that they too do not like the situation but they are working at their best and at overtime to rectify things for your convenience. You see, commercial air travel is not an easy-fix thing whenever there are problems. 

At the end, let us all just be human and understand the situation. We all hate delays but a bit of kindness and understanding will go a long long way for our crew to rectify the situation.

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