Which Types Of Delays Are The Most Common In US Aviation?

Last year saw largely universal increases in the commercial aviation industry when it came to traffic and demand. However, the larger number of flights compared to previous years also meant that delays and cancelations also correspondingly went up. With 1.4 million flights having been disrupted from January to November 2022 in the US, a recent survey has looked at the most common reasons.

Two main reasons

According to the study by Family Destinations Guide, which utilized data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics concerning flight disruptions last year, the most common factor was ‘air carrier delays.’ This phrase specifically pertains to disruption caused by factors that lie within the control of the airline in question.


These can include factors such as baggage delays or catering/cleaning issues, and they accounted for almost 466,000 disrupted flights in the US last year. On a geographical level, air carrier delays were the most common type of disruption in 45 of the country’s federal states last year, with California (49,000+) seeing the most.

Not too far behind were flights that were disrupted due to arriving late, thanks to operational factors. At busy hubs like those found in the US, even aircraft that push back on time can get caught up in queues on the ground, ultimately impacting their arrival time. They may also face similar congestion upon arrival. Almost 423,000 US flights were disrupted due to this between January and November 2022.

The best of the rest

Rounding out the podium, we have National Airspace System (NAS) delays. This umbrella term covers a range of factors, such as issues with air traffic control or airport operations, heavy traffic, and (non-extreme) weather conditions. These disrupted more than 296,000 flights between January and November in the US last year, almost twice as many as the number of cancelations (just under 151,000).

Due to the country’s size and varied geography, the US sees many weather conditions in different locations throughout the year. As a result, its airports face their fair share of extreme weather, which resulted in the disruption of 44,000 flights between January and November 2022. Texas was a particular hotspot for this.

Aircraft Queue at New York JFK airport.

Photo: EQRoy/Shutterstock

Extreme weather can also be a factor in diversions. These unplanned stopovers can occur due to several other reasons, such as medical emergencies or airport issues, and just over 14,500 flights met this fate in the US last year. Finally, security delays played a comparatively small role, disrupting just under 4,000 US flights in 2022.

Interesting outliers

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of American federal states had ‘air carrier delays’ as their most common kind of disruption last year. However, to conclude, let’s take a look at the handful that, contrastingly, did not. Those with other top reasons were Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina.

For Maryland, Nevada, and North Carolina, aircraft arriving late proved to be the top cause of the disruption. However, in New Jersey and New York, NAS delays came first.

What do you make of this study’s findings? If you flew to, from, or within the US last year, did you experience many delays? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Family Destinations Guide

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