Top ten common causes of airline disruptions

Patricia Simillon

Head of Strategic Marketing, Airlines, Amadeus IT Group

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Flight delays and cancellations are not only troubling for passengers, but also for airlines and airport stakeholders. Flight disruption is becoming an increasingly expensive operational problem for airlines, airports and hotels to solve – in fact, T2RL, a leading airline IT industry research company, has estimated that disruptions cost the airline industry US$60b per year.

silhouette of a woman standing in front of a window in the airport


Ten common causes of disruption

We looked at disruptions or irregular operations (IROPS), in our reportShaping the future of Airline Disruption Management (IROPS), and identified the key areas where improvements can make a real difference. In the report, we also explored the top ten most common causes of airline disruptions, outlined below:

ten common causes of disruption

  1. Weather: Fog, ice, snow, or heat can negatively impact infrastructure
  2. Strike action: Staff from the airline, airport ground handling company or local public demonstrations
  3. Third-party issues: Problems with local transport networks connecting to the airport, for example, can lead to a build-up of late passengers in departures
  4. Crew logistics: Legal measures to protect staff can prevent them from working overtime to tackle disruption. Flight crews have duty limitations that must be observed
  5. Natural disasters: Strain on operations involving mass evacuation during treacherous weather conditions
  6. Civil unrest: Any threat to passenger safety will bring operations to a halt, including rioting and terrorism
  7. Local anomalies: Regional problems – for example, animals obstructing runways
  8. Mechanical and technical problems: Technical issues with aircraft or support systems that take time to resolve
  9. Operational issues: Incidents affecting the airport or airline operation systems
  10. Health: Passengers being taken ill can cause delays or the spread of a major viral infection can isolate a country or region

By understanding where disruptions are likely to originate, all stakeholders can work to prevent where possible and provide a faster recovery. After all as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Want to learn more about how irregular operations impact airlines and what can be done about them? Download a copy of theShaping the future of Airline Disruption Management (IROPS)report.