Not Why Your Flight Was Canceled

Popular Science had an odd four-piece photo gallery entitled Why Your Flight Got Cancelled. Maybe it’s just me but this seemed all wrong. Let’s take a look, you hit the comments, and then let me know if I’m missing something here.

  1. Repairs – They blame “age-related corrosion” and aircraft flying near or even beyond their “mileage-based maintenance checks” as common reasons for flights being canceled. Seriously? I’m pretty sure age-related corrosion, while a potential problem, is not one of the most common reasons flights are canceled. Also, most maintenance is based on the number of cycles (takeoffs and landings) as opposed to mileage. Still, airlines do not fly them beyond those limits without risking a serious fine.

  2. Crew Hours – They say pilots can only work 100 hours a month or 30 hours a week and that may cause cancellations. This can be true, especially with some airlines that have notoriously overscheduled their pilots. (I remember Northwest having this problem last year.) At the end of the month, it is more likely to have cancellations due to a lack of available pilots that have fewer than 100 hours (the FAA maximum). But there is no 30 hour a week limit (assuming this is looking at US regulations). There IS a 30 hour per week limit. Full FAR text can be found here. Pilots can only scheduled for 8 hours during a 20 hour period, but those are just FAA rules. Individual airlines may have more strict work rules.

  3. Full or Empty – Fortunately, they admit that airlines don’t just cancel empty flights for the heck of it, but if they have to cancel flights because of weather, they say empty ones will go first. Yes, in an ideal world the airline would cancel the flights that impact the fewest people, but it’s never that simple. They may need to get a certain airplane somewhere even if it’s empty. This could be for maintenance, for a full return flight, or for crew reasons. It’s rarely as simple as “your flight is empty so it’s canceled.”

  4. Flight Importance – They say you should fly in the evening because airlines need to get their planes places for the next day. Then they say early morning flights are most likely to be canceled. Huh? Early morning flights are least likely to be delayed or canceled because the airline has been able to reposition its aircraft overnight; that’s where the slack is in the system. Flights in the evening will be more likely to have delays because they’ve had a full day of weather to slow them down. And yes, that can result in more cancellations.

So, am I missing something? Doesn’t this list seem kind of strange?

Edited 10/27 @ 833a to show that there is a 30 hour limit over 7 days.

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