Top 10 common causes of airline disruptions

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 $60 billion per year.

We looked at disruptions or irregular operations (IROPS), in our report Shaping 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:



  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 the Shaping the future of Airline Disruption Management (IROPS) report.


Originally published in the Amadeus corporate blog.


One comment

  1. I wonder what these same disruptions cost passengers and what you and industry partners are doing to create the open platform and standards essential to improve industry collaboration and reduce the costs to both the industry and its customers?

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