You know that it’s winter in certain Northern locations when you see the road crews out, armed with salt and sand to reduce the risk of skidding. You also know it’s approaching when you see news stories about airports closing due to snowstorms. When an airport closes for snow, does that mean flights get canceled for snow? If you find yourself asking this question because you have plans to fly this winter season, then the answer is yes – flights do get canceled for snow. There are many different factors that come into play when deciding whether or not to cancel a flight. Some airlines will not even consider flying if visibility is low or dangerous conditions exist.
Do Flights Get Canceled for Snow?
When the first flakes of winter start to fall, many travelers wonder: Do flights get canceled for snow? Unfortunately, airlines do not have magical insider knowledge that lets them know if a storm is coming. Instead, they must follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) that require them to cancel or reschedule flights in response to specific conditions.
To avoid canceling flights when it’s possible to operate safely and inconvenience fewer passengers, most airlines use a tactic known as “reverse incentive scheduling.” This means that the airline incentivizes its pilot staff to work certain days of the week and time of day by offering bonuses on those days.
When A Flight Gets Canceled For Snow?
For some airlines, the decision to cancel a flight due to snowfall is based on visibility. If a pilot is unable to see the runway due to fog or other conditions, the flight will most likely be canceled. If the pilot is able to see the runway but there is significant snowfall or ice build-up, the airline may hold the flight until conditions improve. You can read an article that Ghostwriter Österreich wrote in which the author described incredible cases of plane landings in extreme conditions.
Other airlines may look at the amount of snowfall, how long it is expected to last, and the forecasted temperatures. If the snowfall is expected to be moderate and end within a few hours, the pilots may try to fly the flight. However, if the snowfall is expected to be heavier or last for an extended period of time, the airline may choose to cancel the flight.
We know how frustrating it is when your flight gets cancelled due to snow. If you’re thinking about booking a flight and don’t want that to happen again, read on for our top reasons why flights get canceled for snow
Visibility Is Too Poor To Fly
- Visibility is one of the most important things in aviation. When visibility is poor, it can be incredibly dangerous to fly. This is because you can’t see the runway, you can’t see other aircraft and you can’t get accurate weather information.
- If you can’t see the runway and your instruments don’t work, you risk crashing. Visibility is also used to determine if an airport is open or closed. If visibility is less than one mile, the airport is closed.
- If it is less than two miles, it is considered extremely hazardous. Unless the airport has special equipment, it can’t see to land a plane when visibility is so poor.
Dense Fog Makes It Difficult For Planes To Land
- Fog is generally categorized as light fog, dense fog or fog in which the air is totally obscured. Light fog is nothing to worry about. You might see a little fog forming on the wing, but that’s about it. Dense fog, however, can be very dangerous.
- It can be so thick that you can’t see the end of the wing. When fog is so thick, the pilot can’t see the runway and might not be able to land the plane safely. Dense fog is common around mountains.
- The mountains cause warm air to rise, and cool, dense air is pulled in to take its place. This process traps warm air at the ground level, forming thick fog.
- Additionally, dense fog often occurs at night due to a phenomenon known as radiation fog. During this process, heat emitted by the earth is trapped near the surface and doesn’t rise into the atmosphere.
The Runways Are Icy And Snow-covered
- Unfortunately, even if the fog lifts, the runways might still be icy. If the ice is on the surface but not on the asphalt, the airport might allow planes to land. If the ice is on the asphalt, planes cannot land. Ice on the runway can cause planes to skid off the runway.
- If there’s a lot of ice, the pilots might not be able to slow the plane down enough before it reaches the end of the runway. If the runway is icy, pilots will take off with more fuel on board in case they have to make an emergency landing.
- It’s not just ice that you have to worry about when the runway is covered with snow. Snow can be very heavy and compacted. With nowhere for the snow to go, it will build up on the runway.
- When planes land, they use anti-skid brakes to slow themselves down. With snow on the runway, it can build up on the brakes and make it impossible for the pilot to stop the plane.
There’s Too Much Snow On The Ground For Safety
- Snow can be a real issue for planes, but only when there is too much of it. If the airport is expecting three inches of snow, there will be no problems. It only becomes a problem when the airport is expecting six inches of snow or more.
- If the airport gets a lot of snow, the runways can become impassable. The snowplows will do their best to keep the runway clear, but they have a limited amount of time. When there is too much snow, it becomes impossible for pilots to see the runway.
- The ground crew will try to remove the snow, but it’s a slow process. It could take them hours or even days to clear the runways enough for them to be safe for planes to land. When there is too much snow on the ground, the airport might not be able to open the runways.
Extreme Winds Make Flying Unsafe
Extreme winds are another reason why flights get canceled. When the wind is too high, it becomes difficult for planes to take off and land. Planes fly low to the ground and rely on the wind to carry them along. Strong winds can push planes off course or cause them to fly too fast, which can make landing difficult.
When there are extreme winds, the airport might be forced to close runways because it’s too dangerous for planes to fly. If you’re booked on a flight on a day that has high winds, you might be able to get a flight rescheduled.
Why Do Flights Get Canceled For Snow?
Bad weather is not the only reason a flight might be canceled. In fact, several other factors may come into play, including:
- The number of passengers who have booked flights. The more passengers who have booked, the less flexibility a pilot has in the event of an unexpected delay or cancellation.
- This is because the pilot cannot simply rebook the passengers at a later date. The pilot must, instead, find other passengers to take those spots.
- The amount of fuel the airplane holds. Pilots do not like to carry more fuel than they need, as it adds significant weight and increases the overall operating cost of the flight.
- If a pilot sees the chance of a significant delay in one or more of the airports on a route, he or she may request more fuel to deal with the uncertainty of the weather.
How Is Flight Availability Determined?
No matter what the conditions are, some flights will still take off. However, pilots and dispatchers may be able to delay some flights, giving other flights a higher chance of being able to depart as scheduled.
- Pilots will use what is called a “go/no-go” decision, meaning they will use their best judgment to determine if they are able to fly a specific flight.
- A dispatcher will then use these pilot observations to determine flight availability.
- Airlines can also use computer programs to help determine which flights are able to take off, taking into account the weather conditions, fuel loads, and other factors.
- While some airlines may be able to delay some flights and have others take off as scheduled, others may be much more strict.
How To Find Out If Your Flight Is Still Scheduled
If you are scheduled to fly during bad weather, you may want to check with the airline to determine if it plans to cancel flights due to snow.
While you may be able to check online, a better idea is to call the airline’s customer service number.
This way, you can talk to a real person to find out what is happening with your flight.
You may learn that your flight is still scheduled but may be delayed by several hours.
If you do not receive this information, you may want to take advantage of your airline’s travel delay insurance.
What To Do If You Still Want To Travel During Bad Weather?
- If you want to travel during bad weather but your flight has been canceled,
- It is best to wait for conditions to improve before trying to make a new travel plan.
- You can contact the airline at any time to see if the weather has improved and your flight has been rescheduled.
- If your flight was cancelled due to snowfall, you will want to wait for conditions to improve.
- This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the weather.
When an airport closes for snow, does that mean flights get canceled for snow? Yes, it does. There are many different factors that come into play when deciding whether or not to cancel a flight. Some airlines will not even consider flying if visibility is low or dangerous conditions exist. Other times an airline may operate its scheduled flights but must cancel some if certain airplanes or crew members are unavailable due to weather conditions. Bad weather conditions are not the only reason a flight might be canceled.