Posted by: Mark Ashley

dtw Finding the real reason for delays

If a flight is delayed and it’s not due to weather, you may be due for some compensation, according to the airline’s contract of carriage. But if the delay can be attributed to weather, you’re out of luck. Guess what they’ll try to blame… So how do you find the truth?

Following on Scott McCartney’s review of various flight status services, Gary Leff offers a great, if counterintuitive, tip for finding the real cause of delays: Use the airline’s cargo website.

For some reason, some airlines offer the real reason for flight delays to their cargo customers, but not their passengers. But not all airlines do this. In my experience, United and American cargo sites offer reasons for delays — reasons which may differ from the regular airline site. If you’re delayed, log in and check both the regular and cargo sites to see why. If it’s not weather, print-screen, then start negotiating with the gate agent.

Unfortunately, Northwest, Continental, and Southwest cargo sites don’t seem to give any different info than their passenger sites. Delta and US Airways cargo sites don’t even give flight tracking.

If the cargo route fails you, or if you’re looking for some all-purpose flight tracking, I generally recommend flightstats.com and flightaware.com. Flightstats offers great, detailed information on everything from gate information to runway statistics. Flightaware offers snappy live-updating maps and route information for the actual flight en route, but less practical info for the person actually traveling.


pixel Finding the real reason for delays

8 Responses to “Finding the real reason for delays”

  1. Tyler Colman (a.k.a. Dr. Vino) Says:

    “If it’s not weather, print-screen, then start negotiating with the gate agent.”

    OK, James Bond, I’ll have Q be sure to include a micro printer and some 8.5 x 11 paper in my carry-on!

    Maybe simply showing the agent the screen would be enough? Or simply telling them that you have different info?

    Very good tips in the post though!

  2. Mark Ashley Says:

    Hitting the print-screen button doesn’t mean generating a paper copy, wiseguy. :)

    Revise it to “hit print-screen, open Paint or PhotoShop, Paste, Save-As “real reason for delay.jpg”…

    But yeah, show the agent what you have. But keep a copy in case you need to continue the fight later.

  3. GlobalDreams Says:

    Sometimes finding the reason YOUR flight is delayed is not as easy as it sounds. The public does not have access to the airlines routing computer system. Lets say you are to take a flight from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis which has been delayed 1 hour. So, here you are in SLC on a beautiful fall evening and you just spoke to your buddy in MSP who says the weather is perfect and the airline is claiming your flight is delayed because of weather. LIARS! Despite what you may think the delay is not caused by SLC or MSP weather the delay is caused by SFO weather. WHAT?!?! Let me explain… The aircraft which will be used to take you to MSP has had a busy day it is scheduled for 5 flights and a routing that looks like this: SEA-SFO-LAX-LAS-SLC-MSP. Because of fog this morning the aircraft endured a 2 hour weather/ATC delay out of SEA which made it late to LAX, LAS and finally to SLC. Unfortunately, because you don’t have access to the airlines routing system you will not know that in fact the cause of the delay is weather just not weather where you are or where you are going.

  4. Monica Bhattacharya Says:

    Wow. Previously I did not know about either airline cargo sites or multiple city routing, so both both your and Global Dreams’ reasoning make sense. Perhaps it will help the airline companies and agents to avoid irate customers if they simply trained their front line agents to explain this to the passengers, or for the airline websites to indicate this information. If it makes sense, most people are reasonable! Thanks for the information Mark!



  5. Marilyn Terrell Says:

    The Onion offers an infographic on the real reasons for flight delays, including this one: “Pilot not exactly in a hurry to get to Buffalo”

  6. Phil Jackson Says:


    Flightaware slows you to easily track the inbound aircraft that will become the aircraft for you flight by clicking “track inbound flight”

    By taking that data and plugging it into UA cargo website I discovered that my flight had arrived ontime to Chicago and had left Chicago late due to an operations delay this arriving at Des Moines late and delaying my flight, thus ruling out the possibility that the aircraft was delayed due to weather earlier in the day. Just a tip

  7. John Says:

    A good site to check for airport delays is http://www.myAirportStatus.com It shows current delays from around the world.

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