4 Ways to predict probability of your flight delay

Delays are common in service industry, particularly travel. Aviation services have dependency on 100s of parameters- weather, aircraft, crew, regulations, airport issues, passenger issues and so on. Often some of these fail and cause disruption in services affecting our travel plans. When we book tickets months in advance it is almost impossible to be sure that our flight will operate on time, but below are some of the ways through which we can assess the probability of delay and the associated risks.

1. Flight stats on time performance tracker

Flight tracking websites like fligtstats tell us on time performance of a given flight, based on historic data. No flight will be 100% on time. I think anything above 90% is great, 80-90% is OK if the risk of minor delay is manageable to you (like you don't have a connecting flight or an important meeting etc)

2. Ixigo indicator

Some ticket booking sites like Ixigo give a hint about possible delays. This is also based on historic data and too much delay can be considered as a red flag

3. Typical factors that cause delay

There are factors that affect all airlines and may cause delay. This is more of a generic knowledge and will help you be mentally prepared and have a plan B in case you're affected

  • Winter season- snow, fog often causes delay. So early morning flights to or from cold destinations during winter have higher risk of delay. Study news about your origin and destination for same time previous year to understand what all happened. Chances are similar delays may happen this year as well.
  • Airport maintenance, runway closure- keep an eye on news and you will get some idea
  • Special events- Events like Aero India, VVIP visit etc will cause some disruption to normal flights
  • Delay accumulated during the day- Evening flights have a higher chance of delay as small delays that occur throughout the day add up and evening flight may get delayed longer
  • Airline specific issues- airline having financial trouble, pilot shortage, aircraft issues etc are more likely to face operational delays

4. Incoming flight data

If you know from where the aircraft for your flight is flying in from, you can predict delays better. If the inbound aircraft has NOT taken off on time, the return or next flight, which is yours, is guaranteed to be delayed. This previous flight info is not easy to find

  • Air India shows this info on their app. Image taken from twitter. If the incoming aircraft is delayed by 4 hours and airline is showing only 1 hour delay for your flight, you can suspect it will be delayed further.
  • Sometimes you can predict through guess- like you've booked Andaman-BLR flight, you can check if the aircraft is arriving from BLR. If not, check for flights to your origin city (Port Blair in this example) from major cities- Delhi, CCU, BLR etc and if you see a flight of same airline arriving 30-45 mins before your departure time, most likely that is the aircraft that will be used. 
  • This approach may not work in big airports like Mumbai/Delhi- airlines will have dozens of flights coming in to Delhi/Mumbai- hard to guess which one will be yours

Managing delays

There is nothing much we can do if our flight is delayed.

  • Airlines will NOT give spot refund and buying another ticket in a different airline is usually pretty expensive with no guarantee that the other flight will operate on time
  • There are some compensation rules but airlines know how to circumvent this and avoid paying anything
  • Best way is to anticipate delay and have a plan B. 
  • If the month you're traveling is prone to weather based delays see if you can travel a month later or keep lots of buffer for delays (like instead of taking early morning flight for same day meeting, fly in previous evening). 
  • Avoid booking flights with very short connection time like 1-2 hour.
  • If flying long distance keep a buffer of a day or two. Like don't plan to arrive in Paris Day 01 evening and have a non refundable Disneyland ticket next day morning. Keep next day free for local exploration- even if you land a day late, loss should be minimum.
  • If the airline has very poor on time performance, better pay a few hundred more and book in different airline
  • Carry some food and extra cloths in cabin bag, just in case there are major delays
  • For destinations that can be reached via overnight train, train may be cheaper and better option than flight. (anything around 500 kms)
  • No point fighting with ground staff. They are pretty helpless when a flight is delayed or cancelled. No amount of shouting will get you any priority over 180 other passengers affected. Be calm, explore alternate options and see how best you can manage the situation.

Good luck.

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